Previously, I wrote about the practical benefits to writing plays in a small town. The advantages are obvious. Money and time are precious commodities to every writer. When playwrights consider making the jump from city to small town, they often cite these two factors as their primary considerations. But before you pack your bags, get acquainted with one word: change.
Theater is a location-specific art form. I have long thought that I could write plays on the moon and send them in without a problem. But when you uproot yourself from the city, it sets changes into motion that you may not anticipate.
When your environment changes, you either flow with it or you cry: long, loud and often. I’ve done both. The amount of changes I had to make when I moved to Alabama surprised me. It caused me to question my beliefs and behavior. At times, I had the visceral sensation that I was being stripped of pretention, judgments and expectations.
Pictured: Another view of the EF4 tornado
decimating the historic district in my town.
(Photo by GUNxLVNxSlimJim) That has been my experience. Yours will be different. Whatever you personal difficulty you encounter, especially after you first move, know that it can take several years before you fully acclimate to your new location.
I believe many writers take location for granted, but where you live influences your work. I’ve seen playwrights experience success and then go to Hollywood. Soon, they are writing plays about “the industry.” Even if you don’t write explicitly about where you live, themes directly related to your locale will emerge.
How does your present location reveal itself in your writing?
Before moving to Alabama, I rarely tackled the subject of race in my creative work. I find that it comes up now, even when I’m not intentionally writing about it. Another theme has to do with the challenges of being a woman in the Deep South. These themes are constantly in the background, even as I write plays set in New York City.
Your Perspective and Your View of Theater
Moving to Alabama has widened my view of life in America and theater in particular. The amount of poverty that exists in this part of the country is stunning. It is difficult to talk about it without remembering how much I took for granted when I lived in the city. I strongly suspect that many small towns in America have this problem.
When you surround yourself with people who don’t go to theater, you begin to understand what is “wrong” with it. To describe it is beyond the scope of this post. Nevertheless, how you see theater will change significantly.
If you are moving from a big city to a small town, prepare yourself. Some friends may drop you. Theater contacts may fade you out. This is normal. When I moved to Alabama, a few people quit talking to me. Others made false assumptions about my politics and followed it up with snide comments. Some of those experiences figured prominently into my decision to quit theater completely in 2007.
I know now there’s nothing you can do about people and their prejudices. So I'd suggest not wasting your energy trying to change their minds or prove yourself. Use your resources to further your work and your goals.