Posts tagged: Tiffany Antone

Five Things I Would Write More About if My Toddler Would Let Me…

By Tiffany Antone

Hot jelly and biscuits, is there a lot to talk about!

A few weeks months longish time ago, when the LAFPI crew asked if I’d like to get back on the blogging bandwagon, I said “Hell, yes!” because I was feeling productive and all kinds of mouthy with super important sh*t to say.  But now my week is here, and it’s almost too much because Little Black Dress INK’s final ONSTAGE lineup from 2017 has a reading on Jan 15, and then a bunch of this year’s ONSTAGE semi-finalists have readings all over the place on Jan 21 as part of International Women’s Voices Day, (oh, I run Little Black Dress INK), plus the Spring semester starts on Weds, and I have a letter of rec to write, revisions to do, and a toddler to keep track of…

WOOF!

So I don’t have time to write the deep, thoughtful, life-changing post I intended to.  If I could, though, I would probably have some witty/deep things to say about the following:

The Golden Globes

Were they feminist enough?  Too feminist (is that even a thing??) Will Oprah be our new president?  Was that woman from 50 Shades of Grey giving Angelina Jolie side-eye during Jennifer Aniston’s speech?  I mean, I don’t have cable, but the news coverage is enough to make me want to stuff cotton in my ears and unplug the router for good.

What’s that you say?  You don’t believe me?  You’re saying that if I haven’t stuffed cotton in my ears and unplugged the router after the monstrous orange shit-show of a year we just wrapped, that I must be engaging in a healthy hyperbolic outburst and nothing more?

You’re probably right.

Our President

Ugh.  Next!

Medium.com

I’m trying it out.  Anyone else write for that site?  I like some of the writers a lot…  Maybe, if I write some truly epic stuff there, I’ll get more traffic on Medium than I do on my personal blog… sh*t, I don’t have a personal blog anymore?  Why not?  Oh yeah, because I don’t have time…

Hmmmm…

Heeeyyyyyy, do you think, MAYBE, that I might have a problem with over-committing myself to things?  I mean, could I possible suffer from (faux gasp) Artistic FOMO?

(Yes.  The answer is yes, yes I do.)

Toddlers

I love my son.  He is the apple of my eye, the sugar on my cornflakes, the laughter in my ears… but he’s also the little tyrant screaming at me to escort him to the washing machine twelve times a day, where he will sit for interminably long periods of time flipping the dials around in abject pleasure, waiting for my eyes to gloss over with boredom so that he can QUICKPUSHTHESTARTBUTTON! before I catch his hand with mine and remind him that he is not yet allowed to do the laundry on his own, and can we please go back to the living toy room now so that mommy can sit on the couch and check her Facebook for a hot second?

New Year’s Resolutions

Are for chumps.  And perfectionists. And people with stronger will-power than I possess.  So be nice to yourself, even if you’ve already failed at whatever ridiculous demands you put on yourself last week.  I signed up for Red Theater’s playwriting challenge last November and didn’t even make it past the first day.  The FIRST DAY.  Sometimes you just have to shrug your shoulders and tell your expectations to take a hike.

BUT, Seriously…

I’m not too busy to tell you you should check out one of our ONSTAGE readings!  If you’re in Los Angeles on Jan 15, make sure you swing by the Zephyr Theatre for the final reading of our 2017 Female Playwrights ONSTAGE Festival: Hot Mess.

And if you’re in Los Angeles (or Bemidji,MN; or Columbus, OH; or Magnolia, AR; or Milwaukee, WI; or Prescott, AZ) on Jan 21st, check out one of our Female Playwrights ONSTAGE Festival: Volume Control readings!  They’re sure to be a hoot/make you feel the deep feels (and all that other cathartic magic that theatre does) PLUS you’ll be supporting International Women’s Voices Day, which is all kinds of awesome!  Here’s a LINK for more info.

Tune in later this week for more words/sentences composed by me (along with—hopefully—some deeper thoughts)

 

 

 

Little Black Dress INK is now accepting submissions!

female-playwrights-onstage-cropIt’s that time of year again, time for Little Black Dress INK’s annual Female Playwrights ONSTAGE Project to begin!

And that means we are looking for some seriously fabulous female playwrights to participate!

Little Black Dress INK is thrilled to continue creating production opportunities for female playwrights through its Female Playwrights ONSTAGE Project; a short-play festival dedicated to producing peer-selected works by women.  In addition to contributing to the selection of plays, participating playwrights are able to review and revise their work during semi-finalist readings, and are encouraged to blog about the process along the way.

Submissions are now being accepted from awesome female playwrights for consideration in this year’s festival!  This festival utilizes a peer-review process for evaluating submissions, so please make sure to read over the following guidelines carefully before submitting.

  • This year’s festival theme is Hot Mess.  Playwrights are invited to submit short plays and/or monologues written on this theme.  In the past we’ve also had great success with short scenelets (10-minute plays comprised of a couple of scenes, which we can sprinkle throughout the line-up)
  • LBDI strongly suggests you do not submit plays or monologues longer than ten minutes. Keep in mind that in all instances, shorter truly is better.  Plays running longer than ten minutes stand very little chance of making it into the festival, as we strive to produce as many playwrights as possible.
  • Little Black Dress INK utilizes a peer review process for evaluating plays.  By submitting to this fest, you agree to participate in this unique opportunity to help select plays for production.
  • Once our submission window is closed, you will receive a selection of plays to read and score using the LBDI online eval form.  You MUST read and submit your evaluations by the required date in order for your play to remain in consideration.
  • Submitted works will be read by other participating playwrights and LBDI artistic personnel.  By submitting to the festival, you agree to share your work for review in this process.
  • Submission materials must be emailed to LBDI by December 10th, 2016 and should include:
    • The following information in the body of your email:
      • Your name
      • The title of your play
      • Your contact information *It is very important that you use a reliable email address as all correspondence will be done via email!
      • A blind PDF of your script – do NOT include your name anywhere on the script!
      • Email materials to submissions@LittleBlackDressINK.org

LBDI will be producing readings of the top scoring plays at locations nation-wide.  The top eight to ten scoring plays will also move on to full production with Little Black Dress INK.

For more information, visit www.LittleBlackDressINK.org  
We look forward to working with you!

And now for something new…

For those who don’t know, I am not only a playwright, but the Artistic Director (slash/Mad Woman) behind Little Black Dress INK – a female playwright producing org that produces an annual peer-reviewed short play fest.  Over the years we’ve grown our fest from a small group of playwrights produced in Prescott, AZ, to a now nation-wide new play reading series with productions slated in both Prescott AND Lafayette, LA in 2016.  I couldn’t be more proud of all the efforts our supporters, artist, and producers have put into this fest—and I am ecstatic that we continue to grow.

This year, we’re adding an online component to the festival—one that will allow us to produce online versions of full-length plays.  It’s called the ONSTAGE: ON-AIR podcast, and our very first one is now live!

ON-AIR poster-new-webSince it’s our inaugural podcast, we chose to focus on interviews with some of our VIP artists, and included excerpts from past ONSTAGE plays.  You should definitely check it out – the women we work with are all kinds of amazing!  And the great thing about podcasts is that you can listen while you’re working out, driving, cooking, and pretty much anything else-ing!

Listen to the first ONSTAGE: ON-AIR podcast HERE

~Tiffany Antone

Politics and playwrights and babies, oh my!

I think we can agree that this year has been a busy one, full of newsworthy events capable of derailing sensitive souls everywhere and sending them into a pit of despair over the current condition of the all-too-human condition.

I’ve had a couple days like that recently.  (It doesn’t help that I’m 7 months pregnant and full of hormones that have turned even the most ridiculous of commercials into automatic tear-jerkers.)

But I realized something in the midst of my most recent news-induced funk: I’m a playwright!

I can write about the stuff that’s wrecking me emotionally.

And that snapped me out of my depressive couch-potato state, and my muse started brainstorming and plot-outlining, and even though I haven’t yet decided if I want to write the play I began crock-potting inside my playwright brain all those weeks ago, it has helped me feel actionable!

And I think that’s important.

As an artist, it feels sometimes like there is just too much suffering to bear — and, as an artist, it also feels like I have very little to contribute in the ways of actually affecting change.

But I can write.

I can try to create pieces of theatre that bring my view of things into focus, and that—if I do my job well—invite others to look closer at these things with me.  To mine them for possible solutions.  To create conversation and empathy, and to MAYBE make things a little better?

At least, I can try!

Because although I very much enjoy entertainment for entertainment’s sake, I also believe in theatre’s power to stir conversation, incite action, and engage an audience’s problem solving skills.  Why then, can’t I create theatre that does something?

So, while there are a lot changes coming my way in 2016 (new baby, probably a move to a new city after my husband finishes his MFA program this Spring) and a lot of changes coming on a bigger scale (US elections and God knows what other crazy world events heading down the pipeline) I’m feeling a sense of optimism and anticipation about it all that was eluding me a few weeks back, as I sat on the couch, and wept for the world (and at those damn holiday commercials).

And so, I leave you with this:  May your seasons also be brightened by the recognition of your own word-smith powers!  Now, get to writing!

~Tiffany Antone

The Self Production Series with Anna Nicholas: #16 The Wrap…

#16. The Wrap—Lessons Learned, Settling Accounts and Moving On

By Anna Nicholas

Eventually, closing night will arrive. Your actors will take their final bows and the people who worked so closely with you to bring your play to life, will go their different ways. All the work, all those sleepless nights, the worry, the bleeding of money, will cease. And when it’s over, you’ll be left with a sense of accomplishment, even if it’s tinged with a degree of sadness.

You’ll also likely realize a few things you wished you’d known before you started. That’s what this post is about. It’s the cheat sheet of the whole Self-Production series with some “if only I’d knowns” tossed in. If you went to school for theatre management, all this may be overly simplistic. But for those of you who came to theatre production via an alternate path, here’s what I can tell you after having self-produced:

  • The Budget – Put together a reasonable budget, based on recent research in your area, talking to others who’ve produced and by getting bids from possible hires. Figure out where you’re getting the money to pay for your show and have most of it raised before you begin rehearsals. You shouldn’t count on selling tickets to cover your late-in-the-run costs. And worrying about how you’ll cover your commitments instead of your play will only lead to misery.
  • The Where – Select a theatre—in budget—which suits your play viz a viz the size of your set and cast, as well as for its geography. Make it easy for your audience to come see it. Think about a non-traditional venue for a non-traditional piece—a museum or a restaurant. Audiences enjoy novel experiences. LA based writer/producer Eric Rudnick suggests selecting a theatre where support is offered in the form of staff and equipment, and “Make sure you get names and numbers of everyone—box office, technical directors, concessions people, etc.— and establish communication early on.” Will they help you strike the set when your show closes? Make sure that’s in your contract.
  • Hiring your director, co-producer, stage manager, designers and builders—Rudnick says make sure you get hard quotes from all the members of your team or you might suddenly find your budget blown on one line item. Playwright, Mary Portser, goes further saying, “Make sure you get solid commitments from all your hires for the time period you need them or you may find yourself scrambling at the last minute.” Ask questions—even if you feel silly doing so. Once rehearsals started, Rudnick discovered his otherwise fantastic stage manager had neither a car nor a smart phone. So she couldn’t be reached, nor could she be counted on to bring snacks and water to rehearsals. “Take nothing for granted,” he says.
  • Casting – Select actors who are committed to their careers AND to your project. Vet people. Choose actors who ideally come with their own fan base who will be a draw to audiences. It’s a little sad but having an actor of some renown in your show will sell tickets. And if you’re a no-name playwright, self-producing your own work, this becomes even more important. You’re competing with so many other plays, TV shows, movies—you have to give people a reason to come see your show. If you’re using Equity actors, familiarize yourself with the union rules in place in your area.
  • Promotion – If you can afford a publicist, hire one—ideally someone with social media savvy who knows how to use Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. And whether you have a publicist or not, establish your show’s social media presence at least as early as the start of rehearsals. Get your cast and crew onboard with promotion and sharing posts, tweets and any videos or pictures. If you’ve selected your play and team wisely, you’ll create a buzz through the exponential power of the Internet. Don’t forget to GGG—get good graphics! Have a visually provocative campaign with an intriguing logline to put on posters, postcards and ads.
  • Ticketing – Register with all the ticket outlets to maximize visibility across all the possible platforms where tickets can be purchased. Develop creative strategies and synergies to sell those tickets. Offer discounts and giveaways, and develop cross-promotions with local businesses and restaurants. Try to get local business to have a stake in your show.
  • Critics – Try to get critics excited about your show and to promise they’ll see it as close to opening night as possible. If you have a publicist, he/she will be working on this for you. However, if it’s looking like the only way you’ll get a review is to pay Bitter Lemons, decide if it’s worth it to you. A lot of reviews and reviewers don’t carry much weight. You might be better served using that money to draw audiences in a more creative way.
  • Prepare for the unexpected because it will happen on the way to Opening Night. Rudnick suggests things will go smoother if producers keep the channels of communication open, “You don’t and can’t know everything so remain open to possibilities even while having a vision. Listen and try things before saying, ‘no.’ “
  • Know it’s likely to be stressful. If you’re the type who gets stressed, figure out— ahead of succumbing—how you’ll deal with it. Playwright Portser says she didn’t realize the amount of work there would be the month before opening. “Between being at the theatre–for rehearsals, letting tech people in, cleaning the place, contacting people online, and then hunting for props, picking up flyers, programs, etc., it was full time.”
  • Surround yourself with kind, competent people with good follow-through and take care to be kind to EVERYONE who is helping you. The corollary to this is: If you are unkind, apologize immediately. It’s unlikely you’re paying people what they deserve. So if you go berserk on your production designer because an actor quit on you, say you’re sorry for taking it out on her. As Tiffany Antone says in her Little Black Dress Blog http://www.littleblackdressink.org/for-kendra-and-all-the-other-playwright-producers-in-the-room/ sometimes you’re the pain in the ass so be nice.
  • Lastly, keep good financial records (or hire someone to do it). Hopefully you made money or at least broke even. But if not, and you’re facing a loss on your production, you may be able to write off those losses, particularly if you are a financially successful writer or actor in some other medium. But don’t quote me on that because I’m not a tax professional. A tax professional would probably advise a less risky venture.

For myself, I had a blast self-producing my show, and in recounting for you my experiences doing it. Would I do it again? Absolutely. I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride.

 

Anna Nicholas

Annanicholas.com

 

Wrapping Up ONSTAGE and (nearly) on to 2016!

By Tiffany Antone

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I used to hate 10-minute plays.

I don’t know why exactly… perhaps it’s because—as a playwright—I found it a real challenge to create a satisfying story in just 10 pages.  My first 10-minute play attempts always seemed to bleed into more pages, and felt unsatisfying in their rapid resolutions.  But as I’ve gone on to do more and more with short plays, I realize that the thing that used to bother me about 10 minute plays was that I just wasn’t very good at them yet.

I’d like to think I’ve gotten better writing short pieces—of conserving space and creating tighter, more exciting worlds—and that by becoming more aware of the real-estate value a blank page actually represents, my longer pieces have become tighter, more exciting, and richer as well.

And as a result, I’ve become a huge fan of these tasty little 10-minute morsels of playwright excellence.  So much so, that I dedicate a sizable portion of my year to supporting and producing other short pieces… and yesterday I saw 15 truly awesome short plays brought to life here in Waco and can’t believe that I have to winnow this list down to just 11 or 12 pieces for production.

I’ve written a lot about producing from a playwright’s perspective this week, and I hope it was helpful to those of you who—like myself—have felt stuck, frustrated, or fed up with the stasis of waiting.  But I also hope that, even if you have no intention of ever donning a producer’s cap, that you feel like you’ve gotten a little insight how/why some of these festivals work the way they do.  We’re all in theatre because we love something about it’s incredible contradictions and magic, but the true power of theatre is the unity of intention it requires on all who come together in order to make it happen.

With that, I’m wrapping up my blogging week in love of writing, writers, and all who take joy from the realization of imagination!  If you want to stay in touch, you can follow me @LadyPlaywright or you can follow Little Black Dress INK @LBlackDressINK – we’ll be posting more updates on this year’s fest as it heads to LA for a reading of our winning plays at Samuel French Book Shop on July 11th, and then production in Prescott, AZ August 6-9.

And then we’ll get started on the 2016 Fest, and do it all over again!

 

On the Fallacy of Space

By Tiffany Antone

Don't Panic

Although I’m a playwright, I’ve been focusing a lot on producing this week in the hopes that what I’ve learned as a producer can be helpful to playwrights who are tired of sitting around waiting for someone to make the production magic happen for them. I’m going to continue on that thread today as I talk about the unfortunate brain melt that so often happens when we talk about space.

When I’m talking to a playwright about the hurdles of producing, unless they have an ‘in’ at a theatre company, the conversation inevitably begins to circle the panic-drain of “BUT I DON’T HAVE A SPACE!”, because when you consider the fact that most theaters/art galleries charge pretty hefty fees to rent their spaces, a lot of aspiring new producers get cut off at the knees before they’ve even started, and head back desk or day job, defeated.

But when the dollar signs start flashing red and you feel the panic rising, just remind yourself of this simple truth: you don’t need a theater space to make theatre happen!

I’m not sure exactly when it occurs, but somewhere along the route to professionalism, many of us begin to adopt this weird attitude that theatre needs to happen in a theatrically appointed space, and anything else is just… unprofessional, and… ewwwww!

When did we turn into such catty teenagers?

I agree, production-wise, a dedicated theater is a much easier place to work: the lights, the sound equipment, the dressing rooms and fixed seats… all of those things make life easier when you’re producing a show.  But they’re not the end all be all to making theatre happen.  I’ve seen vivid and exciting theatre happen in living rooms, in parks, at restaurants, in civic auditoriums, and in old abandoned warehouses – and each time it’s been a unique and awesome experience!

The trick is in knowing your space ahead of time, so that you can match your production goals to your resources and select a play (or collection of short plays) that will work in the space you’re using.  For instance: living room plays are great fun, but they only work if you select small cast pieces that can be put up around a coffee table, TV stand, book shelves, and whatever else homey obstacles your hosts may have present.  It’s also important that they can be performed comfortably for a handful of people sitting within inches of the actors – I saw a very sexually charged piece done this way once and I just couldn’t get over the fact that two strangers were dry humping six-inches away from my face!   And sure, you can’t do a piece with a million different locations/light cues because there’s no light board to play with and you can’t load in flats… but each of those Don’ts is an opportunity to seek out what can and will work.  So you pick something small, something intimate, something that is transportable, engaging, and good in the close-up, and you make it happen.

So what does this have to do with what we do over here at Little Black Dress INK?  Well, for those of you who don’t know, we rely completely on Partner Producers to present readings of our semi-finalists – I wish I could afford to put our female playwrights on tour, but I just can’t (my superstitious side is telling me to include the waiver “yet”).  So instead I rely on these awesome Partner Producers—who are actors, writers, and directors themselves— to bring our festival to their cities in the best way possible for them, which means that each reading is unique and personal to them.

This year our semi-finalist readings took place at an art gallery, a teaching studio, and a university, as well as a few very cool theatre spaces, and our final two readings will happen in “unconventional” locations as well; a public park and at Samuel French’s Los Angeles Bookshop.  I love these unique spaces – they add a flavor all their own to the readings and add to the conversational atmosphere after the readings are over.

And yes, when we get to production in Prescott, we’ll be putting the shows up in an actual theatre – but if we didn’t have one, I’d have still made the fest happen somehow.

The point I’m going for is this: Playwrights are traditionally rich in imagination, but poor in actual cash-money.  Unless you get a theatre to back your production (or find a patron of the arts to fund you), production expenses can add up fast.  Space doesn’t have to be the huge obstacle it so often is! You can make just about any space work if you put your creative juices to work making the most of the resources you have available to you.  And if all you have is the back room at your local bookstore and some gumption, then why not recruit some like-minded folks and create a reading series?  You never know where it could lead, or how good it will feel just to be making something happen.

Creating an Awesome Festival Line-up

By Tiffany Antone

Female-Playwrights-ONSTAGE-cropI got started in theatre as an actress.  I loved being on stage, but I hated auditioning because that very necessary internal confidence that keeps a persom from being a neurotic mess was rarely in full bloom for me.  Instead, I’d pretend I felt confident at auditions and then quietly go home where I could pick apart every choice I’d made and obsess in peace.

Then I directed my first show, which meant I was casting a show for the first time, and in so doing, I had a revelation: for the first time, I understood just how much time I had wasted locked in actor anxiety about things I had very little control over.  After that experience, I auditioned with a lot more boldness, confidence, and less personal worth on the line.  It was freeing.

I woke up this morning reflecting on this, because we at Little Black Dress INK recently announced our ONSTAGE Finalists and I thought it might be interesting to know how I came to narrow down what was a very awesome list of 36 plays to just 15.

First, it’s important to know that we use a peer review process to select our initial semi-finalists, so all of our participating playwrights are responsible for determining the first cut. After that, I consider peer-review scores and Partner Producer nominations along with the points I’m outlining below to create what I hope will be an awesome and successful line-up.

So, in the interest of helping alleviate some writerly anxieties, I’d like to talk today about what I’ve learned—as a playwright—in the five years I’ve been producing new plays:

  1. First, proofing your work is important, but a typo here or there won’t sink the ship!  I can’t believe how many playwrights send in work that just looks like a hot mess.  If you don’t take my time as a reader seriously, why should I take your play seriously?  Make your plays easy to read – format it in a way that is friendly to the eye and go over it for typos and grammar!  BUT, that said, if a play is truly unusual, gripping, or awesome, I’m much more likely to excuse a few formatting hiccups.  That’s just the way it is.  I would never not-produce a piece that I loved just because there were a few misspelled words.  On the other hand, most of the time, the work that is the most compelling is usually also in top readable shape.
  2. Contrary to popular belief, we don’t just select the “very best” pieces.  If I’m creating a festival line-up, I’ve got to build a satisfying one – and that means a mix of genres and topics and tones… I may have nine FABULOUS dramas, but if I produce an entire evening of dramas, my audience is going to be exhausted.  The same holds true if I have multiple pieces that tackle the same subject: even if they’re fantastic, I’m only going to put one of those in the line-up because including too many similar pieces in one night can feel redundant.
  3. I like to use monologues in my fest, so I do.  Monologues have been a really nice addition to our festivals – they are perfect curtain pieces that keep the audience engaged while we set the stage for the next piece.  So, when I select my final line-up, monologues are something I put a lot of energy into.  The other  fabulous discovery I’ve made as a producer is how incorporating short scenelets (a 10-minute play comprised of several mini-scenes) into our fest between plays can provide a delightful through line in what is usually a fractured event. This is just my own preference – and other producers will have theirs.  The reason I mention it is that if I’m selecting 5 monologues to help cover set changes, I might not be able to include that 9th totally awesome play in the line-up.
  4. “Best” is relative.  This one is a no-brainer, but I still mention it because I think even though we all know it, it helps to be reminded once in a while.  Personally, I like plays that feel like they can only live on the stage.  I like plays that challenge or delight me, plays that feel fresh and unique and unlike anything I’ve seen or read before… But what’s the common thread in all that?  Me, myself, and I.   What’s “fresh” to me isn’t guaranteed to feel fresh to she/he/you – so it’s an unpredictable factor that a playwright can’t control and shouldn’t fret over.  What I like about our peer-review process is that it identifies a broad spectrum of work that is outstanding – not just from my own personal perspective, but from a variety of eyes – but as I winnow that list down to the final selection, my perspective comes back to fore.  You could take our same group of 2015 semi-finalists and create a multitude of awesome festival line-ups, each uniquely reflective of what different producers were looking for… and there’s just nothing a writer can do to change that.  Which is why the best thing a writer can do is write work they believe in, send that work out in the best shape they can get it into, and repeat.  Meanwhile, we’ll be here sifting through the incredible amount of awesome work, trying our best to create a line-up that we feel best matches our mission, our audience, and—sometimes—our own personal aesthetic.

And there it is – my ten cents on festival selection.  I hope it’s of interest and of help to you, my fellow writers!

 

Happy 5th Anniversary LA FPI Blog!

by Robin Byrd

Today is the 5th Anniversary for the LA FPI Blog.

My excitement over the diverse voices that frequent this blog never wanes.  Pick a few bloggers and read their articles.  Tell me what you think.

  1. Jessica Abrams (past blogger)
  2. Tiffany Antone
  3. Erica Bennett
  4. Nancy Beverly (past blogger)
  5. Jenn Bobiwash
  6. Andie Bottrell
  7. Robin Byrd
  8. Korama Danquah
  9. Kitty Felde
  10. Diane Grant
  11. Jen Huszcza (past blogger)
  12. Sara Israel (past blogger)
  13. Cindy Marie Jenkins (past blogger)
  14. Sue May (video blogger)
  15. Anna Nicholas (guest series blogger)
  16. Analyn Revilla
  17. Laura Shamas
  18. Madhuri Shekar
  19. Kimberly Shelby-Szyszko
  20. Cynthia Wands

 LAFPI Blog 3

 

 

Playing Local!

By Tiffany Antone

I’m just going to go ahead and make a grumpy sounding statement here that might make some of you shake your head, but then I’m going to explain why I feel this way, and maybe some of you will agree with me on this:

I think the Film, Television, and music industries have neutered community talent.

How?  Well, by placing a few really-well-paid stars in the sky (stars whose light shine all over the world at all hours of the day/night), it’s altered our ability to perceive, appreciate, and develop local talent.

Let me back up.

Before entertainment was mass-marketed to every corner of the globe, local artists were oftentimes average and hard-working people who made theatre or wrote poems or played the piano on the side.  I’m sure a lot of those people dreamed about what it would be like to be able to quit their full time jobs and take their talents on the road – and many an early artist did just that.  But their measure for talent was a local one.  They were the “Best in town” or the “Best on their block” and they weren’t comparing themselves to a few celebrities living glamorous lifestyles far, far away…

Nowadays, however, pre-packaged entertainment is piped in and available everywhere.  Talent shows are held in which the judges mimic Simon Cowell and compare competitors to people like Adelle, even though the competitors are 35 year-old SAHMs who’ve never had a singing lesson in their life.

And theatre audiences are shrinking because why go see your Aunt Sally in a community theatre production of Streetcar when you can see Interstellar on the IMAX in 3-D?

Do you see where I’m going with this?  Our local enthusiasm and gusto for local artists is in direct competition with the incredibly alluring and pre-approved “Celebrity”, and that puts us in a super awkward position as artists.

And none of this is new ground – the Arts are very much aware of the fight for audiences in today’s mass-market, but I’m not talking about audiences here… I’m talking about us.  And I can’t help but wonder what more we can do on an individual level as artists to strengthen and celebrate the arts on smaller, more local scales.

What can we do to help nurture local talent, just as your local chamber of commerce supports local businesses?

So I’ll just ask:  When is the last time you went to a show at your local community theatre and didn’t spend the drive home comparing it to professional shows you’ve seen?  When’s the last time you sat in a room full of part-time writers who write with unbridled (and probably untrained) passions and celebrated them without comparing their work or their intentions to that of the “professionals”?

For some of you, the answer will be “Last week, cranky-pants!” but for some of you, I bet the answer is “Ummmmmm…. let me think….” because as artists and writers who are pursuing our dream, I think it’s only natural that some of us get so caught up in the path we are pursuing that we: A – forget that “passion” and “profession” shouldn’t necessarily be judged side-by-side, and B – that in remembering to celebrate the small, joyful, local moments of artistry, we are doubling down on the meaning of art as a form of self-expression, rather than as an act of commerce.

So what does this have to do with being a female playwright?

Well, I think it comes down to staying connected with your community, even as you write in pursuit of NY, Chicago, or LA.   We can’t expect audiences to demand theaters perform our work if we’re not out there supporting them right back!  Also, I don’t live in NY, Chicago, or LA, so if I make those target cities my sole focus and don’t engage with the community in which I actually live, aren’t I being grossly self-obsessed and foolhardy?

So I attend community theatre, I go to college shows, I attend youth scholarship events when I can, and I work at staying connected to the arts scene back home that has supported me so very, very much – because I believe in them too!

And perhaps this is a long, twisting post about tired topics, but I do hope that it creates within you a reflective “How can I get more involved with local artists?” because as artists ourselves, we need to continue to challenge ourselves to learn and grow, while also giving back and engaging with the very communities we hope to someday entertain and challenge with our written work.

Because art is not only art when called so by a critic, right?  Art can be found anywhere and comes in all shapes and sizes and forms.  And the accessibility of it is every bit as important as those de rigour moments of small audience “brilliance” some artists achieve.   Just look at this video of a musician who has figured out how to turn a carrot into a clarinet.  Watch it all the way through – that’s art, people!  It’s amazing – and it’s not a super expensive, hard to come by instrument he’s playing, it’s a mother f***ing carrot!  Talk about local… he doesn’t have to go farther than his local grocery store to create music.  He’s engaged in creating unique and accessible opportunities, and in so doing he’s created some genuine theatre magic!

And that’s something to celebrate.

~Tiffany

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