Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Statement of Purpose or How I Roll

For a while now, I meant to respond to this post of Isaac's (I know, we've got quite the feedback loop going), but for reasons that I'll get into below, I haven't gotten around to it until now. But now I have some time and before I totally collapse after a long day (after a long eight or nine day stretch), I wanted to say a couple of things.

First off, where I stand: I'm a playwright. First and foremost. I write plays. I think about writing plays all the time. I look at the world through the eyes of a playwright. I read an interesting story or blog post, I hear a snippet of song, see a fleeting image or catch a snatch of conversation on the streets of New York and immediately I start spinning stories out from it, finding characters, thinking about how that moment, that story, that idea could live on stage. I used to write fiction and poetry, but years and grad school have semi-permanently altered my brain and now I really only conceive in drama. It's how I roll.

I approach these conversations about the nature and state of theatre in this country at this time from the standpoint of a playwright. In this system, I'm largely an individual craftsperson. Sure, to get to completion, I need other artists, but most of my work is done on my own and then lent/rented out to others. If I get paid, I'm paid by the piece. I make my play, usually in some version of isolation, and then give it away. When I think about the problems of development hell or the difficulties in reaching an audience or questions of style and content, I think about them in terms of playwrights controlling as much of their own process and voice as possible and having as much support and protection. It's my bias. I know it and I'm happy with it.

For the better part of a decade, I worked in theatres and arts organizations in artistic development. That's given me an inside baseball view on theatre in New York. I blog anonymously because, sometimes, I tell tales out of school. Sometimes I say less than nice things about people and organizations I like and support. It's a small community and I'd rather not have my career suffer unduly because something I wrote was taken the wrong way or embarrassed someone else. That said, there are very few things I've ever written here I wouldn't stand by, if asked in person. If you do have a massive burning need to find out who I am, e-mail me and we can talk. I may or may not tell you who I am. If you suss it out, please keep it to yourself. One of the reasons I closed up shop a few months back was because someone, in the comments, mentioned my name. Less than cool. Especially since they did it in an anonymous comment.

I am also an organizational nerd. Honestly, I just am. The other week, I was at a fancy-ish downtown restaurant and I noticed that, at the side table where the wait staff gathered, they had a loaf of bread and knife, laid out artistically. The bread baskets on the tables were filled with bread cut, out in the open, by the wait staff. I immediately thought, "Who made that call? The owner? The chef? Some consultant?" That's how my brain operates. Call it a remnant of a childhood of massively dysfunctional, blended families. When I think about theatres, I think in terms of organizational logic; how do you acheive your goals with the organization you have? What structures are needed? How does your infrastructure relate to your mission? If you're a theatre that is all about new plays, but your literary staff consists of a part-time lit manager and three interns and your fundraising staff consists of five full-time staff members, what does that actually say about your values? I consider myself a bit of a New York theatre geek. I try to learn as much about how the theatres operate, what their histories are, how they fit in the ecosystem. I remember odd bits of trivia (Tiny Mythic + HOME = HERE) and keep them filed away in my brain. I like the wonkery and like a good discussion about the wonkery.

I'd always meant for this blog to be about the life of a (sort of) working playwright, but honestly, I like the wonkery more here. When I talk about my own writing, the anonymity gets in the way and flattens out the details. So I'll be sticking with the nerd stuff. Hope you don't mind.

So...that's how I roll. Just thought I'd let you know.


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