Many of the most successful playwrights – Tracy Letts, Alan Ayckbourn, Marsha Norman, Michael Oatman – find success through attachment to a company (Steppenwolf, Library Theatre and Victoria Theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville, and Karamu House, respectively). If you’re one of those lucky ones, you probably don’t need this advice. If you’re in the other 99.99%, read on.
In the first part of this series, I talked about Sweet’swriting recommendations. Here, I’ll go into the three points of his industry advice. The third is a sort of laundry-list of dicta, to all of which I subscribe and aspire.
How to get your work out there: engage the theater culture where you live. (This has certainly worked for me, I have the great good fortune to be attached to three different professional-level theaters in Cleveland.)
If want to get into a certain city’s market (Chicago, Portland), do research about who does plays like you like to write. (I’d add to that, if you have a unique voice, research what companies produce work that is similar to yours in genre or subject matter, and then choose the city and do the following.) Send companies you’re interested in a letter that you’ll be coming in, that you will see their current show (name it), and may you take them – Lit Manager, Artistic Director – out for a drink afterwards? Then you’re a face, not just another submitted manuscript.
When using Sweet’s improv-to-an-outline technique, agreements must be made at the outset that the writer is the writer, and the others are just helping. (I’ve already been amazed when someone who made a small suggestion that in no way impacted the trajectory of the play insisted on dual writing credit.)
As this wasn’t a seminar on industry advice, but rather one about improv, I’d say we got more than our money’s worth. Sweet teaches all over the place – avail yourself of his sage and sane tutelage.