Allison Page starts your year off right.
Unless you’ve been hiding in a mountain and eschewing the passage of time, you know that it’s 2014 now! HOORAY! It’s a new year and you can do new shit! Everyone expects you to try. We’re all waiting…just kidding, do whatever you want.
I do feel a wee bit of pressure because this year I will turn thi…thirrrr…thhhiir…THIRTY. That was hard. Yeah, I’m turning 30. I’m actually mostly okay with it, but I don’t want to head into it feeling regretful. So this year, I’m self-producing. Here are some reasons for it. Let’s get listy.
1. Be a tally mark on the good side.
Gender and racial equality in theater has been a hot topic in the community this year. In some ways, it’s always a hot topic. Not enough female playwrights are having their work produced. Not enough people who aren’t heterosexual white males are having their work produced. There are meetings, research projects, groups and all kinds of things about this issue. I think that’s great, but I’m personally interested in being a positive statistic. If I produce something myself, then that’s one more female playwright whose work has been put up. If I happen to hire a female director (which I have) then that’s one more female director who has an opportunity this year. If my play stars two women (which it does) then there are two more lead female characters in the world (and yes, it passes the Bechdel test).
Sure, it won’t count as a positive for a major company whose numbers are being scrutinized, but to be honest, those companies are not relevant to my career right now, so I’m not focused on that. I’d rather be working.
2. It’s the only way to be certain your play will get produced.
You’ve been submitting things all over the place. You’re a good little playwright. You work hard; you follow the protocol. But, here you are, who knows how much later – and there’s at least one play that you just can’t seem to get produced. It’s burning a hole in your head. You can’t move on to other work because you spend so much time thinking about it. You think, “If I could get this up on its feet, I’d finally be able to move on. But no one’s biting!” Well, then how about you bite, Playwright? If it’s something you believe in that strongly, there’s only one way to be absolutely positive that it’s going to happen: do it yourself.
3. Just because it hasn’t been chosen by someone else, doesn’t mean it’s not good.
This feels like it has been reinforced a lot throughout the last year or so. People at the top of the food chain at theater companies have spoken out and said “Hey, brah, it’s not that you’re not good, there are a lot of things to think about when we choose a season and stuff.” Of course, it doesn’t mean that it IS good, either. You’re taking a lot into your own hands if you self produce, and hopefully that means you’ve worked really hard on the material, and that you have people behind you who really believe in it…and hopefully those people are smart. With each company only able to have so many shows in their season, say 6, the odds are not exactly stacked in your favor. So stack ‘em yourself.
4. Work with whomever you want!
Well, almost. You probably don’t have the cash in your pocket to get Meryl Streep to play the part of Snarky Butler #8, but if you’re self producing, you automatically have more creative input.
Maybe you can just see a certain actor in a certain part and it excites you. Well, appeal to that actor yourself. As an actor, it’s pretty damn flattering when a playwright comes to you and says “I have a part just for you!” Whoooooaa – ego parade! Of course, if you choose not to direct your own work you’ll have to find someone else to do it. I was shocked how quickly someone agreed to direct my show for next…oh, God…THIS year! I only asked one person. I got exactly whom I wanted, and she is 100% on board with me. We’re in this together and that is just fantastic. I also believe I snagged someone who will be honest with me, which is pretty important. The last thing you want is someone to stand around and tell you something is amazing if it’s just a nightmare and needs to be fixed. But don’t give up if the first director you asked says no, that’s okay. There are other directors in the sea.
5. The ability to grow and change your project in an instant.
Let’s say a company chooses to produce your play BIG BUTTS, BIG HEARTS at a theater in New Jersey. Oh my gosh, congratulations! I hope Snooki comes to see it!
But…you still live in the bay area. You’re not going to see that cast grapple with it. Maybe there’s a part that just isn’t working. You might not even know about it. Maybe you’re not really even married to the part that’s not working and would gladly change it in an instant. Too bad, you’re really far away. I’m not saying the director won’t contact you to try to work it out but I think you’ll agree that if you could see what’s happening, it might be easier to understand the problems and possible solutions. I’m sure some people would say that they’d rather have the playwright out of the equation by the time it goes into rehearsal to keep them from “meddling”, but if you can keep yourself from being obnoxious, you’re also a great resource. You did write it, after all.
Naturally, when you choose to the do-it-yourself approach, there is a lot more responsibility in store for you – financial and otherwise. It’s probably not for everyone, but it is an important part of the theater world. You’re in good company. My hope is always that theater-makers will be supportive of each other’s work. I try to be. I see shows (I hope to see more this year), donate to Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns for local shows, am always up to act in readings for playwrights who need to hear their stuff, and I love drinking beer with people who want to talk about this crazy theatrical world of ours. I look forward to the crazy stuff 2014 has to offer, including my own play HILARITY and whether or not the producing of it will kill me. Here’s to you, self-producing Playwright! You’re lookin’ good this year.
You can spy Allison with your little eye at SF Sketchfest with Killing My Lobster on February 3rd and follow her on Twitter @allisonlynnpage.