Wednesday, September 15, 2010

New Dramatists Pt. 1: The Letter that I Didn't Send...

So there's this annual playwriting ritual called "applying for membership with New Dramatists", and it's always hopeful and heartbreaking. Kind of like suit pants for dogs.

Every year we put on our Sunday Best and submit our two finest plays (two copies each, three-hole punched and bound, but not permanently bound - i.e. published versions or Kinkos spiral binding). And we write our Personal Statements outlining why we think we deserve this accolade. I always secretly hope that my statement will be The Best Single Page I've Ever Written, and it will instantly alert the selection committee to my genius. But, I mean, of course, they already know that from the plays, so...

This year I thought I'd mix it up a bit. I wrote the personal statement that I always wanted to write, but of course could never really send.

So here's what I wanted to give them. I post this in the hope that it resonates with other playwrights and artists out there. (And I secretly hope that if any member of the selection committee reads this and likes it better than the one I actually submitted, that they'll kindly replace it in my file... Thx!)

September 15, 2010

Dear New Dramatists,

Picture this. A quiet Sunday afternoon, chilled fall air, the smell of pumpkins and the sweat of children. A young woman sits in a printed frock dress, leggings, on a haystack, in an open field, perhaps, with her hair in a bun and an open journal in her lap, pen propped in mouth, about to write the most amazing line of dialogue that you have ever read. Because she writes from her soul. When suddenly and without warning a pack of wild dogs attacks her – their teeth tearing her little cream-skinned body apart. She never wrote another word again.

Or this, an old, old, sad man who always wanted to write the Next Great American Musical Comedy but got arthritis and couldn’t. And died, unhappy, unloved.

I could go on.

Clearly, stories like this happen all around us, every day. And what does New Dramatists do about it?

“We can’t help everyone!” you say.

“Well you could sure as Hell help me.” I reply. And then there is a silence between us. A little uncomfortable, because you don’t really like that stare I’m giving you. Because you know. You know. And so you squeeze past me, out of the elevator – mumbling something about “my floor” and “please don’t follow me to my child’s school again” – and my eyes, my eyes, follow you. That’s what you remember. Haunting you. All the way down the Elmer’s glue stained hall.

I do not need to say “I want to hear my plays read with the best damn actors in this fine city and I want it attended by people in tuxedos who are playwrights and who will offer constructive and fair criticism and then give me a parade.” I do not need to say “just hanging around playwrights has always made me a little nervous because we sort of sniff and compare each other, but also supremely at home because they understand that.” And I most definitely do not need to say “the New York Times is funded by Japanese Kobe beef special interest,” because that part is not true. But two of the other two statements are true. And I leave it to you pick which ones.

Dear Friends, if you do not let me in this year, or next year, when my resume looks better, or the year after that when my application letter is filled out in blood to show my dedication. Then what can I say? What more can I say? Other than I get you. I write, too. And I have a Hell of a time making it, and marketing plays, and doing plays on my own, and finding the love in this big burly lumberjack of a city. But I know it’s in there. I feel it. And I feel it super strong on that little church on 44th street. Yeah. I want to knock on those big wood doors and step inside and feel the snuggle. Of warm, writerly love. And embrace. Get a little naughty on the carpet. Have a laugh, a good cry, and then step out in the warm summer air again, where we light a cig, and do a Bollywood dance number. End of Play. Because that’s why God put us on this earth.

Thank you very much.

In the end, of course, rather than whine about the fact that it's an impossible excercise, I actually tried to answer it. (As a friend pointed out, you can't wink at them and think that's going to satisfy.) Because in theatre, as in life, sincerity is hard to fake.