Tuesday, October 12, 2010

old men have forced my hand

Well tonight was the final straw. Some old old man, a writer member of NYCPlaywrights dragged in a thoroughly obnoxious 10-minute play full of regressive attitudes, yet in a contemporary setting. It wasn't the most egregious example of old-man obnoxiousness to be honest, but this has been a long time coming.

NYCPlaywrights is going to finally break even this Fall. The writer membership fee and the membership period length are finally in balance enough to allow memberships - and the occasional fundraiser - to pay for the cost of renting meeting space in Manhattan.

But the closer to solvency the group has gotten, the higher has the percentage of old retired men in the writer membership become.

Now plenty of people, of all ages and genders, write bad plays. But old retired men have that toxic combination of limitless free time, vast personal self-confidence, lack of interest in editing, and unexamined, antiquated attitudes about race and sexual orientation and gender. And more so than most other people, their plays are about old men, especially old men sitting around reminiscing - which is not only insanely boring in itself, but means that there are no roles for all the women actors we have - our actor corps has a much higher percentage of women, especially young women, than men.

And let's face it, most men over age 50 are just plain unsightly - more due to indifferent personal grooming and indifferent wardrobe selection and couch-potato habits than "nature" - but it might as well be nature, for all the likelihood that these factors will improve in my lifetime.

So I've decided to do the meetings at my apartment in Astoria - which is big enough to hold 15-20 people in a script-in-hand reading format. This means that I won't have to charge a membership fee and I can be selective about who joins as a writer member - or an actor member for that matter. For while we have a much higher percentage of good actor members than good writer members, we do have a few duds.

I should point out that although NYCPlaywrights, in its 10-year history, has seen more than its share of talentless writers and crappy plays, it is no different in that respect from any other theater group in NYC.

Take Manhattan Theatre Source - AKA The Hellmouth - for example. I've been to many shows there since I first attended a play in search of actors to hire for a show of mine, back in 2005, and only two shows there were any good at all - and that was mainly because they were very faithful adaptations of the works of Edgar Allen Poe and Charles Dickens. And really, what half-way competent actor couldn't do an entertaining one-man performance of A Christmas Carol? Everybody knows the story by heart - it practically performs itself.

But I can't take shitty plays by regressive old coots any more. Come 2011, NYCPlaywrights will be about quality not quantity. Membership will be about ability to write - not ability to pay.

I feel like a giant weight has been lifted from my shoulders.

I've been paying my dues for ten years now - I think I'm paid up by now.