I’ve been thinking lately that the business, if not the art of playwriting, has changed and that many playwrights are in a club to which I don’t belong. The number of people with MFAs, many from prestigious universities like Harvard and Yale, who are produced and talked about and who are literary managers or artistic directors in charge of who gets produced and talked about seems to be proliferating and those without graduate degrees are on the outside looking in.
I have a friend who is going back to graduate school so that she can make it in the theatre.
It seems to me that this situation in turn affects the kind of theatre that’s produced. People who come from a similar background will naturally choose to produce the kind of plays that reflect their lives and their political views and others will be left out, which makes the theatre world less vigorous and adventurous.
This is a huge generality, I know, and many literary managers will recognize a good play if it’s a good play but I still wonder if the cards are stacked against those not in the circuit. I’d love to have people weigh in and discuss it. Do others see the situation differently?
Marchette Chute says that something like that was happening in Shakespeare’s day. “…university men were turning out popular plays, and although their choice of actual subject matter was not very different from that of their predecessors in the public theater, they brought with them a sensitive ear for words and a well-trained mind and some of them were real poets.”
Furthermore “….they valued their university training as something that set them above the common herd.”
One of the most successful writers from the university crowd, Richard Greene, was appalled that actors made so much more money than playwrights and he disliked one in particular who was intruding on his territory.
“There is an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers, that, with his tiger’s heart wrapped in a player’s hide, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you; and being an absolute Johannes fac totum, is in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in a country.”
The upstart crow was William Shakespeare who continued to do quite well in spite of the criticism.