I just finished reading Charles McNulty's commentary "Our Playwrights Get Lonely on the Cutting Edge" recently published in the LA Times. It's been circulating amongst theater folks via blogs and listserves since it appeared on April 22nd, but the topic has been discussed time and time again.
A bit of it:
To be an up-and-coming playwright today is to be unavoidably part of a grass-roots effort. There's nothing wrong with that, of course. Though in a decadently corporate era — when "branding" is the highest creed not just for soda and cereal manufacturers but for the behind-the-scenes movers and shakers in politics, the arts and even foreign policy — it's hard for the not-yet-famous to stay on the radar, let alone pay the rent, secure health insurance and scrounge a few hours a week for creative fulfillment.
Right on. I like lots of what Mr. McNulty addresses in his piece. And I think it's great that it's being talked about in a mainstream publication by a critic many folks respect.
First and foremost I consider myself a playwright. My artistic upbringing has evolved around writing for the stage. But as I embark on my career with wholehearted intentions, I have to wonder "how the hell am I going to survive?" (Unfortunately, the current state of American theater isn't the most plush place for a Black female playwright to set up shop.) To be a playwright is a career path that can take a variety of twists and turns. I've been fortunate enough to receive a few advantages, but there is absolutely no guarantee I'll make it (even the concept of "making it" is up for interpretation.). There is no guarantee my work will get produced, acknowledged or supported. I'm floating in a sea of question marks and unknowns with only my passion and drive to keep me afloat.
Decoding the how has become an important task. How can I continue to grow as an artist? How can
continue to push myself and the work I create? How can I support myself?
I'm thinking I might have to broaden my range to include other artistic mediums: fiction, film, television, radio etc. I might have to acquire more tools for expression: internet, self-publishing, podcasting. We are living in an age of "do it yourself," and I think it's important for playwrights to consider these and other resources.
To be a playwright is to be a hustler, creator and entrepreneur. To be a playwright is to be an activist, a conversationalist, an envelope pusher.