In order to excel as a playwright, you have to keep yourself up-to-date with new work. But not everyone lives in New York, Chicago, London, or other places where the many new plays are produced. How do you keep yourself well versed in new work?
I like attending rehearsed readings of new plays. Basically because I can use my imagination on how good it could really be. I can "fill in the blanks" so to speak. When I go to a full production at some theatres, it can be disappointing because there are choices that have been made that are glaringly dull, or an actor sticks out as being not up to it, or any other countless things that flesh is heir to. I think the older I get, I don't have the patience for "almost perfect" anymore, especially when I pay for it.
So, readings let me truly focus on the script. I get to "hear" the script but get to "see" the play in my head. In a reading, if an actor is not up to snuff, I can look by it or fill in what is necessary in my head. Sometimes I shut my eyes in a reading just to focus on the script.
And I read new plays for some "blind submitted" contests.
And I am putting together a reading for a playwright whom I've never met but loved his play when I read it for a contest that I read for.
I'm curious what you would consider "primary" source for the poll itself - and then I was hoping the question would get people conversing about it.
I read a lot of plays too, and read for theaters and festivals, and see new work in process and in production - but my favorite is going to hear the work in a reading. That way I meet loads of actors and other people interested in making new work happen too.
"In order to excel as a playwright, you have to keep yourself up-to-date with new work."
I can spot trends by seeing what is being produced and selected for readings, which is the marketplace. But trends disappear - especially fast in theatre - and if one is writing for a trend, then it will be over by the time your play gets anywhere near a theatre, which will make it obsolete, unless you are sleeping with- er, I mean know - the Artistic Director or the Literary Manager or you are a good friend of a theater benefactor. However, I do find most theatres are very above board...with a few exceptions...and I am not necessarily talking about high end, highly financed theatres who have to report to the IRS ever year. I mean across the board, from the lowest level to the highest. I am not talking about "corruption" just "friendliness and courtesy."
But as far as my writing, and other writers I personally know (edd and I have never met, but I certainly feel I know him and I am sure he would say the same of me. I consider him a dear, creative friend) I - nor they - have ever been influenced by the marketplace and what is popular in other's eyes as far as playwriting. Most playwrights, I believe, are not.
Now television writers are a different story! They are often work for hire - with residuals! - which is fantastic for those I know who can do it, and do it well. It has put friends' kids through college, which is more than playwriting has ever done for most writers. Believe me, I LOVE residuals. I am an actor.
I read an article in a magazine over 20 years ago. It said something like, "Better writing is smuggled out of African prisons (this was pertinent at the time of the article) written on toilet paper than is being produced by the Arts Organizations in America." At the time, I definitely agreed with the writer. But today, there is much better work in America than then. But, it still helps to know someone. That is true in any business. Business is about relationships...no matter what the business. Sometimes they are wonderful. Sometimes they fail. And watching and commiserating with friends, sometimes there actually is a good second act! One of my older actor friends has had a wonderful career again...in her 70's!
I have benefited from some grants, which I was totally shocked to have received as I do not move in those circles. I applied for them on a lark. It was my work that stood out. There are those who do move in those circles , and believe me, they know how to work the system and those who operate the system. More power to them.
I love to see good new work that appeals to me. It may not appeal to others, but it appeals to me.
Fortunately I live in a University town that has a premiere theatre program. Almost any new play is available within weeks of publishing at our City library. If I want to read something, I can get it.
So, seeing new readings and reading new plays are kind of a tie for me.
Chicago Dramatists Workshop Saturday Reading Series is probably the best place in Chicago to see new work. They get very good actors. Rehearse for a couple of hours, then do the reading. Donation at the door is optional. Not that all the work is good, mind you, as it is a development workshop, but the honest effort is truly there, and it is a very well-run, nurturing organization. And they produce as well. I am not a member there. But I have had plays selected to be read there. I hold it in very high regard.
P.S. But I do study what makes the play work or not work in my eyes. That is important to me.