Tuesday, January 18, 2011

TestoGenius - because the experiences of men are SO under-represented in the theatre!

Hmmm... somebody from Manhattan Theatre Source (MTS) just sent me a call for plays for something called "TestoGenius 2011" to be posted on the NYCPlaywrights web site.

There's definitely something in it for them - NYCPlaywrights is an increasingly well-known resource of calls for plays.

But what's in it for me? Or other writers?

Andrew Bellware is associated with MTS, and that does not speak well of the organization. Not to mention Bellware himself has accused the current MTS administration of fiscal malfeasance in the past year.

Then there's the concept of "TestoGenius" itself. Presumably this is a response to "EstroGenius." But I always thought that EstroGenius was created in response to the fact that plays by women are under-represented in productions in the theatre world at large. There's no need for a special male-oriented festival - presenting the male experience on stage is what's known as "business as usual."

I mean, what's next? A festival devoted to plays that represent the experiences of white people who come from well-to-do families?

And there's the fact that in spite of calls for submissions, the plays chosen for any of the MTS "-Genius" festivals are usually by MTS insiders - I know this because I know many of the insiders (either personally or through indirect, unpleasant experiences) and I've seen ALL their names in the play line-ups. And it apparently doesn't matter if you are an actor, a director, a stage manager - if you are an MTS insider, they're going to produce your play. I really think that these calls for submissions are just a cover for the fact that they do mainly the work of insiders.

And finally - WHO designed the logo for TestoGenius? It's one of the ugliest logos I've ever seen!

But no doubt it is the work of a Manhattan Theatre Source insider - politics, not art, reigns supreme at MTS.

Joshua James, who is currently a MTS insider, recently recalled what it was like for him at MTS when he was an outsider:
Now for a bit of gossip … I liked the Spontaneous Combustions a lot, I believe I did four of them …

PRETEND IT IS was the last one I did, however … I remember that the Friday I did it was my birthday, I stayed up late, wrote the piece, took it Saturday and tried to rehearse and had so much trouble because one of the other writers (and Source regular) was raising hell and having a water fight or some shit like that in the theatre, just messing around, and made it impossible to hear my actors … when I asked him to hold it down a bit, he smirked and said, “Somebody give Josh a quarter so he can call someone who gives a shit” which is a profoundly rude thing to say to anyone, much less a dude (like me) who’s twice your size and had a life long interest in kickboxing … I didn’t pick him up and toss him through the window, to my credit, rather I shook my head, took my grievance to the guy running the whole thing … which basically resulted in my being UNINVITED to the very next Spontaneous Combustion. Because the snotty guy (who later that day, to his credit, did try to apologize, but interrupted our rehearsal yet again to do so, irritating us all) was better friends with them than I was.

They later invited me back for another one on a later date, but by then I figured, hey, if that’s how you roll, you guys don’t need me, right? I stayed up all night on my birthday - lol!

Of course, none of the folks running SC back then is in charge now (this current retrospective show was set up by the talented Ed Malin, a friend and colleague I respect a lot), so I feel free to share the story now (and the person in question who was rude has also moved on) and it all seems so silly in retrospect, seems silly because it is and was … just junior high politicking, basically, which I could care less about, and their loss because a good playwright willing to spend time busting his butt to put up good work for free is extremely valuable to a small theatre, but too often (and this is just my experience) at many places they act like they’re doing YOU a favor, not the other way around.

But in the end I learned something valuable … you can’t make people appreciate you or your work, they either do or they don’t, and it’s better to spend time with those that do than those that don’t … you’re going to run into the latter, it’s inevitable, and may even have to work with them … but bear in mind the above, you can’t make them appreciate you, so if you’re not getting paid or getting anything out of the work, why waste time with them?

Ultimately you have to find your tribe, find those you appreciate and who appreciate you, to run the long races with.

Hah, that’s a hell’ve a plug for a show, ain’t it?

The only thing I would add is that I seriously doubt the political-personal dynamics have changed at MTS since James's first bad experience - and god knows I've had some AWFUL experiences with many of the people who are current insiders in the group. The only thing that changes is whether you are an insider or an outsider.

They have more than enough insiders at MTS now. The rest of us need to get our OWN "tribe."