Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Running a playwrights group

So I've been running NYCPlaywrights for over eight years now. Which means I have attended almost every meeting since it began. That's alot of meetings, and that's alot of plays. And most of those plays suck.

Now some might argue that of course they do, NYCPlaywrights has no real standards when it comes to writer membership, other then evidence of sufficient sanity and the ability to pay $60. Except that I've been to see plays by other organizations by writers with stellar reputations and most of those plays suck too. The main difference is better marketing, better PR and a bigger war chest.

Much of what passes for artistic excellence is in fact just a bunch of hype. And I would submit that the career of Harold Pinter is a case in point.

The Pulitzer Prize going to Anna in the Tropics is another example. I wouldn't say it sucked in the I-want-to-rip-my-own-head-off-rather-than-sit-here-another-minute way that all too many plays do, but it was just lame. With that standard convention, the helpless suffering of women being mistaken for profundity.

Conversely, as Robert Graves once observed, probably thinking about all the hype that transforms mediocre garbage into box office gold, "A remarkable thing about Shakespeare is that he is really very good in spite of all the people who say he is very good."

Of those who are involved in writing for the stage, any given person will fall into one of three general categories:

  • Those who can write for the stage

  • Those who can write, but not for the stage

  • Those who can't write for shit.

    And that includes the loftiest masters of Broadway right down to the lowliest little nobodies meeting in Bumfuck Idaho.

    Since I am forced to listen to so much crap at the Friday meetings, eventually I rebel and write a parody of whatever it is that is currently annoying me. There is one writer in the group who was on an Alzheimer's tear. Her mother had Alzheimers and so she was always bringing in plays about Alzeheimers. I mean, I sympathize with her plight but not enough to enjoy week after relentless week of plays on the topic.

    Lately another member of the group has been writing a saga about a dominatrix. The writer is pretty good at writing an amusing scene - although some are rather violent for my taste - but she just doesn't have a cohesive enough grasp on reality to keep her narrative within the bounds of logic and integrity. So I decided to write my own version of the dominatrix play called Mother Lode. Although the other writer definitely has something over me when it comes to writing about the subject of dominatrixes - she claims to have actually worked at a dungeon in Manhattan. The best I can do is that an old highschool classmate of mine did occasional work as a dom about ten years ago. Then she became a librarian.

    But the best part of the dominatrix saga is that in spite of all the kinky weirdness and offensive violence, the author refuses to use naughty words like "fuck" - her characters would say freaking instead of fucking. So my characters do too.

    MOTHER LODE will be performed at this Saturday's NYCPlaywrights February Reading Fundraiser.