For an explanation of RIPP: Real Inspiration for Playwrights Project, click here.
FROM ARI SCHRIER, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, PIPELINE THEATRE COMPANY
“There have been two playwrights with new plays we’ve worked with over the past year. The most recent show we did was Clown Bar, and that was a completely cold submission. Adam Szymkowicz is getting to be somewhat known, and when we got his play, we were very excited. But actually selecting Clown Bar had nothing to do with who he is; the play would have gotten accepted no matter what. The reason that cold submission worked so well for him is because he found the company that was the right fit for it. He heard about Pipeline and the kind and quality of work we produce, looked at our website and mission—which is all about imagination and make-believe, but serious make believe, magic that’s grounded in real, fully developed characters and emotional storytelling—and it was really clear to him that it was a good fit. He sent us a play that is written in the style of a film noir, but all the characters are clowns. It had these really vivid characters with fully developed histories and complex relationships, it told a compelling story, but it also created this unexpected whimsical world all unto itself, which exactly fit our mission, so we were on board. So in terms of sending scripts, it’s going to be most successful if it’s just perfect for what we do. Ninety percent of the plays we’re sent are not right for our mission. They’re from playwrights who clearly have not read our mission or our history, and that’s just a waste of time, for us and the playwright. It makes a lot more sense to really take the time to figure out who you should be working with, and find a way to make a connection. For cold submitting, that is the most important thing.
“The other playwright is Colby Day, and that is a completely different situation. He didn’t cold submit, but years ago, when we were fresh out of school, he jumped on board to help us out and built a relationship; he became someone we knew and worked with often, and then he was like, ‘Hey, I have this play.’ That’s also a case where his work is just what we do. In the past two years we’ve done two of his plays, first Felix & the Diligence, and then this year, Giant Killer Slugs. Over time, he’s become a really big part of the company doing a lot of development with other playwrights who work with us. The reason it works is because he found a company aligned with what he wanted to do, and built a relationship with us.
“If a playwright sends us a play, we’re not going to reject without explaining why. We have playwrights in our company and we know how tough it is out there. We’re all doing it, so even if we’re not going to do their plays, we want to be of help to them.”
My nutshell takeaway: Some companies have missions that are so vague, and can best be described as “We know what we like, but it’s hard to put into words.” In those cases, we can be forgiven for submitting something that isn’t quite the right aesthetic, but for a company like Pipeline—with a mission that clearly states it’s about imagination (and whose website is subtitled “Serious Make Believe”—to cite a statistic of NINETY percent of plays not adhering to missions means that oft-repeated piece of advice is not being taken. But that’s okay… because in upcoming RIPP posts, you’re going to hear it again and again and again. Sooner or later, it’s got to stick.
Next post Sunday,