by Diane Grant
I now know how difficult it is to send those rejection letters we all hate to receive.
Seven years ago, a small group of us started the Palisades Playwrights Festival at Theater Palisades, wanting to introduce new voices to a community theater that is still convinced that plays like Chapter Two, The Foreigner, and You Can’t Take It With You, are the only plays that people will come to see.
We have readings of new plays for three Tuesdays in April with a Q&A after and wine and refreshments before. We’ve found some really well written, entertaining – even crowd pleasing – new plays. They are well rehearsed and staged and the actors throw themselves into them. (A friend from ALAP came and although she didn’t say whether or not she liked the play, thought the acting was stupendous.) And even though we have yet to convince the powers that be to add any of these new plays to a season – we’ll keep trying – our audience for the readings has continued to grow and people come back every year.
We initially had submissions from only the Westside but alarmingly for such a small crew, our submissions have increased too, and this year we had seventy plays to read! We had to open up the process to more readers, and from October to February, we read, read, and read.
With only three slots, choosing the plays was very difficult.
Then came the writing of the rejection letters! It is so hard to reject good scripts and really awful having to turn friends down. Some people ask for notes and that’s OK. I’ll do that when I can think again. And some people don’t take it well at all! One playwright sent me a message that said, “Your financial institution has important information for you. Click here.” (Fortunately, he neglected to remove his photo from the side of the email.)
Surprisingly, we had far more submissions from men than women. We chose two plays by men this year, a romantic comedy about a novelist being dragged into the 21st century; a play set in 1947 about PTSD and the then new idea of putting small offenders into community service; followed by a dark hilarious comedy by a woman, Virginia Mekkelson, about how a surprise delivery of a crocodile solves a couple of problems with bad corporate bosses.
I hope that we have more plays from women next year and that lapfiers will make our work even harder next year and submit.