Every play you write will change your life in some way, if only to have gotten that story out on paper or into bits and bytes.
There’s always the “if it’s a hit, I’ll be rich!” standpoint, but working playwrights know that’s delusional thinking.
Not so different from “if it’s a hit, I’ll be famous” unless one’s idea of fame is bounded by profession. And even then, the odds against that kind of hit are astronomical.
But that’s also not what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about playwrights’ responsibilities to society and to self.
Last fall, I was fortunate to be in a playwrighting class with George Seremba and half-a-dozen local playwrights. As we read our works to each other, a trend emerged, that of reporting the stories of our respective cultures. A discussion grew around whether our being heard as artists was what we were there for, whether audiences were necessary only as witnesses or whether – my position – we as playwrights have the responsibility to change the world. To repair it. To alter the vicious circles of our histories.
Recently, I attended a workshop of Vickie Williams’ VIGIL, a play about missing children, and I’m thrilled to say she did just that. I didn’t see the plot twist coming but, looking back, it was beautifully signposted and more importantly signaled a big change in how that issue might be perceived in future.
She had to change her perception of what could be, a huge undertaking when we’re bombarded with “reality” television and news-reporting that most often reports on itself and the rest of the entertainment industry, promulgating hamster-like societal behavior.
But that’s still only part of what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about investing in your work. Not just investing time and effort, tho they are sometimes costly indeed, but investing yourself. Your fears. Your desires. The things which, if the wrong people knew about them, could enable them to destroy you.
How many times have you been bored at the theater? Boring plays are the ultimate result of scared artists – scared producers and non-profit Boards, yes, but the responsibility lies first with the artist. Plays that galvanize are the result of brave artists. If the script is formulaic or theoretical or paint-by-numbers – as are alarmingly many of the scripts that minnow their way through the development pipeline – then theaters needn’t fear offending their patrons. They also needn’t fear inspiring individuals to become better people and thereby taking responsibility for evolving a better society.
If you write a play that could change your perceptions, your prejudices, your life, then you run the risk of performing that service for others.
I’m risking that. Join me, won’t you?