Fast forward 6 years to yet another literary job, wherein I’m actually the person in charge this time – Yes, I reported to an artistic director, but this time I was running the literary department, which consisted of… oh… wait a minute, it was just me again.
Hmmm, maybe “being in charge” was really just a nice way of dressing up an otherwise low paying pile of responsibility 🙂
In any case, I was a woman on a mission!
This theatre company was also dedicated to Los Angeles writers, but specifically plays by, for, and about culturally diverse peoples. This time it was written into the mission statement, I had a very clear understanding of what they wanted and I loved the energy and the people responsible for this theatre.
I read a ton of beautiful plays (and not-so beautiful, of course) in my time there; all written by playwrights with something to say and with dreams of being heard. I learned a great deal about the art of the submission, I also learned a little bit more about those who submit… Particularly in the case of my first nasty email; a vociferous letter written to me by a white female playwright who had read over our submission guidelines and found them lacking.
Among it’s many blistering accusations, the following stood out as the writer’s main beef with me and the theater: “How nice of you to support female playwrights of color… what a shame the rest of us are left out in the cold.”
I sat in shock for a good 10 minutes after I read the thing, wondering how in the world I would respond… Wasn’t it the theatre company’s prerogative to decide what its mission would be? And had they really denied “white women” a slot in its mission anyway? In their drive to represent diversity in LA, surely women as a whole were included as an under-represented people… or were we?
I wrote back to this woman in the kindest words possible “Thank you for your interest in our company, and for sharing your heartfelt opinions. While I, a female playwright as well, hear your frustrations, I encourage you to seek out more opportunities for women playwrights on the web, as there are quite a few…”
What else could I say? I certainly wasn’t going to ask her for her script- she had been ridiculously spiteful. She had also signed her email anonymously as “an angry female playwright” or something like that, perhaps forgetting in the heat of the moment that her name would be clear as day in the “from” field of the email. (Note to all: if you’re going to send an anonymous email, make sure it is, indeed, anonymous.)
In any case, it was an awkward exchange, but one I remembered well… And one that begged the question – Is polarity healthy? Are the limited support resources that exist fractured and specific for greater purpose? In creating our own sort of theatrical “Affirmative Action”, are we creating better theater? And is this system breeding resentment among the very playwrights it is designed to help?
(Tomorrow – Part 4, or, In Which we Juggle…)