Putting a Face on Theatre
I have a humble (if, on the surface, rather radical) suggestion to make to the playwrights who read my TheatreFace blog: stop submitting your work right now.
Okay: that's the attention-getting opener. What I really mean to suggest is that you consider drastically reducing the number of plays you'll submit and the number of places to which you'll submit them. Reducing them, I should say, to as close to zero as you can stomach.
There are two reasons for this: one of them practical, one of them ideological.
The practical reason is this: submission doesn't really work. The time you spend preparing submission packets (or emails) is much better spent in any manner of different ways: reading plays, seeing plays, meeting people, tweeting, networking, taking classes, meeting with people, and (perhaps more importantly) revising and improving your work. Oh, and self-producing. Never forget self-producing.
All of those endeavors are much more likely to get you out there and get your work seen by audiences than submitting to theaters and contests. All of them.
Especially (and obviously) self-production.
The rate of return on your submission investment, by contrast? Really, really low.
Let me just tell you: I've put my work where my mouth is here. I no longer submit my work to theaters unless I'm invited to. I haven't sent out a query packet with a ten-page sample and a synopsis in several years: not even one. I don't submit to contests, either. I don't miss them. And I still land productions of my plays.
I do still submit my work to development programs... work, that is, that still needs development. I submit to about five or six different programs a year. And I write the occasional grant proposal. But that's it.
You have no idea what a relief it is to stop. I feel like I have my life back... and my soul back, too. No longer am I "submitting" myself for acceptance. I have decided to accept myself.
Which leads me to the ideological reason to stop submitting: the whole metaphor is rotten. It's built upon the idea that there are people inside institutions who control whether or not you get to have a voice and make work. Those people are there, yes, but they're as trapped by the system as you are (just in different ways). And they don't get to control whether or not you have a voice: you do.
If I could wave a wand and do away with all submissions everywhere, I would do it. I would take all the energy we all spend distributing our work that way and re-allocate it to ANYTHING ELSE. (World peace, even.) But I can't do that. I can only suggest that we start looking for alternate models. Because they are long overdue.
Submission doesn't work. Stop betting on a broken system. Let's make something new?
Just a quick note to say that this is my final blog post for TheatreFace. Too many writing commitments (a good problem to have, I know) have forced me to prioritize and make some tough decisions. I will still be blogging on my own site at www.suilebhan.com, and reading/commenting here, so I'm not going away entirely. And I hope you'll all stay in touch! It's been a genuine honor.