Saturday, March 26, 2011

Why are "emerging" playwrights so darn lazy?

“So all together, how about we “emerging” playwrights stay away from the defeatist attitude? It’s bad for business. Let’s stay away from it by thinking about companies like 13P and Workhaus Collective—theaters like Playwrights Horizons and City Theatre in Pittsburgh—organizations like New Dramatists and the Playwrights’ Center. Defeat defeatism by opening up your laptop at the beginning or end of the day…”

For the first time in its 80 year history, the Dramatists Guild of America will have a national conference in our nation’s capital at George Mason University.  When I mentioned to a renowned playwright that I would be attending, he was a little uncertain in his enthusiasm, saying, “Yeah, I hope it doesn’t become a bitch fest.”

This was after a dinner conversation we had on the terms being thrown out in the theatrical world (and the world of funding), terms like “emerging” and “budding”.  We didn’t really know the difference, but I imagine the definitions are more clear to funders and development directors.  I’ve seen playwrights who have had a show on Broadway get an “emerging” playwright grant which just makes me think, when do we “arrive”?  When we have the same house-name status as Shakespeare or Neil Simon or Sam Shepard?

Complaining is always easy.  

It’s especially easy for playwrights.  Let's face it, sometimes we like to complain.  Who doesn't? 

We generate our own material to work on, which is a distinct advantage over the actor, designer or director.  On the other hand, we spend a lot of time waiting for someone to put up our play.  Unless we self-produce, which is becoming more and more an attractive option.

The quote above is from a recent post by "emerging" playwright Mat Smart.  The post is not a rant nor a critique of the play development system, but an insightful and provocative statement about emerging playwrights being lazy. 

I agree with some of his comments, but not all.  The bottom line is that we must focus on what we as playwrights can control—our work and how we choose to get that work out there.  It’s also about how we can support each other, which I think we could see more of in the general playwriting community. 

We can start by going to each other’s readings, workshops and productions.

As my favorite theatre teacher Davey Marlin-Jones once said, "If we don't support each other...who will?"

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