Welcome to part two of my Relentless Playwriting blog series! Today I'm going to be talking about finding your artistic community. Theatre is, after all, all about collaboration. We create stories and invite other artists in to bring them to life. From dramaturgs, actors, designers, directors, and an audience, us playwrights depend on a lot of other people. That's why finding a community to develop and grow both your work and your craft is so important.
Finding Your Community
Right now, this is easier said than done… “Rachel, we're supposed to be social distancing! GET WITH THE TIMES!”
And I get that. That's why instead of listing my the typical resources I recommend (joining/forming playwright meet-ups, inviting friends/actors/artists into your house to read your work, seeing as much theatre as possible and talking to folks after) I have a COVID-19 amended list of suggestions.
Virtual Playwright Meet-ups
So we can't meet in a room and share ten pages and get notes. But we can reimagine what those groups can look like now. Take your current group to a virtual meet-up on platforms like Zoom or Google Hangouts. Or, maybe switch to reading one longer piece by members (rotating through) and create a shared Google Doc to put all the feedback in one space.
Just like with meeting in person, I HIGHLY recommend asking for the feedback you want. Lead with questions or parameters. If you're looking for a system, my fallback is the Liz Lerman Method of Response. But there are tons of other great models out there.
If you don't have a preexisting meet-up group, no time like the present to make one! Reach out to your playwright pals to see if there's interest, one benefit of making it virtual is that location and timing can be flexible. You can create a group with artists from around the world right now, and depending on how you organize, they can all respond when they have time. My suggestions for creating a new group right now:
- Keep it small - don't invite everyone you know. Maybe half a dozen. Keep it people you respect, people you want to hear feedback from.
- Be okay if folks say no thanks. We're all dealing with a lot, and this isn't going to be for everyone. Let it roll off you and move on to the next candidate.
- Set up clear expectations and deadlines so everyone can be on the same page.
- Think about setting up a Slack workroom, another great platform that can help folks share ideas/plans/feedback and organize.
Virtual Table Readings
Playwrights aren't the only other artists to collaborate with. If you have something new you want to hear out loud, invite other theatre folks in on the fun. Again, invite people you respect and would love to get feedback from. I find Zoom to be the smoothest of all the online meeting systems, and would recommend that the highest for reading new work. Again, ask for what you want, as far as feedback goes!
And don't be tied to just reading new work. Maybe you can't work on anything right now (I'm kinda in this boat), read a classic. Or something new. It's nice to get together and hear things out loud and see other human faces.
Read Read Read Read Read
I love New Play Exchange and if you are, say, looking to have thousands of brand new plays at your fingertips, you can't find a better deal. Reading new work, the good, the bad, and everything in between, helps hone your craft. Write recommendations for plays you love, and (very private!) journal entries about how you would fix the plays you don't. Here are ten playwrights I love NPX (if I didn't limit we'd be here all day)… As a bonus see who they're reading to find more great stuff:
Charly Evon Simpson
Melissa Leilani Larson
E. M. Lewis
Jordan Ramirez Puckett
And there are SO many other amazing ones. Go take a look! Really!
Another option is seeing if theaters/contests are looking for readers. Often they are, and often they will send you a boat load of scripts.
OKAY! That's my relentless playwriting for the day. As always, you do you. I'm about to go make bagels for the first time in my life and then tie dye with my kids.
Stay safe and sane and well!