Student-Founded Business Supports Playwrights of Marginalized Genders

Taylor McPhail, a senior Theatre major, recently started her own business, By/For Publishing, which digitally publishes plays written by playwrights of marginalized genders, work that is far less often produced, and then licenses those plays to educational and community theaters across the United States.

Playwrights submit their work to the company via email, which McPhail then reviews and publishes based on a play’s potential production value. With a focus on plays written by people of marginalized genders, including cisgender women (people who are female at birth) and transgender and non-binary people, By/For Publishing aims to provide representation for these playwrights and their work, helping give them exposure, with the ultimate goal of having the plays produced at high schools and smaller theatres across the country, thus giving audiences the opportunity to see this work.

“Starting my own company was a way for me to bridge the gap between show and business,” McPhail said. “The work that I’m doing with By/For is important because it provides a platform for underrepresented voices to be published that I haven’t seen anywhere else.”

The work that I’m doing with By/For is important because it provides a platform for underrepresented voices to be published that I haven’t seen anywhere else.

McPhail has already published four plays, three of which were written by Ashley Griffin, a playwright, actor, and director located in New York City. Griffin’s plays include: “The Jungle Book,” “The Snow Queen,” and “A Little Princess,” all adaptations of classic children’s stories that feature large casts and great roles for children. The fourth play, aMUSEd, is an original work by Megan Ann Jacobs, a playwright, actor, and director located in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Currently, McPhail is reading over a dozen other submissions and drafting contracts to begin working with new playwrights.

She created a company website, and is using social media to market the company. She also plans to reach out to small theatres that she would like to work with. The COVID-19 pandemic has made that process a lot slower since theatres across the country are closing. During the next school year, McPhail hopes to give back by helping support the students whose productions were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Being the owner of a company is great because all of the decision making that goes into it is my own,” McPhail said. “I appreciate all the love and support I’ve received from my friends and classmates.”

woman wearing a pink t-shirt talk to to people sitting down
Taylor McPhail at the College of Arts & Letters Arts Weekend at Grand Hotel in 2018.

McPhail also has found support and encouragement for her work within MSU’s Department of Theatre.

“Two of my professors, Rob Roznowski and Dan Smith, have been imperative to my education. From them, I have learned and grown so much as a playwright and an analyzer of plays, which is what makes it possible for me to be able to do what I do,” she said. “I also learn everyday from my classmates and their successes and have built quite a tight-knit network of other theatre artists who I’m sure I will continue to work with after college.”

Throughout her time at MSU, McPhail has been part of the MSU Musical Theatre Touring Company, a group led by Department of Theatre faculty members Alisa Hauser and Dave Wendelberger that performs Golden Age show tunes at various venues. She became involved with this group her freshman year and has performed with the group several times since then, including at the College of Arts & Letters Arts Weekend on Mackinac Island two summers ago. 

This summer during the Summer Circle Theatre’s 60th anniversary season, a play McPhail co-wrote with Roznowski, Mary Claire Zauel, and Brandon Drap, titled “6,” will premiere. This body-switching comedy is about 6-year-old Georgina and her 66-year-old grandfather George who become unexpected best friends.  

“I’m very excited to see a play I helped to write be performed professionally for the first time,” McPhail said.

woman wearing a blonde wig wearing a pink dress
Taylor McPhail as Rapunzel in MSU’s production of “Into the Woods.”

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, McPhail was working at the Flint Repertory Theatre as a Social Media Assistant and Guest Artist Coordinator, where she arranges accommodations and coordinates transportation and meals for guest artists when they arrive in Flint. 

“While I haven’t worked there for very long, I have learned more about working in a professional theatre environment and have loved working with a really friendly, compassionate group of people,” McPhail said.

After she graduates in May, McPhail plans to continue working at the Flint Repertory Theatre as the Guest Artist Coordinator. She also plans to continue writing, acting, and directing, as well as running By/For Publishing.

“If you want to go into theatre, my number one piece of advice is to create your own opportunities,” she said. “There are so many people following this career path and so everyone has to face rejection at some point, but if you write your own play, direct your own musical, act in your own film, no one can tell you no.”