The Five: Salon is a Fancy Word For Meeting

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.

Toast.
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.

Everything Is Already Something Week 38: How To Submit A Submission

Allison Page wants you to submit… to her will.

I’ve been on both sides of the writing submissions game. Either way, it’s kind of a pain in the ass. Here are some things I’ve learned livin’ on both sides of the fence.

HOLY SHIT, LEARN TO READ:
You would think that writers know how to read. I would say it’s assumed. Expected. Necessary. And yet…I find that the simple, straightforward directions laid out in the submission announcement have been largely ignored. Maybe you’re thinking, “But Allison, were they actually simple and straightforward or are you biased?” I’ll let you decide that. I asked for one 3 page sketch in PDF form. What have I received? MP3s, spreadsheets, word docs, pictures – ya know, things that aren’t PDFs.

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Yes, some writers have done it properly, thank goodness, but many haven’t bothered to pay attention to the specifics of the submission requirements, which doesn’t leave a good first impression. In this particular case, I’m looking for people to add to our collaborative writers room, and if you can’t even bother to follow these simple instructions, how can I expect them to adhere to more challenging guidelines?

MAKE IT EASY:
On the other side of the fence, if you’re about to open the floodgates for submissions it’s important to get what you need, but if you overcomplicate the specifics, you might end up alienating writers who might actually be a great fit. I can hear you saying, “Hey, if they’re not willing to jump through all my hoops, I’m not interested!” Fair enough, but just know that along with the lazy people you’re weeding out, you might be weeding out a good candidate. A good idea is to accept submissions in formats that people have heard of and weren’t just invented yesterday and need to be downloaded and installed.

KEEP IT SHORT, YO:
Each submission is different, obviously, but when you include a bio about yourself, maybe don’t make it a novella. Keep it simple. Give me the highlights. I’m already swimming through piles of writing in search of sunken treasure, don’t add too much more to that stack. It’s cool to know things about you, but a life story is kind of unnecessary, and then what will we have left to talk about at the bar after writers meetings?!

SIMPLY THE BEST:
When I read someone’s submission, I assume it’s a piece that they feel shows them in the best possible light. I assume it’s the shiniest, brightest diamond at Kay Jewelers.

Eh, I've seen shinier.

Eh, I’ve seen shinier.

And it should be. Send something that shows off your strengths and showcases your unique perspective and talents. Break out of the pack.

SUCK IT UP AND SEND IT OUT:
I hate submitting things. It feels stressful to me. I don’t like taking the time. I end up spending an hour after I’ve gotten everything together, just staring at it to make sure that I’ve properly followed the instructions and haven’t somehow typed a nonsense word into the body of the email, or attached a photo of my butt. (I don’t actually have photos of my butt all over my laptop, but so paranoid am I about doing something wrong, that I am convinced that it’s possible I’ve taken a picture of my butt without my own knowledge and attached it to an important email.)

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Thankfully, when I finally do submit something, I feel a sense of accomplishment and the feeling that I am, in fact, allowed to be a writer now. Which isn’t to say that you’re not a real writer if you’re not submitting things. That’s totally not accurate. But it does make me feel good on the occasion that I do send something in, even if (as happens most frequently) I don’t ever hear a damn thing.

Submissions can be tough on both sides, but the reality is that it’s an avenue – however flawed – which can lead to your work being performed or published or, at the very least, read. And that’s a good thing for everybody.

Allison Page is a writer/actor/hustler/Co-Creative Director/brunch-eater in San Francisco. You can see her perform in Killing My Lobster Goes Radio Active August 13th-23rd. Tickets available at killingmylobster.com You can also follow her on Twitter @allisonlynnpage

Now Accepting Submissions For Pint Sized IV!

It’s that time of year again!  PINT-SIZED PLAYS are back for a fourth go around!  We are now accepting play submissions through April 15th, 2012. And mark your calendars, the festival performs this July!

Guidelines:

1. Local, Bay Area playwrights only. Must be able to prove residence upon request.

2. Plays must be no longer than the time it takes to finish a beer. This means plays may be as short as a few seconds, but no longer than ten pages.  If a scene is too long, the beer could get warm and we certainly don’t want that.  We’ve got an hour for the evening and we want those plays brief and those beers cold.

3. Plays must take place in a bar. This is both a thematic concern and a logistical one.  The plays will be performed at a bar and as great as it would be to see a scene of people drinking beers while skydiving, we don’t have the fly system installed yet.  Items provided for your plays: tables, chairs and beers.  So keep that in mind.

4. Plays must respect the bar space. Our hosts are incredibly supportive of the festival, but we need to reciprocate that respect. Don’t do anything in your play that you wouldn’t do in a bar yourself (with some degree of sobriety).

5. Plays must have no more than three actors.

6. At least one of the characters must be drinking a beer during the scene and the play is over when a beer is finished.  We don’t have many rules, but this one is a biggie.

Plays should be submitted electronically, in a .doc or PDF format, with the playwright’s name and contact information to sfpintsized@gmail.com with the subject “First Name, Last Name – Pint Sized 2013 Submission.”

Clarifying questions may also be sent to this address.

Selected plays will be announced in May 2013.

We look forward to reading your submissions!

-Brian, Julia, Neil and Stuart