If you don’t know what RIPP: Real Inspiration for Playwrights Project is about, please click here to get some context before reading.
From RON PELUSO, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, HISTORY THEATRE
“Read theater mission statements and see how you might be a fit. As a theater that produces new work, I’m always happy to entertain ideas and plays that are in line with our mission. Some ADs close their doors to writers, but if you have something that might be a perfect fit for a particular theater, try to meet face to face with the AD or literary manager. Realize that we need new ideas as much as playwrights need homes for their work.
Actor/Producer Perrin Post of Minneapolis and playwright/lyrists Laurie Flanigan Hegge came to me with a proposal for a play/musical about the Hormel Girls. Apparently, the Hormel Corporation of the 1940s in Austin, MN, created a musical touring band of women musicians—a drum and bugle corps made up of women who served in World War II—to compete around the country against male marching units. They were a success and soon the meat-packing plant at Hormel decided to go a step further and create an all female touring band. The bands would travel nationally, selling Hormel products by day and performing on stage and for broadcast in the evenings. The Hormel Girls, as they were known, became a national phenomena. Laurie was willing to write the book and lyrics and I matched her with composer Hiram Titus, who had recently made a proposal to me for another History Theatre project. We commissioned the two of them, and the result was a successful musical that HT produced and has licensed on two occasions.
At the same time, Laurie was working on another musical project and invited me to the reading. I liked the work, but asked if she’d be willing to rewrite, explore more dimensional characters and tailor the musical to HT’s mission. She did. We workshopped the musical, and, within two years her musical, 20 Days to Find a Wife, played on our main stage. “
My nutshell takeaway: Yes, read mission statements (and you know how I feel about those; if not, click here). But what follows is the advice we all want to hear, yes? If you’ve got a perfect fit for a theater, don’t worry about whether there’s an open call or not, but try to meet the AD or LM and get them to listen to your pitch. No query or email—go straight for the coffee date. Admittedly, in my own town, I have seen this approach work on more than one occasion, and it makes sense, though, as I said in my mission statement post, I imagine it works best with theaters that have very specific missions and find it hard to find quality new work (but there are SO many of those!). In the case of Laurie and History Theatre, she also presented a local angle, something theaters often find it hard to pass up. (I may have mentioned this before, but I once had a newspaper editor who told me that the only newspapers that will survive are the truly national and the truly local; I feel like that somewhat applies to theater as well.) I’m not suggesting you try to write a play that isn’t you, but to instead to think about how the plays you write might be tailored to become something a niche theater needs. If you have a success story in this vein, I’d love to hear it.
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Until next time,