From the Citadel: A Response to “The Real Reasons Playwrights Fail” from a Poor, Queer, Emerging Playwright.

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It’s really productive to have passionate discussions about theatre and the current state of things in the theatrical realm. It really is.   Joshua Conkel and Leah Nananko Winkler (two kick-ass theatre artists I REALLY respect) kicked up the dirt with their discussion of class, privledge, and the current state of things, and now, playwright Mat Smart is taking a stab at it. This time, an assault towards “emerging playwrights”.

There is no argument to Smart’s comments about working hard, that’s obvious, and he even makes quite a passionate articulation about the amount of work that goes into crafting a play:

Writing a play, revising it, really working on it, staying open to the good and bad criticism, really reworking it, getting it out there, seeing it through to production, dealing with poor casting, weathering pans or rave reviews, reworking it, getting it done again, reworking it, repeat for the next script, repeat— all this is an act of love. It has to be. In the end, our approach to our own work is the only thing we can control—and I believe that you have to love the doing.

But his assessments about talent and quality of work being the reasons grants, fellowships, and productions are awarded are so infuriating to me as a  poor, queer playwright wearing the label of “emerging”, I almost have to laugh to be sure the article is real.

Smart’s opinions are so blatantly the product of privilege, they’re flowing from the citadel of straight, white men like condescending laughter. I have the same reaction to his opinions I have to members of the radical Tea Party. You mean people actually feel this way?

Regardless of his thinly veiled attempt to avoid peer shrapnel by using “we” to somehow incorporate himself into the “failed emerging playwright” he’s assaulting in his condescension and really has no understanding (or apparently desire to try) in the difficulties of being a minority playwright – whether that be racially, sexually, or other- in today’s theatrical climate.

Smart says (quite reductively) that emerging playwrights need to be more talented to get produced. And who’s judging the talent? Straight. White. Linear. Men.

I think it’s appropriate Smart at one point, addresses “Mr. Artistic Director”. With the current state of American theatre, Mr. Artistic Director, like Smart himself, is probably a straight, white, male with a penchant for linear, Aristotelian structure. With this demographic making up the majority of deciding bodies for fellowships, awards, and production seasons it’s no wonder Mat Smart doesn’t see a broken system.

 

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So Smooth to Me

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In preparation for the upcoming read of my play, Whales and Souls, I’ve decided to post Neko Case’s cover of the song “Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth”. It’s a super appropriate (albeit obvious and on the nose) song for the play. Except at the end of the song when it gets psuedo-inspirational-choir. Because my play doesn’t end that way. At all.

At any rate, here’s the goddess Neko Case sing the Sparks’ original. Enjoy!

 

For those of you playing @ home, here are the lyrics:

When she’s on her best behaviour
Dont be tempted by her favours
Never turn your back on mother earth
Towns are hurled from A to B
By hands that looked so smooth to me
Never turn your back on mother earth
Grasp at straws that dont want grasping
Gaze at clouds that come down crashing
Never turn your back on mother earth
Three days and two nights away from my friends
Amen to anything that brings a quick return to my friends
To my friends
Never turn your back on mother earth
I’ll admit I was unfaithful
But from now I’ll be more faithful
Never turn your back on mother
Never turn your back on mother
Never turn your back on mother earth