If you don’t know what RIPP: Real Inspiration for Playwrights Project, please click here. I have a feeling people aren’t doing this, as I keep getting emails from playwrights wanting to send me their plays or asking how to get produced which, again, is not the point of RIPP.
Today’s story is an interesting and kind of exciting one from LENORA INEZ BROWN, an independent dramaturg who has worked with Crossroads, Syracuse Stage, Madison Rep, Sundance, Pacific Playwrights, and read for the O’Neill:
“When I was at Madison Rep as New Play Director, Richard Corley was the new artistic director and he wanted to start a new play festival, with a new play as an anchor production that would kick off the season. He wanted something classic, like Greek classic, but somehow contemporary. So I was reading plays that came in and he would send me a few here and there, but nothing was really jumping off the page. There were strong pieces, but nothing was simply saying, ‘This is a new way of telling or adapting a Greek story.’
“So I sent an email out to some playwrights, and one was a young woman I had met at Sundance, after she’d received the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival internship. She was a younger writer, just graduated from Brown, and I had sort of kept in touch with her. So she sent me a play, an adaptation of the Eurydice and Orpheus myth, and it was brilliant, very spare. It was about a father and daughter, but about Eurydice as opposed to Orpheus, and took place in the underworld, and it had all of the pathos of a Greek play and all of the poetry of a modern play. It was fantastic!
“I sent it to the associate artistic director and she loved it, so we sent it to the artistic director; he said, ‘Yeah, this is a great play, but let’s keep looking.’ And we thought, ‘Why would you keep looking; this play has everything,’ but we kept reading, and nothing really resonated in the same way that this play did. We thought about what could be holding it back—maybe it was that she’d never had a professional production, was that it? We weren’t sure, so we went in as a team and pitched it to the artistic director again with what we thought were its selling points: it was a play about a young woman, fathers and daughters, love and loss, and childhood and growing old. It was all of human experience in this one little package. So he said, ‘Okay, I’ll go back and read it again,” and he decided to do it, and essentially, that’s how Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice got its start. From that, we managed to get her an agent, and her first production, which led to a number of productions.
“If not for the American College Theater Festival, I would have never known who she was. I can’t say I was buddies with her; I knew her professionally. She was a young person and i met her. That’s it. I met her in 2000 or 2001, and liked the way she used words, so we stayed in touch, and her play was not produced until 2003, so you never know.”
My nutshell takeaway: So many! First, seek out professional situations like conferences, where you can not only learn more about playwriting but also make connections and meet people. You don’t have to “win” anything for this to happen; there are so many good options every year—Citywrights, Great Plains, Last Frontier, Dramatists Guild (every other year), etc. Second, stay in touch with the people you meet. Third, remember that it can take time for a connection or relationship to bear an opportunity. All you can do in the meantime is continue writing and continue getting better at writing. (And fourth, I’m particularly thrilled that two women went to bat for another woman in such a way that launched a career.)
Until next time,