If you don’t know what RIPP: Real Inspiration for Playwrights Project is about, please click here to get some context before reading.
From PATRICK DOOLEY, FOUNDING ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, SHOTGUN PLAYERS
“What playwrights and directors need to do is find each other. Directors come to me and say ‘I want to direct for you,’ and I say, ‘Great, what have you got?’ because ‘I want to direct’ does nothing; the thing that gets you a directing gig is a really great play that you’re attached to. And for a playwright, I have to see or be familiar with your work in some way before I’m going to choose it, but if you’re attached to a director, that’s going to get you a gig. Playwrights and directors have to hitch their rides on each other. Anne Kauffman had done Jenny Schwartz’s God’s Ear at New Georges, and then did Jenny’s new play, Somewhere Fun, at the Vineyard. Directors have ins with different theaters, so find that director who people want to produce; it’s not easy, but it’s smart. People are submitting plays to theater companies, but what they really need to do is get directors excited about their works. The first plays I read are the ones from a director I want to work with; I’m already inclined to give it a more thorough look than I otherwise might have because it’s gotten a director’s respect.
“The story that comes to mind is Swimming in the Shallows, by Adam Bock. He’s a pretty successful playwright, but he was a temp in the Bay Area back in the nineties, and he had submitted this play to Magic Theatre. They had passed on it, but Kent Nicholson, who’s now at Playwrights Horizons, was literary manager at Magic and he was trying to get a directing gig with our theater. He said ‘My thing is new plays,’ and he handed me a pile of ten plays, and I was on page 18 of Swimming in the Shallows and I knew this was the one we were going to do. And it was a turning point for our theater company and for Adam Bock who was, at the time, answering phones as a temp. After that, he just caught on fire, and had two or three shows that were hits in the Bay Area and then he moved to New York and just continued. Get your play in the right person’s hands.
“We don’t have open submissions; it felt like we were wasting people’s time. Somebody with a relationship has to get their attention and get their focus; otherwise, it’s going to get lost or maybe you’ll get a cursory thank you for submitting. After twenty years sitting on this side of the desk, I can’t think of one script we produced that’s been submitted that wasn’t attached to a director or dramaturg or agent. You really want to get somebody who’s got a relationship with a theater you like to submit your play for you; otherwise, it’s just white noise. Artistic Directors only have so much available focused time, and some of the more challenging plays, if it’s not jumping off the page, it’s hard to stay focused—the phone’s ringing nonstop, meetings are one on top of the other, there’s something else to sign. But if it’s someone who knows who we are, I’ll carve out an hour of special quiet time.”
My nutshell takeaway: It doesn’t get any easier, does it, to hear that open submissions really don’t work. You might feel great that you sent out thirty scripts, but if those thirty scripts never get read, you’ve wasted your time, effort and, maybe if they were snail mail subs, your money, as well. Fortunately, I don’t even have to come up with a new way to sum this all up, because Mr. Dooley has kindly done it for me in speaking about the prolific Lauren Gunderson, who has a gazillion awards and keeps getting hotter, and had no less than three world premieres in the Bay Area last year: “Three years ago, she just made it her business to get into theaters and meet people.” Don’t just nod your head; make a coffee date and make a connection.
Speaking of connections, if you haven’t heard of Trade A Play Tuesday, which I introduced a month ago, I invite you to please click on the link, check it out, and send a play—TODAY (because it’s Tuesday–or will be soon enough)! The playwrights who’ve been involved so far have loved the opportunity to connect to another playwright, as well as get feedback on their works-in-progress. It’s free, easy, and quick—another no-lose proposition.
Until next time,