Can you believe this is the 34th post in this series? If you’ve been reading, I would love to hear how RIPP has helped you, so that I can share these responses in a future post. And if you don’t know what RIPP: Real Inspiration for Playwrights Project is about, please click here to get some context before reading.
From BRIAN GRACE-DUFF, PLAYWRIGHT IN RESIDENCE, BRAT PRODUCTIONS
I am indeed one of those lamenting playwrights you are speaking about. I am also fortunate enough to be Brat’s artist in residence this year, so I have a bit of perspective as well. However, even with success, the questions linger about the next project, the next script. For this reason, I thank you and look forward to hearing advice from interior sources. As for my own experience, I would give this piece of advice to folks out there struggling, as this is how I found myself with my first commissioned play, a dream project I never thought would come into reality.
First of all, look for opportunities to practice failing. These should be places you can see yourself actually at in two or three years, not just the Humana festival or Atlantic, but theaters that still seem beyond your grasp. Second, since this is a chance to fail, dream big. Failures should be big and since you’re planning on not getting the job anyhow, have fun in giving the dream projects voice. The only cautionary word to your big dream is to do your homework: your dream should be parallel to their dream.
Finally, put all the cards on the table. Honesty is sexy and refreshing, so just let it out. From the first letter, to any other contact you have, be you. I’m an awkward guy, I’m scared of a million things, and when I walked into Brat’s office to pitch them a play [The Last Plot in Revenge], I had literally failed at writing three other times, I let them know as boldly and as clearly as I could that, yeah, I’m terrified but all great art has something scary in it and I think they should find out what’s scary in this project. That’s how I did it. I hope this helps you find success too.
My nutshell takeaway: My favorite part of this whole thing? Be you. Have you ever had a friend or fellow playwright say the equivalent of “This is a Donna play”? Because no matter what kind of play you’re writing—comedy, drama, magical realism, issue-oriented—your voice comes through. There’s no point in pretending it doesn’t or trying to hide it. And if a given theater is not interested in that voice, then they’re not; we can’t take it personally anymore than we can try to write things that don’t come naturally to us. Next thing—go do this. Seriously. Do exactly what Brian did and then let me know what happened. Or if you’ve already done it and it paid off, share that, too.