As always, if you don’t know what RIPP: Real Inspiration for Playwrights Project is about, please click here (the original idea) and here (the evolution of that idea) to get some context before reading).
FROM ROBYN FLATT, EXECUTIVE ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, DALLAS CHILDREN’S THEATER
“It is a tough world out there for playwrights now that boards are often expecting professional theaters for young people to earn 60-70 percent of their budgets and the funding world, for the most part, allocating precious few dollars in support of new works, though new works are at the forefront of all dialogue and conferences. There is a major disconnect. For me, I would love to be producing ONLY new works, but alas, the economy of staying alive does not allow that.
“College and community theater circuits are likely the most open to trying out new scripts. Playwrights can also suggest workshop productions which would look primarily at the text and not require the producer to invest heavily on production expenses. Another thought would be to find out what subject matter professional theaters are seeking for their seasons. We have often been in the situation of wanting to produce a play about a particular individual or topic, to find that there just is no material available. Working this way might mean writing to a particular issue or event, similar to a commission, but with no upfront pay.
Another idea would be to ask a theater to workshop a script. That is what happened with the new script DCT is producing this spring, Mariachi Girl by Roxanne Schroeder-Arce. We were invited to workshop the script’s first draft in the spring of 2012. We became interested in the work and a year later saw a way it would complement our 2013-14 season. It most likely will not be a financial plus. Still, it moves our theater in a direction we have identified.”
My nutshell takeaway: I love these suggestions because they ask playwrights to be proactive. If you approach a theater and ask “What would you love to produce a play about?” and you get an answer, you have a built-in market for the script you create. And if that theater doesn’t end up wanting it, what’s the worst that has happened? You have a new script, perhaps with a theme you may never have considered on your own.
Ms. Flatt’s second suggestion, asking a theater to workshop an existing play, is a great way to make a connection with a theater without obligating them to produce. Perhaps a collaboration on one play may lead to a production of a future one, or a relationship that benefits in other way.
Something important that playwrights need to learn is that it never hurts to ask. Last night on Facebook, I inadvertently came across one ADs urgent request to another for a play suggestion with specific parameters. I piped in and offered to send one of mine that fit the bill. I got a private message asking to send 15 pages; after that, an email to send the rest. The play was read within the hour and I got a response saying he wasn’t sure if it was right for the actors he had in mind but he would run it by them, because it was “lovely writing and I’ll keep it in mind for the future.” I then, at his request, sent a second play. This would never have happened if I’d been afraid to ask and, while it’s likely nothing will come of it, it’s a connection I would not have made otherwise.
When it comes to opportunity, very often, you have to do the knocking.