Friday, September 23, 2005

Plays on Author's Web Site

Sep 25, 2005, S.C. wrote:

One of my acting classes is nearly half African-American this
semester... They're young, late-teens and early-twenties, bold, and extremely talented. I like to keep them close to their own age-range. Any thoughts??? seeking great scenes for young african-american actors, mostly female.

GLH-- "Great" is more than I'm willing to claim, but my Sundance play Under Seige, set in an abortion clinic, is made up of many small scenes/monologues for over 2 dozen young women, and most of the roles-- of both patients and counselors-- can be and have been played by African-Americans. The first act of the script is on my web site, and I happily send the entire play via email to anyone who asks for it.

newbie playwright asks advice about web site:

Ok, critique: There's nothing wrong with the info or design of your site. It is advertizing, though, and for a very specialized product.
I don't believe that the very tiny % of people interested in such info ever surf the Net looking for it. Full length plays for production, operas? An historical subject with a cast of 32, plus supers and walk-ons? Only a huge-- and likely hugely subsidized--- theatre could even consider such a project! I've seen exactly two such productions in my long life-- Ibsen's "An Enemy of the People" and Pullman's "His Dark Materials", both at London's Royal National.
I write ambitious plays too, and because I am also an older writer and no longer cherish the hope that I will attain the haven/heaven of production as a natural part of the cream-rises-to-the-top "process"-- whatever the hell that process may be-- if there even IS one-- I've put my scripts on my web site, Stagepage. The full scripts,not just a description of them. Over a couple of years, a few hundred people have stayed on the site/page long enough to read each of my full length plays. I consider the probability that any of those people who've been interested enough to read through one of my scripts is also in a position to produce it to be, essentially, nil. Producers are constantly bombarded with scripts by colleagues, friends, and agents-- why would they bother with mine?
So why put them on a web site?
Because some eager readers are better than reluctant readers or no readers at all. I find it a humiliating chore to package up a script with a cover letter and resume and send it off with an SASE and possibly a reading fee to be opened by someone who is likely to see the envelope and think, "O, shoot, another damn script to get through". I take pleasure in imagining young people stumbling onto my scripts on
the web and reading them for aesthetic pleasure and not because it is their duty or their paid position. In our vanishing-subsidy theatre, the payment for the overburdened but dutiful script readers increasingly comes from playwrights desperate to be read, eager to maintain some semblance of a "process" and the hope that is based on it. I prefer to pay for a web site.
The real and practical use of my web site is that high school and college kids, who are more comfortable using their computers than the library, discover my posted monologues and short one act plays and perform them-- usually as part of their classroom work. They don't give a hoot who the author is, and they certainly don't expect to negotiate a contract or pay me royalties. Sometimes they write and
tell me how much they enjoyed doing the play, or how they got a lot o flaughs or a good grade with the monologue. Sometimes they even ask for formal permission to produce a one act in a school/college festival of some sort and we actually execute a simple contract and I get paid a few bucks. Sometimes they write and say they were moved and inspired-- that my words have changed their lives.
Who knows? Maybe some of these kids are genius directors and/or brilliant producers, and will produce my big ambitious plays some day when they grow up. By then they will have learned about authors and copyright and permission and contracts-- all that is on my site, too, it's just not what the kids are looking for when they stumble in.
It seems to me that however unlikely a source of production the web is, it is still more promising that the SASE slush pile. 1000 visitors come to Stagepage per day during the school year, and about 1/3 of these stay long enough to read a monologue or short play. -- GLH

Thursday, September 15, 2005

On or in the Lists

On Sep 15, 2005, kw wrote:
I was throwing out ideas.... about the future of theatre... the life of artists..... but this discussion seems to have devolved into the usual nitpicking....,

GLH replies:
I've enjoyed your comments, and the passion behind them.
I think you have some cause to feel hard-used about the spelling issue.
On most lists it is understood that email is an informal means of communication, and that "spelling doesn't count". Proper names in particular are given a pass.... people who know the proper spelling generally post the correction in a reply w/o calling attention to the original error. In cases such as my own-- I have no dominant eye, and am essentially "blind" to mid-word vowels-- this tolerance is much appreciated. When it finally dawns on me that I've been misspelling something in a public forum, I blush to the ears as if I'd been caught out in my underwear and add the word to my spellchecker. I bless those who have refrained from branding me "That idiot who can't even spell Chekhov"!
I've seen 3 of the plays of the author in question -- liked one a great deal, another not much, and the 3rd somewhere in between-- and read two more. But I cannot recall ever having heard his name pronounced! I would hesitate to refer to him in conversation, and my confusion about how his name sounds adds to my uncertainty about how it is spelled.
Nevertheless-- I knew who you meant from your spelling and description, and thought it rather ill-mannered for a long-term poster to take a newbie to task over such an error.

Sep 15, 2005, J S wrote:

Is there a dramatists sourcebook for Europe?

GLH There are email lists devoted to British and European theatre. The economics and marketing of theatre in London and the UK is a subject well enough covered that a good reference librarian could supply you with a long list of relevant publications. As a student, you should be able to ask the assistance of professors and scholars too. Getting access to this info isn't easy for people who don't have an institution to help. American interlibrary loan does not extend to many of the titles I wish I could read. I've spent long afternoons in the bookstore at the National Theatre in London reading such stuff off the shelves. (I'm not able to afford to buy it.)
The London/Manchester Guardian, which is published free on line, carries feature articles about UK subsidy/production/marketing at regular intervals.
Info about European theatre is more difficult to come by. Some countries subsidize so heavily that box office and marketing are merely minor considerations: others don't subsidize at all. If you decide to research this, I'd be very interested in what you find out-- and I don't think that I'm the only one! GLH