First, read this article: http://journalism.howlround.com/13p-easy-to-revere-tough-to-recreate/
And now, my response:
Since first reading about 13P (and seeing a production or two of theirs), I’ve admired their dedication to follow-through and their dedication to knowing when to quit. The model is a good one, find like-minded artists with motivation and time and start making theater with them. When the powers that be don’t want to produce your work, find people who will. It’s one that we at Vox Theater have embraced in the past year. We found a theater space to cultivate our work and supportive people pay for our travel and housing to and in New Hampshire. The key difference is that we aren’t made up solely of playwrights. We are hyphens (I made a joke about “hyphens” in a play once, now I am one.).
As a playwright-literary manager, I often walk the fine line between wanting to promote my own work and worrying that I’m comparing others peoples’ work to my own (either negatively or positively). As a playwright-producer, I have sometimes had to spend more time focusing on the nitty-gritty of how the play will get on its feet than what the play will actually look like when it’s there. As a dramaturg-playwright, sometimes I just have to throw my hands up and wish I never knew what dramaturgy was.
What most interested me was the tone of the HowlRound article and the playwrights profiled in it. An unnamed playwright friend jokingly said it should be retitled “Dilettantes attracted to the illusion of easy production created by the 13P legend.” No one deserves an all-expenses paid production of a play they’ve written just because other people like it. Being a theatrical professional is hard and it’s a life filled with competition, self-doubt and complications. Building the relationships necessary to create theatre that you’re proud of or that is worthy of a paying audience takes time and effort and follow-through. The theme in this article was the playwrights’ desire to start a group but not do the administrative work necessary to continue to run the group. To be able to be the writer in the garret (or the rehearsal room) who doesn’t have to worry about money, budgets, theater space, administration. Unfortunately, the theater is too saturated with talent to wait around for other people to do this for you. And if you have found those people, hug them and buy them lots of coffee and/or beer.
Collaborative theatre groups often collapse because everyone has their own pet projects. Or their own individual careers. If no one’s there to corral everyone, attention starts to go elsewhere. When I started the NyLon Fusion Writers Collective, I was a very reluctant leader. I wanted us to be a collective, to embody the mission of the company. Eventually I realized that this was futile. That someone needs to be the galvanizer. Someone needs to be the cat herder. And because I had formed the group, I became the cat herder. And performed that role for two years. Two years of scheduling meetings that not everyone would be able to attend, producing reading series where directors would vanish into thin air, writers who eventually lost interest and dropped out, devising a play with actors that changed plot and characters so often I still don’t always remember the actual title of it. But I’m so proud of the work that we created and the bonds that we formed.
Everyone wants to find that one break that’ll lead to an easier life in the theater. The acceptance to grad school, the great review, the call from an interested agent. The problem is that once you’ve had that break, if you have any ambition, you’ll just figure out what the next break has to be. An optioned screenplay? Your own AMC show? A Broadway debut? The possibilities, all of a sudden, become endless. And the truth is that not everyone gets those things. And not everyone who gets those things “deserve” them. But chances are they’ve worked for them. They’ve hustled. They spent years building the connections, the skills and, most importantly, the work.
They never said it would be easy, this theater thing. In fact, they expressly told us it would be really hard. And we do it anyway. Because we have to.