July 28, 2008

Art and Money

Don wrote a great article about how theater artists' assumptions about the relationship between money and art often don't make sense (and sometimes work against them).

Everything he says makes perfect sense to me. Then again, I'm not a Theater Person. I'm just someone who wants to stage weird experimental plays. I really don't know why I want to do this other than a craving for mystery and intimacy. In a sense, I'm the ultimate amateur. I write plays because I'm enamored with the process*.

But - and this is somewhat ironic - it often seems that a lot of Theater People don't want people like me involved in the actual making of a show. Sure, I'd be allowed to usher people to their seats or work the box office. I'd definitely be welcome to help strike. But writing the play? Designing something? Even - gasp! - acting? No need to apply. I'll have to go through the "proper channels".

IOW, doing something I don't want to do at greatly reduced pay so I can, perhaps, sometimes in the distant future, have a sliver of a chance at doing what I really want to do.

Anybody else notice the irony in this?

*I enjoy the process of transformation. The act of change - in all its forms - is a source of (often morbid) fascination to me. Babies growing in the womb, werewolves changing, rotting fruit, turds turning to dirt, seeds becoming trees, decaying carcasses, fluffy clouds to rain clouds, coccoon to butterfly, etc.


  1. Hi RVC Bard. Who has been telling you that you can't write plays?

  2. No one has said outright, "You can't do this," but I have been given weird advice from some folks here in Richmond about how to get involved in theater that sort of amounts to ushering or working the box office and hope I get noticed.

  3. To clarify:

    It's hard to explain. It's a vibe I get, a feeling. I'll just say it's the same feeling I get when I go to a part of town where - how do I say this? - not many ethnic minorities make their way to. That whole, "What the hell are you doing here" vibe. It's not hostile per se, but it's definitely not welcoming.

  4. What are the proper channels?

  5. Tony,

    Usually, something that resembles development hell (running around in circles asking people to read my play and help me find some people who're interested in new work by new playwrights). But without any development going on. Only the slight chance of perhaps, maybe, if the time and weather are right, getting my play at a sit-down reading. And that's if I'm lucky.

    Then again, this is Richmond I'm talking about.

  6. I think there is some of that in every city unfortunately.

    There is something to be said by networking, especially when newish to an area's "scene." If for no other reason than meeting people who'd be willing to read a play aloud. And maybe decide to work together.

    I'd take a pretty good guess that you're not the only one in town in the same boat. The challenge is finding others to work alongside (as opposed to working for.)

    Really, few folks are very good at reading a play and being able to accurately guess if it'd be good on stage--especially in the case of experimental or off-the extraordinarily well worn paths. So sometimes you need a group of folks to hear a work before a group will be willing to take it on.

    So with a show like The Rose Knight (forgive me if I'm wrong, but that's yours right?) There's a lot of good things in the draft I saw. But from afar, all I can do is read the copy I have, see if it works for our company and if not, wait and see if we see anything else.

    Whereas with someone who's in the room there's much more chance for interaction and a more active relationship between a company and a playwright.

  7. Yeah, The Rose Knight is the first play I wrote. I'm working on something else now. I might go back to The Rose Knight once the sting of a not-quite-production wears off. I have ideas for a revision, but I'm not in the right place to deal with them yet. Perhaps after I've done a draft of the thing I'm doing now.