Friday, April 27, 2012

Good Advice From The Guy Who Just Dumped You

I wanted to drop in a block quote from my recent reading - Christian Parker's article, "The Art of the Breakup" at The article, it seems to me, is a call for clearer communication between playwrights and the literary managers at institutional theaters. I recommend a full read, but these lines caught my attention:
"I am so tired of having lunches, drinks, and meetings with playwrights who cannot decipher the messages they are getting from theaters, and show me copies of endlessly nit-picky and detailed letters offering critical dramaturgical feedback from people they don’t know, and who, in most cases presumably don’t like their work enough to advance it. Playwrights need to solicit and accept feedback only from those people that they respect, trust, and rely on.
I know I've been a party to similar exchanges from the literary manager's side, although that isn't my title. I will confess that there were times when I declined to work on a play because we didn't have the resources to produce it, and I will allow that there were other instances when a lack of resources was a convenient excuse for declining a play I didn't really believe in.  To console myself for causing a disappointment, I may have offered some suggestions.  The cloud of confusion that Parker describes is generally the result.

Parker wishes these professional disappointments could be like the best possible romantic disappointments: "Rejections," he writes, "as in 'real life,' should be gracious, clean, and quick. Of course, I don't remember any disappointments like that from my real life.  What a delightful idea, though!

Commission playwrights: do you have any stories to share about the mixed messages and unwanted advice you've received when shopping your plays?

- Kyle Ancowitz

Friday, April 20, 2012

Magic/Bird and the Myth of the "New Theater Audience"

I had the opportunity to see Magic/Bird on Broadway last week and I'm still shaking my head a little.

I'm not even shaking my head at the show so much - which I like just a tiny bit more than I thought I would or knew I should (though I will be the first to admit that I am a sucker for much of what was enjoyable about the show, even as I recognize that "liking" something means very little to any project's artistic aspirations, had artistic aspirations rated highly enough to have even been given a schwag bag at this particular party).

I'm not against popular entertainments. I'm a sports fan, for god's sake. And I'm not entirely against empty popular entertainments. I'm a Cleveland sports fan, for god's sake. But there does seem to be some back-patting on the part of the show's producers about how they are attracting "non-traditional" fans to the theater.

Now, I will admit that the crowd at the show I saw was hands-down the most diverse crowd I've ever seen at a play. But, those people who will go see Magic/Bird will very likely not rush out to see Venus In Fur the following weekend because - you know, that theater thing's got something interesting going on.

These "new theater goers" then are little more than dollar signs invented by the producers. They have figured out a way to get people to the theater who wouldn't normally go - but they are not people who will likely go back - and the people who would normally go don't really see the point in this project so they won't go ... and it's a whole cycle that they hope can be sustained just long enough to justify itself.

So, bravo to the producers of Magic/Bird for figuring out a way to (possibly) make money. Good work. But let's call it that. Let's not call it theater.

Theater as we know, is about figuring out a way to (probably) lose money.

- Robert Attenweiler

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Draft 1 Done!

Ok, so after weeks of procrastinating… after a week of sleeping in four hour stretches, where I woke up at 4am with ideas of scenes, woke up two hours later realizing said ideas for scenes were garbage…writing and writing then cutting cutting cutting...

Last night I finally heard the first draft of my Blue Coyote commissioned play! Currently a full-length one act, still called HUNTERS AND THIEVES, the play was read by fellow writers at a weekly playwrights group I have been going to for well over a decade now (the Playwrights Unit at Ensemble Studio Theatre). We don’t use “real” actors, so the feel is very different than what it will be when BCTG finally has a reading of it, but incredibly useful. I both loved a lot of it… and heard and felt how much work there is ahead for this piece. It’s definitely a first draft. But I got totally jazzed hearing it. Good sign.

And thus today I sent Draft 1 to Gary, my liaison with the BCTG team. Nervous/excited to hear BCTG’s feedback and dig into a rewrite/reimagining.

In other news, last night I finally got a good night sleep.

- David Zelnik