Gratitude journals and their more public cousins—gratitude Facebook posts—have become mindful ways to connect with what is good in our lives. I’ve never done one, but it occurred to me a while back that doing a 365 Grateful for playwriting might illuminate a year’s worth of reasons why we’re so loyal to this sometimes discouraging pursuit. In 2014, there were many times I became aware of people, situations, events that only touched me because I wrote that first play and kept on writing–a phone call from a producer who wanted to share the tearful reactions my play evoked that evening, being part of the Buffalo theater community, meeting some super cool people during a production in a small town in the Catskills, the Dramatists Guild regional reps meeting, having actors in Ghana speak my words– as well as all the people, places, and things that just make it easier to keep on. Productions are wonderful, but being a playwright has generated so many rewards beyond just those, so, this year, now that Real Inspiration for Playwrights Project is finished, recording them all is my project for 2015. I’ll tweet once each day under #365gratefulplaywright (follow me @donnahoke) and also post to my Donna Hoke, Playwright page on Facebook, then post the updated blog every two weeks so that nobody is overwhelmed. (I’ll also start a new blog post every two weeks, so that this file doesn’t become impossible!) If you’re a playwright, think about what might go on your own list; it’s humbling to see how lucky we really are.
January 15: The live rollout of the National New Play Exchange! The dream is a reality: one centralized location where theaters can find new work. Playwrights and theaters—check it out. Sign up. Use it. (My plays are all listed and ready to read…)
January 16: Josie DiVincenzo, a fabulous actor and even better friend, who’s always willing to be my theater or pedicure date when I need one—and another person I wouldn’t have met if I’d never written a play. Last night we saw Red Thread’s production of Alan Ayckbourn’s Snake in the Grass at the Marie Maday theater on Canisius campus—a theater in Buffalo I’ve never been in!
January 17: For the feeling that at any given moment, something can happen. Many times, it doesn’t. Many, many times, it doesn’t. But sometimes, like last night, the email actually comes—and that’s the feeling that keeps me going.
January 18: To have friends, family, even playwrights I’ve never met scattered around the country who are willing to attend performances in my stead. Today, Rose Sheehan is seeing “You Haven’t Changed A Bit” at the Old Library Theatre in Fair Lawn, NJ. T hanks, Rose!
January 19: Being done selecting all the plays for BUA Takes 10: GLBT Short Stories! I helped institute this festival in 2012, and have co-curated since the start. I love reading all the entries, but I always breathe a sigh of relief and when we’ve managed to whittle them down and the debating is done! (If you submitted, the list will be posted shortly!)
January 20: Happenstance Buffalo theater moments like sitting next to Stephen McKinley Henderson (“we have to stop meeting like this”) two nights in a row at two different theaters. I love that for this Tony-nominated actor, living in Buffalo means more than just keeping an address here because of his University job. He shows up at small productions, even readings, because he wants to be and is part of our community. And the number of us who went to NYC to see him in Stephen Adly Guirgis‘ Between Riverside and Crazy shows how much we appreciate it.
January 21: The diversity of friendships that I’ve found because there is no one skill set or description that makes someone a “good fit” for theater. Even age differences are erased by shared interest and experience, which means that my daughter and I can be invited to the same party and it’s not weird :).
January 22: My job as theater writer/previewer for Buffalo Spree magazine. While it’s not my only paid writing gig (I wrote for magazines for years before writing a play), it’s pretty awesome that being a playwright made me a prime candidate for a job that allows me to further immerse myself in what I love.
January 23: Finally getting to tell the playwrights whose plays will be produced at BUA Takes 10: GLBT Short Stories 2015. I know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of those emails, so I appreciate this chance to pay it forward and be the bearer of good news for someone else. More than that, several playwrights said they will be coming to the show: I love meeting new playwrights. (Expect more gratitude on that later!)
January 24: Road Less Traveled opening nights. Not only does the theater choose contemporary plays that are often new to me (last night’s entry: Lucas Hnath’s A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney) but the post-parties at the Bijou are some of the most enjoyable nights of the year. It’s like old home week for theater with never enough time to chat with everybody I want to catch up with.
January 25: Watching my daughter onstage, as I did today at Niagara University Theatre Short Plays. Of course, I get the thrill and pride that every parent does (and she was hiLARious), but I love having a comprehensive knowledge of what she’s doing, so that we can do the nitty gritty post-game that we both love.
January 26: Nancy McClernan and NYCPlaywrights, an amazing source of submission opportunities, all without fees, and not just for NYC playwrights. Nancy runs this uber-efficiently by herself, and even repeats opps as the deadlines approach in case you missed them the first time around. Thank you, Nancy!
January 27: My own personal RIPP story. RIPP is Real Inspiration for Playwrights Project, the 52-post series I started in an effort to prove that cold submissions can yield results. While the series ended up being more of an education from Artistic Directors and Literary Managers on how to get productions (if you haven’t read it, click on RIPP in the category list at the upper right right, and go back and read—there’s some great info!), it did yield some inspiring stories about how theaters produced a cold submission. In the past month, I’ve garnered two of my own, productions coming from theaters with whom I have no prior relationship and who just plucked my plays from the pile. It can happen! Submit!! (And if you need help, read How To Submit So Your Plays Get Produced here.)
January 28: The Dramatists Guild. I don’t even know where to begin here, because the Dramatists Guild is so many things a playwright needs: amazing people who have your back, sound advice, monthly inspiration, community, service, submission resources, advocacy… Quick story: I had several international inquiries about THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR, from Croatia, Turkey, and Romania, and I had no idea how to field them. I contacted the DG and they put me in touch with an international agent who handled all the requests, and ended up representing me for the production that is currently in rep in translation for two years in Romania. And that’s just one example of how the DG serves you any time you say “I don’t know what to do about…” On the Official Playwrights of Facebook, if I had a nickel for every time a reply to a question is “Contact the Dramatists Guild…” I’ll be hitting them up again as I enter into adaptation agreements with an author. If you identify as a playwright and are not a member, I have no idea why. I feel like my journey as a serious playwright began the day I joined the Dramatists Guild. If you don’t know what the Guild can do for you, contact your regional rep and let your own journey begin.
January 29: Never being bored. With so many characters floating in my head, all begging to be made concrete, it’s just not possible. In addition to things like “Make me real!” they yell, “Why do you have to spend time making money when you could be writing plays ALL the time?” If only the two things were more wholly compatible. Sigh…
January 30: Going to see CRASH tonight at Theatre of Youth with my son. Not only do I get to enjoy a theater outing with him (I think he mostly goes for the chocolate-covered Oreos from Sweet Jenny’s), but I get to see a play by and report back to Y York, a playwright I met in 2012 at the Humble Play Festival in Athens, Ohio. Y was the featured playwright at that event, and she generously invited me to breakfast the morning after my reading to talk about my play and playwriting in general. We’ve been in touch since, and I recently learned we’ll be reunited at the Hormel Festival of New Works in Phoenix in March. The playwright world is really very small; don’t you love that?
January 31: Email submissions, and responses–they make everything so much easier! In the past two days, I got a rejection, an acceptance, and a very cryptic request for information about a play I thought had been rejected a month ago that was followed the next day by an actual acceptance (that will get its own post when I’m allowed to announce it). Now that it’s the end of the first month of 2015, how many submissions have you made? If you need help or inspiration, check out How To Submit So Your Plays Get Produced or 2014 Submission Recap: You Can’t Argue With Numbers. For the record and for those who told me they wanted to keep up this year, I’m at 58 with six follow-ups.
To read more entries in this series, click here or #365GratefulPlaywright in the category listing at upper right.