Thursday, May 05, 2011

If you have poor reading comprehension, you should not be a playwright

I posted a call for scripts on the NYCPlaywrights web site for the May "Play of the Month". The theme was "pilgrims" but I knew I might need to provide a definition so I did - I said:

"What are pilgrims? In addition to the ones who celebrated the first Thanksgiving in what would later be the USA?

Consider this excerpt from the Wikipedia article on pilgrims:
Modern era

Many religions still espouse pilgrimage as a spiritual activity. The great Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca (now in Saudi Arabia), is obligatory for every able Muslim. Other Islamic devotional pilgrimages, particularly to the tombs of Shia Imams or Sufi saints, are also popular across the Islamic world.

A modern phenomenon is the cultural pilgrimage, which while also about personal journey, involves a secular response. Destinations for such pilgrims can include historic sites of national or cultural importance, and can be defined as places "of cultural significance: an artist's home, the location of a pivotal event or an iconic destination."

An example might be a baseball fan visiting Cooperstown, New York. Destinations for cultural pilgrims include examples such as Auschwitz concentration camp, Gettysburg Battlefield, the Ernest Hemingway House or even Disneyland.

Cultural pilgrims may also travel on religious pilgrimage routes, such as the Way of St. James, with the perspective of making it a historic or architectural tour rather than a religious experience.

Secular pilgrims also exist under communist regimes. These devotional but strictly secular pilgrims visited locations such as the Mausoleum of Lenin or Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, or the Birthplace of Karl Marx. Such visits were sometimes state-sponsored.]

OK, so maybe "pilgrim" is fairly obscure but I did provide a definition which I think is clear - a pilgrimage has something to do with travel. So I received 11 submissions. Of those, exactly ONE play involved travel of any kind - I mean I would have accepted some kind of metaphorical travel. No such luck. Here's what I got:

Play 1: a couple sitting on a park bench reminiscing over a date they went on many years ago.

Play 2: Tallulah Bankhead and her boyfriend making potato pancakes together.

Play 3: a woman protesting a puppy mill talks to a puppy.

And on and on. What is WRONG with these people???

Although something good came out of it - I posted this account on my Facebook page and Merrill Markoe weighed in: "Does this help make it better at all? Tallulah Bankhead had to travel back from the dead."

Which is a genius idea. Tallulah Bankhead returning from the dead on a pilgrimage to make potato pancakes. That's why Merrill Markoe makes the big bucks in the entertainment biz.