When the Process Is the Problem

When playwright Mashuq Mushtaq Deen resigned from his residency at New Dramatists in August 2022 and published an open letter on his website explaining the reason for his decision, he expressed hope that his experience would serve as a cautionary tale for the larger theatre community, and that talking about it might prevent similar harm from happening to someone else. He was less interested in retribution or restitution than in healing, and it is in that same spirit that we’ve examined the conflict that began at New Dramatists, a nonprofit playwriting development center located in midtown Manhattan, two years ago.

Playwright Mashuq Mushtaq Deen.

“There were theatres that proactively said, ‘We want to help you. We are talking to the city government, we are writing you letters. If you want a letter, let us know, we’ll give you one.’”

Deen reportedly received such a letter from Ma-Yi Theater Company, and later that month, in any case, all New Yorkers aged 30 and older became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. That would have been the end of the matter—except that along the way, New Dramatists’ decision about vaccine eligibility letters, and the way the org chose to communicate with writers about it, became concerning for some residents, including Deen, who was serving on the Writers Executive Committee and the board of directors at the time. The conflict only escalated from there.

Read the full article from American Theatre Magazine by Alexandra Pierson here.