Beyond Self Production

A heavy lift.

Get your jalapeños off my set.

Self-producing taught me like nothing else that I don’t play well with “laid back” people. The kind of “laid back” people that think they’re running a theater but have no idea what tech is. “Laid back” people that decide to string jalapeño Xmas lights on the set twenty minutes before the house opens. Not so laid back when ordered to remove them.

We can trade stories sometime over a very strong drink.

Self-producing taught me a lot of things, not least of which was when it is and is not a good idea to embark on producing my own play. For several years now, I can say it has not been a good time for that kind of project. But I haven’t been content to merely wait for someone else to produce my plays. There’s a lot of territory between waiting on other people and doing everything myself. And that’s good news. Because two options are not enough.

What else can I do? I’ve taken classes. I’ve set up table reads of my work. I’ve participated in other company’s “open house” opportunities (mostly EST’s First Brew, but other companies that do this include Naked Angels, NY Madness, and Flux). I formed a group with some fellow playwrights to co-mentor each other along the way (The Geese) and reached out to similar groups like Artists U. I read scripts for a theater. I went to a conference. I kept writing like a fiend.

Liberation Theater Company recently launched an artists salon that operates both in-person via quarterly meetings and on Facebook to connect theater artists between gigs in an on-going discussion. Artistic Director Sandra A. Daley-Sharif describes the LTC salon as a place “where artists of all disciplines in a free flowing format can share their work, have conversation, support, and network.” As for the Facebook page, she says “We’d love for folks to think about what they may need from a community such as ours and also what they can personally contribute. We hope for collaboration. It’s a place to vent. A place for feedback on work. A place for appreciation and support. All that and more.”

It doesn’t cost a lot of money to do these things. It takes some time, the willingness to pull something together (no where near the level of organizational skills required by producing), and a generosity of spirit. Take the risk to join in on another company’s open offerings. Reach out to a few friends and colleagues and start your own. Throw a potluck and read a play out loud. Host a happy hour to meet new people.

There is a lot of satisfaction and community and career-building to do in between the poles of sending out scripts/auditioning/interviewing and fully-producing your own work. Both those things have a place. But they can’t be the whole story. You’ll go nuts.

And speaking of nuts, the time does come when you want to put something up or even just produce an evening of shorts. If you’ve found yourself looking down that road, get some tour guides. A couple of very specific and generous men to start with: Roland Tec (AKA the Membership Director of the Dramatists Guild) and Seth Lepore. Roland is very approachable via Facebook and gives workshops on self-producing for playwrights that have great word of mouth. Seth blogs and writes for HowlRound on the topic of artists as entrepreneurs and producers of their own work, and he has literally written the book on the topic. If you're standing on the diving board you'd do well to chat with/read these fellows before you jump.

Happy artistic lives are busy and full of fun, people, work, and discovery. Don’t wait.