RIPP #39: SPENSER DAVIS, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, HOBO JUNCTION

December 4th, 2013 donnahoke

 

 

If you don’t know what RIPP: Real Inspiration for Playwrights Project is about, please click here to get some context before reading.

 

From SPENSER DAVIS, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, HOBO JUNCTION

 

“As a young playwright myself, I understand firsthand how daunting it can be to write for the stage. Let’s be honest: on the surface, there is no viable reason that we should be doing what we’re doing. After all, anyone who has access to a pen and paper can write a ten-page dialogue and call it a play, so ‘exclusivity’ is out the window. There certainly is not any money in it, and for every contest with prize money and no submission fee (*shameless plug* like, say, my own company’s nationally recognized Hobo Robo Festival *shameless plug*), there are ten or twenty that require you to send a 20 or 30 dollar check with your playscript, money that you will probably never see again and that does absolutely nothing to guarantee that your play will make it onstage. And if the lack of exclusivity and moneymaking opportunities aren’t enough to detract someone from playwriting, staring at that blank page on Final Draft or Microsoft Word is about as intimidating as it gets. As you find yourself being hypnotized by the computer screen’s pixel, you also realize that it is up to you, and—at that moment—only you, to create something out of that blank page.

 

“So why be a playwright? It is one of the most rewarding creative endeavors out there. No other performance-based medium values the role of the writer more than theater; television, for all of its writers’ room hoopla, runs a distant second. When a play succeeds, the writer is the first person congratulated. In this art form, the playwright is the storyteller, the world-builder, the god of the page, and when the lights come up and the audience sees that ‘it is good’ (running with the god metaphor here), the man or woman who wrote the words is the one whose name is glorified. My theater company, Hobo Junction Productions in Chicago, focuses exclusively on the development and production of new, original comedies for the stage. In other words, we only produce world premieres, only deal with the scripts that have not been produced yet. Many times, these scripts have not been produced because they are not nearly as humorous as the writer intended. So why do I still encourage writers like yourself, especially if they want to write a comedy? Because every once in a while, one script comes across my desk that makes me laugh until it hurts. I feel my spirits lift when I have the privilege to discover a wonderfully witty new writer. And if I feel that good reading the script, imagine how good it must feel to be the writer whose pen first touch that paper and brought a little bit of magic into the world.

 

“In short, playwriting is a living art form. And being a playwright, the person who breathes life into his or her own creations, is one of the most rewarding occupations I can imagine.”

 

My nutshell takeaway: When it comes to the inspiration in this Real Inspiration for Playwrights Project, this has to be one of my favorites. As much as we all want to be produced, if there is no real joy in the writing, there really is no point. I get a little nuts when I run into writers—usually very new ones—who talk endlessly about “making it” as an end goal. They are usually very driven—at least at the time of our meeting; I wonder if they still are—but to “succeed,” not to write. We all have different definitions of “making it,” but all of them MUST be predicated on a love of writing, a compulsion to write, a joy inherent in the process. For me, the creative process in and of itself is purposeful; even when it’s difficult, it lifts my spirits like nothing else because creating makes me feel alive. Think about this: how long does the joy last when you find out you’re getting a production? But how long must the joy last to keep you going back to the page? And the bottom line is, whatever your goals may be, you’ll have to keep writing to reach them.

 

None of this is to say that we don’t want somebody to feel about our plays as Mr. Davis feels when he reads a new comedic writer who makes him laugh out loud. And I love Hobo Junction for devoting itself to world premieres (which means they look at and take cold submissions all the time). As much as we need laughter, we need more theaters like this.

 

Until next time,

Donna

 

 

 

Written by donnahoke

donnahoke

Dramatists Guild Council member and ensemble playwright-in-residence at Road Less Traveled Productions, Kilroys List and award-winning playwright Donna Hoke’s work has been seen in 40 states, and on five continents. Her full-length plays include THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR (Princess Grace semi-finalist, currently in its third year in rep in Romania), SEEDS (Artie award winner for Outstanding New Play), FLOWERS IN THE DESERT (AACT top 20 finalist), SAFE (winner of the Todd McNerney National Playwriting Contest, Naatak National Playwriting Contest, and the 2015 Great Gay Play and Musical Contest), and BRILLIANT WORKS OF ART (2016 Kilroys List, Winner HRC Showcase, Firehouse Festival of New American Plays, top ten Woodward/Newman finalist); she’s also authored more than two dozen short plays that have had hundreds of productions. Donna is also a New York Times-published crossword puzzle constructor; author of Neko and the Twiggets, a children’s book; and founder/co-curator of BUA Takes 10: GLBT Short Stories. For three consecutive years, she was named Buffalo’s Best Writer by Artvoice, the only woman to ever receive the designation.

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