BY MOLLY BRUSH
When Chad Rabinovitz became the producing artistic director of Bloomington Playwrights Project (BPP) in 2009, the financially strapped organization was unable to afford even basic upkeep on the building it rented at 107 W. 9th St. “When I started, I saved up for six months to change the lock on the front door because I didn’t know who had the key,” Rabinovitz says.
Rabinovitz, 38, came to BPP from the nationally renowned Westport Country Playhouse in Connecticut, where he was an artistic associate. There were numerous challenges facing BPP at the time—significant debt, declining ticket sales and donations, an inadequate and unattractive performance space. But Rabinovitz found the BPP’s commitment to producing new plays appealing, and he approached the job with enthusiasm.
“I had a lot of energy and a willingness to learn and to work until I couldn’t stand up anymore,” he says. He also had a willingness to take risks. Instead of cutting production budgets, he increased them, reasoning that if the organization presented high-quality productions, audiences would come, and ultimately that would translate into increased financial resources. “We took a giant risk and just put everything into our product,” he says.
The risks paid off. Under Rabinovitz’s leadership, BPP has quintupled its subscriber base, eliminated its debt, doubled its operating budget, expanded its education program, and renovated its building. Perhaps most impressively, BPP has sold out every performance of every production for four straight years—something that’s almost unheard of in professional theater, Rabinovitz says.
Each year playwrights submit more than 1,000 plays in the hopes of having BPP premiere their work, and a number of plays that debuted at BPP have been produced in other cities. Its roster of alumni playwrights includes actors Jesse Eisenberg and Jeff Daniels as well as Emmy Award– and Tony Award–winning writers.
In 2016, the organization that once couldn’t afford to change a lock was able to buy its building. “It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life to be able to sign that paperwork,” Rabinovitz says.
As he enters his 11th season with BPP, Rabinovitz is proud of what the organization has accomplished, but he’s not content to rest on his laurels. “I’m excited for the plays I haven’t read yet,” he says. “The cool part is discovering what’s next.”