This past December, before the debut production of the Bloomington Playwrights Project’s new, award-winning comedy I Am Grock, BPP Producing Artistic Director Chad Rabinovitz gave a curtain talk, welcoming the packed house to the newly renovated theater and thanking the sponsors.
“That ticket stub in your pocket is not just a heartfelt reminder of the cathartic event you’re about to experience, but also a coupon for a $5.99 large one-topping pizza at Papa John’s,” he began. The audience joined Rabinovitz for the kicker, reciting his by then well-known refrain in unison: “Papa John’s pizza—it’s the only pizza I eat, and the only pizza you should eat.” The sold-out crowd laughed appreciatively, perfectly primed to enjoy the show.
Today, sold-out BPP shows are the norm. But only four years ago, packed houses at BPP’s then-dilapidated theater were an anomaly. And sponsorships by the likes of Papa John’s (and many local businesses) were non-existent. Despite producing new plays for more than 30 years, BPP was still very much a fringe organization on the edge of Bloomington’s arts and culture scene.
Now, thanks to the efforts of Rabinovitz, Managing Director Gabe Gloden, and a rejuvenated collection of staff and volunteers, BPP has undergone a near- miraculous renaissance. Subscriptions have doubled. More shows have sold out and more tickets have been sold in the past year than in any previous year. Since Rabinovitz’s arrival in 2009, BPP has fielded more than 1,000 new play submissions from all over the world.
“I want to be clear that we’re building on twenty-nine years of prior work and success,” Rabinovitz says. “We’ve found ways of taking that next step, by focusing on our mission of producing the best new plays. And I’m happy to say that strategy is working.”