The Alliance Theatre in Atlanta runs a program called the Kendeda Graduate Playwriting Competition, open to playwrights in their first year out of their MFA programs. This weekend, they invited all the past Kendeda finalists – 50 so far in the ten years the program’s existed – to come down to Atlanta for a weekend of shop talk, camaraderie, and a general pooling of our resources as to how we could, you know, remake the American Theatre and stuff. About 30 showed up, and it was glorious.
I was among the class of writers in the very first year of the Kendeda program (Seniors rule!), which meant that everything I said was taken extra seriously.* That’s called gravitas, kids. I got it in spades.**
For the sake of those who couldn’t join us, here’s a quick hit list of some of the stuff I learned, or in some cases re-learned.
- The most important thing is to write really fierce, honest, amazing plays. When in doubt, do that.
- The second most important thing is to foster good, warm, trusting relationships with other artists.
- All playwrights, in their heart, suspect they are frauds.
- We must learn to tell the difference between productive fear and destructive anxiety. If one is experiencing the latter, try aiming for bite-sized victories. Don’t eat the whole elephant at once.
- Social media is a huge time-waster and we should all do it. Except for the ones who shouldn’t.
- We should act like Beyoncé and manage our personal brands. “Fuck you” can be a brand, but there are consequences.
- We must act locally and make a lot of noise.
- Hollywood loves playwrights, and they shop for them in the New York Times. Except for when they shop for them on YouTube. One of those is easier to get into than the other.
- We must empower ourselves. Institutions cannot grant us legitimacy.
- Everybody wants to be 13P, except 13P.
- Theatre for the very young – ages 18 months to five years – is a hot market.
- This suit jacket I’m wearing appears to have sewn-up pockets, but when I un-sew them, I discover I’ve simply made an exciting new hole. There’s a lesson there, I’m sure.
Fantastic playwrights. Fantastic conversations. Lots of candy. Thanks, Alliance Theatre! And big love to you, my beautiful new friends who write plays, which is a seemingly insane thing to do. Glad to have company.
* No, it wasn’t.
** No, I don’t.