I’ve been posting links to interesting articles in the sidebar and on a separate Odds & Ends Tumblr, but on the off chance that (a) you didn’t notice or (b) you weren’t quite sure that “Odds & Ends Tumblr” had any meaning in English, I’d like to highlight a couple of articles.
If you only have time for one article, read David Dower’s examination of the play submission process and explanation of why Arena Stage doesn’t have open submissions any more:
Like many producing theaters, a system had developed over time that distributed the burden of reading the submitted plays to the interns and literary volunteers. And they’d write reports that got turned into letters to the writers about their play and why we were unable to produce it. The whole process barely grazed the artistic staff of the organization for all but a handful of the plays, and even the teeny handful that managed to get onto the desk of a member of the staff team rarely, if ever, made it to the Artistic Director to read. AND, of those, maybe one every ten years would actually make its way onto the season. Maybe.
The comments are long and meaty and equally worth reading. August Schulenburg even follows up with an entire post in response, calling for “a Yelp-like database to emerge from the New Play Map that allows for participants to advocate for the new plays they read”:
The issue is bigger than Arena and certainly bigger than me….What is at stake is our faith in the idea of our field as a meritocracy. Studies reveal that this is patently false; women and artists of color are underrepresented, class presents barriers throughout a playwright’s life, and a Masters from the right school can seemingly provide a faster track to success (such as it is). This idea of a meritocracy, so fundamental to the American myth, is under assault in far more places than just the new play field….This is an old ragged tune, and I don’t need to sing every verse here. What I do believe is that a meritocracy is possible, and closer to achievable than we might think.
Another interesting discussion is going on over at HowlRound, sparked by Polly Carl’s article Social Skills and the Theater:
I’ve always wondered why with a few exceptions, nonprofit theaters are run by directors. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be run by directors but why would directors seem the obvious choice for artistic leadership? Why are actors, playwrights, designers, dramaturgs, or producers less viable choices? I don’t think anyone would argue that directors naturally have better taste in plays or a more sophisticated aesthetic….You might argue that directors have to have more people skills to navigate the myriad personalities in a production….But in what way are plays like institutions? And should we run theaters like we run a rehearsal room?
And I guess I’m in a questioning mood at the moment, because the bit that caught my attention in Jim Hart’s What If…Theatre Training Were More International? on the TCG Circle blog is as filled with questions as the quote I chose above:
What if we taught our student theatre artists to have a wider directional perspective in terms of what theatre is? Rather than focusing nearly entirely on Western theatrical forms of past and present, a common approach in programs across the country, what if we turned an equal eye towards international works and forms of theatre? Doing so, we can lead our student artists towards a global perspective as to what theatre is, rather than an almost exclusive Western perspective. With such a wider directional perspective, one has a larger range of inspiration from which to create.
Finally, here’s a pep talk for you to bookmark and read next time you have a case of writer’s block, from Kari Bentley-Quinn’s blog:
I am not a Bad Artist because I haven’t been able to churn out a full length every year. Some writers are incredibly prolific. They are fortunate. I am not one of those writers and I need to stop feeling upset with myself for it….I am not a Bad Artist because I am not a part of a fancy writers group and I am not a Bad Artist because I don’t have (and might choose not to get) my MFA….I am not a Bad Artist because I sometimes question if this is what I should be doing with my life. That questioning is essential. That questioning is vital.
There are a whole host of other things it’s good to remember when, as Kari puts it, “all day, every day, on Twitter and Facebook, I read about all the things that Successful Writers Should Be Doing and how I am Not Doing Them Right and I go into a shame spiral.”
Now go Read These Must-Read Articles and then Get Back To Creating A Masterpiece.