In honor of spooky season, I’m writing about ghosts...ghosting...theatre companies whose spirits haunt playwrights with echoes of promises like, “We love your work! We just don’t have the budget to produce it...right now.” Or something like, “You’re a promising artist. We can’t accept you into the program this year, but please apply again next year…and next year, and next year, and next year, neeeexxxxttttt yyyeeeeeeaaaarrrr….” On and on, those words are whispered into our ears and when we turn to see where the sound is coming from – WHOOSH – it disappears into the night.
When I started my playwriting career, I was told opportunity would beget opportunity. Acceptance into a festival, conference, workshop, or reading would expand my network and introduce me to producers, literary managers, and artistic directors. These gatekeepers would see my work and give my plays a home on their stages.
Take every opportunity.
Say yes to everything.
Big or small.
With or without pay.
It’s time to break this haunting curse.
Here are four ways playwrights and theatres can rid ourselves of these ghosts.
Have I been accepted into playwriting workshops and festivals? Yes.
Have I met amazing artists whom invested their time and talents into directing, acting, and designing my plays? Yes.
Have the theatre companies that hosted these workshops and invited these artists to collaborate on my plays said wonderful things about all the work we completed and can’t wait to see the play taken to the next stage of development? Yes.
Have those theatres ever offered to take the play to the next stage of development? Nope.
Well, okay, a few (you know who you are). I would say out of all the festivals I’ve been a part of, in addition to all the opportunities I’ve been a semi-finalist for, only about 16% of those theatres actually did something, ANYTHING, to help further develop and/or promote the play.
The other 84%, once the festival wraps, we all say our goodbyes, and then – 365 days later – the theatre company welcomes another play with another group of amazing artists and says the exact same words to them. A powerful spell is cast over all of us and we remain haunted by the promise that maybe, one day, they will make good on their words of new play advocacy.
There are thousands of submission opportunities for playwrights to apply. And the cycle continues again and again, year after year. Thousands of opportunities, thousands of plays and not even half of those get accepted. And, way less than half of those accepted plays ever receive that next level of commitment from a theatre. We create a new play graveyard where the ghosts of apathy, disingenuity, and aloofness haunt our hopes of ever raising our plays from the grave. Let’s break this cycle, end this curse, and breathe life into old work, that is actually still new work viable for the stage.
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About the Blog
I write plays. I tell stories. I create content. I vent. I offer advice. I hope people will learn from my mistakes.