If you don’t know what RIPP: Real Inspiration for Playwrights Project, please click here to get some context before reading. I have a feeling not everyone is 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.
From TERESA COLEMAN WASH, EXECUTIVE ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, TECO THEATRICAL PRODUCTIONS, INC.
“Every year we stage a New Play Competition, six one-act plays by six local playwrights. The one-act plays are no longer than 20 minutes, there is a 15-minute intermission (three shows in the first hour and three after intermission) so our patrons get a full night of theater. Audience members vote for their favorite performance each night and, on closing night, tally the votes and award the winning playwright $1,000 and two roundtrip airline tickets, but sometimes it’s the runner-ups who are the real winners. On several occasions, I’ve staged full-length productions of playwrights who did not win the cash prize. My advice is simple: cultivate relationships. People do business with people they like.
Isabella Russell-Ides participated in our New Play Competition in 2007. Her play was among those that received the least amount of votes from the audience poll. However, over the next few months, Isabella and I befriended each other and out of that grew a working relationship. She participated in focus group meetings to help expand our programs and even served on the Reading Committee for subsequent festival events. The relationship blossomed into a sisterhood, she continued to hone her craft, and I desperately wanted to support her work. In 2008, her full length play Leonard’s Car opened our theater season. The show received many awards and national attention. It’s an old adage and sometimes we forget that relationships trump everything.”
My nutshell takeaway: Relationships trump everything; it bears repeating. But more than that, two things. One, I’m keen on how Russell-Ides developed a relationship as a result of being chosen as part of a one-act festival. There are many, many of us who have been winners in these contests, but I wonder how many of us are following up, building relationships with the directors and actors. I’ve done some, but am guilty of adding the line to my resume, and not really staying connected, particularly when I’ve been unable to attend the production (which, unfortunately, is often, as its cost prohibitive). Two, this is another very strong example of local involvement. I may have mentioned this before but I once had a newspaper editor who said that the only newspapers that will survive are the truly national and the truly local. While it’s not a direct parallel, I do hear more and more about playwrights who are big in a certain area, even if their work doesn’t necessarily transfer to large regionals or beyond. There is success to be had locally, and Russell-Ides is just one more example of it.