My Playwright’s Nightmare “The Empty Cornucopia”

I had a “playwright’s nightmare” three nights ago.

I dreamed I was a ghost-like spirit able to walk through walls and into “the room where it happens” in new play development – those elusive panels with artistic directors, dramaturgs and in-group-writers, the ones who get to “choose” the “winners.”

There was a large white board with categories for development, production, and awards. And under every heading was my play! Hurray! But then, slowly…I realize…that my play is crossed out. Under. Every. Category.

The name of my play by the way was “Thanksgiving.” I don’t have a play by that title, but it feels meaningful to note. Clearly, I’m not feeling very thankful or giving right now. Professionally, I’m feeling pretty crossed off the list.

So it was a good time to read Steven Deitz’s recent speech published in American Theatre. “Why New Plays Now? A Case for Supporting the Unimaginable

I think it’s a beautifully composed piece, full of audacity and assurance. And it moved me in my current “empty cornucopia” state.

Here are few lines that stood out for me.

“…the seductive myth of entropy (or demise of theater); the easy moral cover of scarcity.” OOOoooo Boy! The easy moral cover for scarcity mindset is that theater is dying…? Need to ruminate on this one more. Thanksgiving.

“And though playwriting will always be an astoundingly competitive field (no writer should think otherwise), these artistic voices must not be pitted against each other for an increasingly dwindling number of production opportunities.” YES. PLEASE. I really like other writers. And yet, we always have to fight the green-eyed-monster that comes between us. It’s one of the most exhausting and heartbreaking parts of this business. In my dream, all of the people in that “room where it happens” who crossed out Thanksgiving, I had considered my friends and colleagues.

“A new work will never get an invitation to join the canon; it will more than likely get the cold shoulder, since we already have plenty of plays, right? A new play must trespass in the field. It must insist on being present.”
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Wait, are you giving us permission to TRESPASS? Are you telling us that we SHOULD? Maybe this land of “theatre canon” was actually ours from the beginning? That it belongs to all of us?

“It is not the job of our audience to articulate what is missing in the theatre.” Well. Thank GOD.

“The process of making them (new plays) remains expensive, inefficient, time-consuming, unpredictable, and often remarkably maddening.” Thank you. Always appreciate honesty. Very validating. Thanksgiving

Challenge and support your leaders to be artistic activists in the new-play field.” Come on, let’s go trespassing together.

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