If you don’t know what RIPP: Real Inspiration for Playwrights Project is about, please click here to get some context before reading.
Today, a small preamble about the name of this series: There have been a couple of people who have pointed out that RIPP, even with two Ps, makes them think someone has died. I’m not sure why, but it’s only been a couple, so I’m not too worried about it. But I was thinking today about how this whole series has evolved, and how what I set out to do–find stories of that cold play that got produced–isn’t entirely what RIPP has ended up being about. It has become just as much advice as inspiration, sometimes more advice than inspiration. So I thought ever so briefly about appeasing the gloomy Gusses out there who see RIPP with two Ps and think death, and changing the name to RAPP–Real Advice for Playwrights Project–which I kind of like, because in addition to serving as an acronym, it also has a connotation of a rap session, a conversation. But then I remembered that rap has just one P, and probably nobody would get that. And I’ve already posted 31 times with the RIPP name, and I don’t want to confuse anybody. So I guess this is just my acknowledgment that this isn’t always inspirational, and that sometimes my “guests” say things we really don’t want to hear. So when it’s like that–between us–let’s think RAPP. And the rest of the time, I hope I can continue to find and provide you with RIPP. Deal?
Now on with the show…
From ELISSA ADAMS, DIRECTOR OF NEW PLAY DEVELOPMENT, CHILDREN’S THEATRE COMPANY
“My experience as a Literary Manager and head of a new play department has been at large, regional theaters—Children’s Theatre Company and La Jolla Playhouse. Frankly, at theaters of this size, a playwright submitting a script and expecting it to lead to a production is in vain. My advice to a playwright would be to work on building a relationship first. I am initially more interested in artists than in specific plays. Email, call, or set up a meeting and tell me who you are—where you’ve been produced or, if you are just out of school, where you are graduating from or who you have worked with. Ask me if I would be interested in reading your work. If I am, I will ask you to submit a play. Don’t tell me why the play is perfect for my theater. Don’t tell me it has a small cast or will make my theatre a lot of money. It’s my job to figure those things out—it’s irritating if you presume to know how to do my job.
Another good strategy is that if you have a relationship with another writer or a director whose work has been done at that theater, ask them to recommend your work to the artistic staff.
We commission writers all the time to write many of the plays we end up producing, so almost every play we produce is an example of this process of the relationship first. A few specific examples… Nilo Cruz’ adaptation of A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings, Melissa James Gibson’s original play Brooklyn Bridge, Cheryl West’s adaptation of Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy—all of which were commissioned and eventually produced at CTC—grew out of my admiration for them as writers and conversations about what kind of play they might want to write for CTC’s audiences. In each case, the relationship with the artist preceded the play itself.”
My nutshell takeaway: If playwrights reading this series take away nothing else, I hope it’s not just that building relationships is important, but that relationships with theaters are like any other relationships in life. There is a courtship, which means you must first ask for the date. And in the asking, you may get shot down by thirty theaters before one agrees to have coffee with you. But if you find yourself in a coffee shop with a theater you’re attracted to, it’s an opportunity to convince the theater that you’re a good catch, that the two of you are a good match, and that you’re committed to this relationship. Maybe it will work and maybe it won’t, but as your mama always told you, there are plenty of fish in the sea. And it only takes one.
Until next time,