I recently returned from the Citywrights Conference in Miami, where I sat on a panel about marketing your work online, along with Deborah Zoe Laufer and Gwydion Suilebhan, project director for the New Play Exchange (NPX). Part of what we discussed is the importance of having an online presence, a place where people interested in your plays can find you and your work. For many, this is a website, but barring (and certainly in addition to) that, NPX is a no-brainer place to start. For $10 a year, you can have an online presence that allows your plays to be instantly accessed by those who want to read them.
One of the promising features of NPX is the ability not only to read plays, but also to recommend them. In the process of culling information for Real Inspiration for Playwrights Project (RIPP), I heard again and again from Literary Managers and Artistic Directors that recommendations from other playwrights hold more value than recommendations from agents, producers, or others with vested interest. Playwrights’ recommendations are considered more pure, tinged with less agenda.
So, following a recent thread on Official Playwrights of Facebook, I vowed that I would make time to read more plays on NPX and, possibly, recommend them. Because all of theater is about relationships, we (as well as gatekeepers and decision-makers) all become much more interested in playwrights’ work when they become more than playwrights to us, i.e. when we know them as people, and we are more than just names to each other. So, post-Citywrights, I decided to embark on my NPX playreading journey by starting with the new playwrights I’d met in Florida. What a tremendous way to get to know them even better through their work; great idea, right?
Well…. in theory. Because here’s the problem: most of them are NOT ON NPX. I’m talking to you Michael Yawney, David Hilder, Jo Morello, Louise Wigglesworth, Susan Miller, Greg Waters, France-Luce Benson, Daria Polatin, Leslie Ayvazian, Cusi Cram, Jane Elias, Susan Westfall, Staci Swedeen, and Susan Bernfield. That’s a lot of playwrights who I know are serious about their work, but whose work I can’t access. If you met a playwright—or a producer, or an artistic director, or a literary manager—would you want them to go looking for your work and not be able to easily find it? I hope the answer is no, and I hope you’re checking out NPX within the next five minutes.
On the flip side, Vince Gatton, Catherine Castellani, Deb Laufer, Lauren Feldman, Steve Yockey, Lauren Yee, and Elaine Romero (Seven! Only seven!): I tremendously enjoyed discovering your voices and attaching them to the people I’d just met—great fun! And when I go to the Dramatists Guild conference in La Jolla next month, I plan to continue this practice, because I feel like it deepens the relationships I’ve just begun.
So that’s the challenge: when you’re out and about in our world meeting new playwrights, help build the community and your relationships by finding them on NPX and reading (and maybe recommending) one of their plays. It’s a wonderful experience that reveals new layers about the person you just met, and strengthens our community. And if the playwright you’re looking for is not on NPX (and worst case, that playwright is YOU), maybe give them a little nudge, and consider it your good deed for the day.