Thanks for your comments and suggestions on not submitting plays. I'd like to expand a bit on a few of the ideas.
When I teach meditation, I have a policy of not invalidating other people. That means that a) I'm not going to tell you what to do, and b) I'm not going to tell you that what you are doing is wrong. Theater people are sensitive, and not in a bad way. We all get enough advice, rejection, stupid opinions and blah blah. I'm not going to tell you that you're doing it wrong. I like what Mac wrote how blogs are about thinking aloud. While what I wrote yesterday may be sound absolutist, it is only for me. If you happen to find yourself in a situation like mine, you might want to consider the path I'm taking.
I would encourage people who are not in a metro area to develop plays locally. For those who are so very talented that this would stifle their art, then perhaps they could work at developing talent locally. A playwright who doesn't have good actors in the area could teach an acting class. Obviously one shouldn't sacrifice themselves to "stay local." On the other hand, you might be surprised at what you find in your own backyard. I certainly was last weekend.
The idea is to decentralize theater. I believe that institutionalization and specialization is causing development hell, alienation and a decreasing audience. To get around it, I'm thinking locally.
Now, some of you are already doing it. By producing your own work, being able to develop your plays on your own, you're beating the system. I'm not proposing original ideas here. My approach may be radical, but that's only because I've been addicted to a dead-end system. This system has cost me a great deal of time, money and energy. When I take the submission factor out of the equation, my enthusiasm for theater increases. When I consider becoming more involved in the process, I remember how I loved theater when I was a kid.
For me, this is probably the only way I can remain involved in theater. For me, there's really no point in writing plays and sending them out, especially with ever-increasing submission fees. I can't afford these kind of lottery tickets any longer. I'm not learning anything from the rejection.
To be honest, I've gotten great feedback on my last play but also a whole lot of rejection. It's currently at a place where it needs another reading. It needs development. It's also made the rounds of the institutional development places, with no luck. When I look at what these development places do accept, I see the same voices getting in. In my rejections (in general), I've been told the following:
a) The play needs character development. (Yes I know. And I would like to take it to the next level but I can't without working on it with actors, directors etc.)
b) I shouldn't have attempted to write a play like this because I'm not at a place in my career that would justify institutional support.
c) Wow, what an intriguing play. I would love to see that on stage, but I don't have the proper connections to really help you.
I'm only using the above example because I'm willing to bet that you probably have a play in the closet that needs development. You need to hear it but you can't get anyone to help with the process. Maybe you're in a geographically inconvenient location. Maybe it's an unpopular or frightening topic. What are you going to do, abandon it?
So, this is a matter of self interest. True.
I get tons of solicitation information weekly. Community theaters, regional theaters, contests, all sorts of stuff. When I say, stop submitting plays, I'm talking about encouraging those theaters to develop playwrights locally. Imagine what it would look like it more community, small and regional theater developed their own work. There's a playwright in Colorado who is sending her work to Baltimore. She'll have no chance to attend rehearsals because the theater won't pay transportation costs. (No, there's also no stipend.) She can't afford to take off from her job to see it performed. This playwright merely wrote a play and sent it out.
It happens, friends. Every theater can't afford to send you tickets.
So, who is going to learn what? Is the playwright going to gain real-life experience through hearing her work aloud? Is she going to see what worked and what didn't work? Is she going to get audience feedback? Nope, nope, and nope.
I want to become a better writer. I want to see what works and what doesn't work. I need to see the audience react to my plays. If I don't, then I won't improve.
And where do you draw the line? Thinking locally doesn't mean stifling creativity. And no, I'm not asking for free air travel. As I told Dan, I've made $350 in my 17 years of playwriting. This isn't about money. It's about enriching theater on a local level. I didn't mean to imply that I would suspend my beliefs for the highest bidder. I don't even think of money in terms of theater. Sorry, that just hasn't been my experience (sadly enough.)
I write geographically-specific plays. If I wrote a play about Seattle, I would still do my best to work on the play locally. It's just more convenient that way, and it gives experience to others in the area.
Again, thinking locally doesn't limit me.
When I lived in NYC, I never considered this issue. I thought that serious theater people made the move to a centralized urban place if they wanted to do professional theater. If one was not in a centralized urban place, then one had to send the work there. Community or smaller theater did amateur, clunky retreads and it was beneath me to be involved with that.
Just being honest. Maybe you thought the same thing.
In reality, I'm willing to bet that it's cheaper to produce theater out here. I could take more risks than the institutionally-driven artist, and I could help others develop their talent. Since making money hasn't entered into my personal equation, I'm not losing anything. I wouldn't have to deal with "development hell," and I could develop professional relationships with people whose work I respect.
And it would be a hell of a lot more fun than complaining about the current state of affairs and fielding rejection letters. I'm more powerful than I think, and so are you.