Anthony R. Miller checks in with his thoughts on Berkeley Rep’s Writers Salon.
Hey you guys, I attended Berkeley Rep’s Ground Floor Writers Salon last night. I’m still not sure the what difference between a “salon” and ann “informational meeting” is, but it was essentially a chance to hear what exactly Berkeley Rep looks for in applications for its new play development program. I have some thoughts, and wouldn’t you know it, there are five.
There was a self-serve toast bar. This is a thing. I had no idea.
What They’re Looking For
From what I gathered, what they’re looking for is an interesting person with an interesting idea, who has a really strong sense of what they want from their piece and the experience. So really think about what you’re trying to get out of the program. What questions about your play are you trying to answer? The application asks seven questions, and it was stressed that most important question is “Why this play right now?” Also, there’s an “is there anything else you’d like to tell us?” question. Answer it, take the opportunity to say something about your play you haven’t already.
What’s Not As Important
Don’t get too stressed out about a synopsis. A short description is fine and they expect things to change anyways. Write about the process, not the product. They’re not looking for a sales pitch. Also, first-time writers have been accepted in the past, so don’t be too worried about your resume. Also, don’t be intimidated by your lack of an MFA in writing. In this situation, it’s considered a plus because people with MFAs are considered to already have a network of folks and this program is considered another way to build that network.
Writers Are Weird
One thing I think people were hoping the Salon (still not sure what that means) would be that it wasn’t, was a meet and greet, an opportunity to meet other playwrights in the Bay Area. Now, it only took about 2 minutes to figure out this is OK. Writers are weird, at least most of us. Not all of us are sterling conversationalists. That’s why we have imaginary people talk for us using lines we put a lot of thought into. Admittedly, I’m probably more on the introvert side of the writer spectrum. So maybe not all writers are weird and socially awkward, but I sure am. So I’m not exactly falling over myself to meet other writers to disprove my own theory.
A Show Of Hands
Now if there is one thing from last night that I was critical of, it’s this: at the beginning, the woman in charge of the program asked how many people attended the last Salon. There were three, which was clearly not what they expected. The last salon had 40+ people and so did this one. They clearly didn’t expect such a turnout. Her exact words were “We had no idea there were so many people locally who identified as playwrights,” and my snarky inner voice said “Yeah, we know.” It was if she accidentally confirmed what a lot of independent artists in the Bay Area already feel: that large Bay Area theatre companies have no idea we exist and really weren’t looking anyways. But that’s not entirely true, the whole purpose of these Salons are for local writers to make themselves known. We were told this is part of a larger effort to engage local artists and that there would be other events that would be more about play development and meet and greets. So sure, we would all love it if Berkeley Rep and ACT had talent scouts at every indie theatre show, looking for writers within the massive community that already exists. But this should also be seen as a call to playwrights and all theatre makers to make sure we are doing everything to make ourselves known. There is a level of self-promotion that a writer needs to be successful. We can’t sit around waiting to be found; we have to put ourselves out there, leave calling cards, and let them know we exist. So while it’s great that larger companies are finally creating programs that reach out to the community at large, we need to reach back. Seek out the opportunity as opposed to waiting the opportunity to seek you out.
Anthony R. Miller is a writer and producer; you can keep up with him at www.awesometheatre.org and on twitter @armiller78.