I almost began with tough profession; tough hobby. It's been about fifteen years since I published my first play. Fifteen years later, I am up to thirteen. I know I should feel grateful, perhaps even lucky, but truthfully, it's discouraging. If make over $500 in a year, that's a good year. More than the money, I'd just like to catch a break now and then. I think what discourages me most is that my best stuff remains unpublished. My plays are published with several of the high school markets, but that's such a narrow market. There are so many restrictions with respect to theme, casting, and set.
With every play I've written, I've struck out with two publishers in particular. I cannot get a handle on what they're looking for, so I've given up on them.
My other frustration with the high school market is its tendency to buy anything from particular authors, who churn out plays with such regularity I don't know how they have time to stage them before sending them off. If it sounds like professional jealousy, well, yes, I suppose so. Periodically I'll buy one of those plays to see if it is something I want to produce or even emulate, and the result is always the same. I end up doing neither.
And finally, I find it interesting that even when you get a couple of plays placed with a publisher, there doesn't seem to be any special relationship between you and the publisher. With one exception, I've never had a publisher willing to work with me on a script to work out their criticisms, assuming they were willing to say anything at all.
It's a frustrating, interesting, and challenging business. But I'll continue plugging away "because I need the eggs."
As playwrights we may not attain our dreams of being produced or published as often as we'd like, but it's important that we enjoy the creative process (the journey).
I like entering contests because at least someone is reading my play, whether it gets produced or not.
I entered the Six Women Play Festival in Colorado last year. If you wanted a critique of your play, you just had to include a SAE. Two judges didn't think it suited the festival, one did and said she'd like to see it produced. I was pleased, even though my play wasn't selected for this contest. (They chose the six best plays.)
"The Chicago-based blogger Don Hall, has a very simple answer to this dilemma. He says, rather loudly: "YOU AREN'T GOING TO MAKE A LIVING AS AN ARTIST IN THEATRE. You can make a living as an artist in commercial voiceover, on camera industrials and commercials, in film or as a teacher, but the only people at 95% of the theatres in Chicago making a living in the theatre are administrative people – not the artists." So in order to make good work, you have to resign yourself to the fact that doing it ain't going to feed you."
A couple of years back a young actor wrote an article in one of the papers saying how poorly theatre actors were paid in Chicago. I think he was working for $500 a week. (Most Equity actors in Chicago theatre get paid far less than that.) One administrator - who was making something like $200,000 dollars a year at a NON-PROFIT theatre commented - and not the only administrator at that theatre making that kind of money - "He should be grateful we gave him the job."
The reply kind of caused an uproar.
So, thank god we have commercials and voiceovers and movies and television. An actor leads a multi-skilled life. Yesterday, I just booked a week on a star-loaded movie: Matt Damon, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet.
I will repeat here what I just posted on another comment on the Forum:
When I was on strike with Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA for 6 months in 2000, there was a retired actor who said to me on a picket line, "You know, if they had their wishes, we would still be wearing caps and bells and performing at their whim for nothing. Never forget that."