Playwrights and Gatekeepers

I was hoping to have a workshop of a new play of mine this spring. Obviously, that's off. Even gathering a bunch of friends together for a reading at home is off (it would be anyway, my dog attacks anyone who comes through the gate.)

As a playwright, I know how important it is to hear the words I've written spoken aloud in a reading or workshop as I move through drafts. It's illuminating, revealing things about the play I didn't even know I were in there. And it's motivating. Plays are meant to be heard aloud - that's how they come to life, and how you know if there's life in what you've written.

And writing it is only the beginning: so much stuff has to happen between the final draft and opening night. Unless you are producing the play yourself - a valid if exhausting option - you have to convince someone (a company, an artistic director) to invest in your play with money, time, and the belief that their carefully cultivated audience will be interested in the kind of thing you've written. You know who I'm talking about: Gatekeepers.

I used to be one. For 25 years I was a theatre festival producer and artistic director for Intrepid Theatre in Victoria, and I loved it. I felt I was doing useful work - encouraging new plays and emerging artists, bringing important international work to a relatively small city, and developing audiences and community.

When I first heard the term "gatekeeper" used for what I did, it broke my exhausted heart. Trying to find the money and sort out the logistics of bringing artists and audiences together at all was 95% of the job. Any creative energy I had went into writing hundreds of grant applications. Even when they were successful, there was still never enough space, enough money, enough audience for everything that deserved to be seen. It never gave me any pleasure to turn an artist down. It never made me feel powerful, only like I was failing to do enough.

Let's face it. No theatre company in the country has unlimited resources. Everyone does less than they would like - especially when it comes to developing new work. And not every play that is written will be produced - most won't. Nor will most of those that are produced be seen widely. Most won't.

Although this whole thing started as an idea to replace my cancelled workshop, I haven't had an opportunity to use the Play Thing for my own work. I've slipped back into that comfortable, organizational role. I want this to be a fun, easy, accessible resource for playwrights of all levels of experience. It's a lot of work to write a play, and it you've written one, you've paid your dues.

The Play Thing is a wide-open playground, where you can bring your play, and play with others who want to play with you.

No gate. There's not even a fence. Though you may hear my dog barking in the background.

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