Monday, December 21, 2009

The Insider's View

From the comments below. I thought this was worthy of its own posting. An anonymous reader writes:
OK, so here's a little true confessions moment under the coward's cover of anonymity. The whole system of reading plays and lit managers is b.s. You think I'm some sort of gatekeeper? A quality control enforcer? Not even close. Here's the real deal: Most lit offices are swamped with plays. 400? 600? 800? 1000 a year? I've heard all ranges from my peers. Newsflash: I don't read all those plays. The scripts are read by volunteers and interns. They have no special training for reading plays. They have an interest, they mostly have solid educations, and they have time. Now I love my crew. And I couldn't function without them. But. I'm just saying. The gatekeepers of the system have nothing close to the training adequate to their authority. And yes, they are mostly young, mostly white, mostly from backgrounds of privilege that allows them this much time for reading plays for free (or close to it). And most have very big gaps in their knowledge of theater.

Yes, I eventually read some of them-- if the first reader says "hey- you should consider this". But for the most part I've got my hands full with the rest of the job of lit manager and read very few plays that come in the mail. I read things my Artistic Director, Associate Artistic Director, and even my Managing Director drop on my desk, but these so-called open submits? A very small percentage of them. And the things those three drop on me generally come from their own colleagues-- some agents, mostly other AD's or AAD's and commercial producers (who seem to have more adventuresome tastes than the other colleagues at the moment). So I'm no gatekeeper. Nor am I really a quality enforcer. I am an expediter--like the role in a kitchen where the person tells everyone how many things are on order and when to expect to see the food come up. That person rarely actually cooks anything anymore. That's me. Triage. And research. And data entry. Sure, I say my piece about the things I read and pass them up the chain. Rarely do I simply pass on something outright, especially if it comes from one of the bosses. From the volunteer and interns, yes-- but they've already done the gatekeeping. I don't have anything close to the time I'd need to make sure they weren't missing something. I'm doing the fulfillment part- making sure a timely letter goes out on these hundreds of plays I haven't read. If they hate it, I write a polite letter about how the play doesn't fit our needs. And never do I get to greenlight anything. And for what it's worth, every one of the readers would recognize the theater I work for as one of the majors. We've made some contributions to the canon. You see me at your new works festivals and conferences and you generally think I'm doing a good job. And I feel that I am. I'm just not doing the job you think I am, or that the stories would have you believe I am.

Is this the way I want to do it? Not really. But right now there's not an alternative on the table. Or is there and I've missed the memo?

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