Belonging to the Dramatists Guild Council where, with my fellow dramatists, I can directly affect (and protect) the professional lives of all American Playwrights has always made me feel that I am returning as much to the theatre as I withdraw. Because only playwrights can ensure the well-being of playwrights. No one else will do it for us.
I think more than anything, you should do what you love. If you love classical playwrights, seek out companies or places that are doing that. If you love modern playwrights, try to find groups who are writing new plays or working on new plays. If you love television, watch as much theater and film as you can.
I have always felt it a great privilege to be in the theater, and I am grateful to all the playwrights who have given me so many wonderful roles. It's a terrifying business, but it has its compensations. Where else could I have found someone who for 50 years has given me sheer enchantment?
Because I didn't go to graduate school or have mentorship out of college, meeting other playwrights and developing those friendships as a result of being a 'grown up' playwright - that's become an essential community for me. My contemporaries are all my mentors whether they know it or not.
I wrote my first play at the age of 10, 55 years ago, and I've always found it a fantastic relief to imagine I know what things would be like from the point of view of other individuals and to send out signals from where I actually am not. Playwrights never need to write from the place where they are.
I'm sensitive about the criticism [for not producing new playwrights], yes. But I'm hip to it as well. I read 500 new plays a year, and 99.99 percent of them are not good. I see no reason to do a new play just because it's new. It's like kissing your sister, a virtue, but so what? It seems to me more worthwhile to take a proven playwright and say, Write something for us.
Gregory A. Boyd
The English playwrights of the '50s and '60s didn't really keep writing or getting produced, while the Irish did. There's encouragement for the younger ones also in the fact that Ireland is exceptional in its ability to make theater part of the national dialogue, and it reaches to all four corners of the country.
I've always liked texts that you immediately understand. I suppose the playwrights who really speak to me are Edward Bond, Joe Orton and Harold Pinter. I've been in six different Pinter productions - I love the clarity of his language. He has this way of using words - there's a thrill to them.
You have to get beyond your own precious inner experiences. The actor cannot afford to look only to his own life for all his material nor pull strictly from his own experience to find his acting choices and feelings. The ideas of the great playwrights are almost always larger than the experiences of even the best actors.
In England, when we're at drama school, we spend a lot of time learning the craft from playwrights and stage actors, who are very well trained in the basics of acting because they need to get it right the first time - you can't have second or third takes when you're in front of a live audience, unlike in film.
I did a thing called 24 Hour Plays, a thing they do every year on Broadway. A bunch of playwrights and actors get together, you write a play and you act it out in 24 hours, literally. People pay and the money goes to charity. So I did one - I was horrible. I was bad. I was terrified. And I was like, "Oh, I gotta do this again." Because I know I can do it.
My generation of playwrights have grown up writing for studio theatres, and so the task of writing for more than ten or so actors is a huge challenge. Logistically, it's like doing an enormous Sudoku. Making sure everyone is in the right place at the right time in the right order instantly sends me into a cold sweat.
When the modern movement began, starting perhaps with the paintings of Manet and the poetry of Baudelaire and Rimbaud, what distinguished the modern movement was the enormous honesty that writers, painters and playwrights displayed about themselves. The bourgeois novel flinches from such notions.
J. G. Ballard
Whenever I become discouraged (which is on alternate Tuesdays, between three and four) I lift my spirits by remembering: The artists are on our side! I mean those poets and painters, singers and musicians, novelists and playwrights who speak to the world in a way that is impervious to assault because they wage the battle for justice in a sphere which is unreachable by the dullness of ordinary political discourse.
I grew up when one of America's greatest black playwrights, August Wilson, was writing about life in Pittsburgh, but I never saw myself in any of his straight-male plays. And then I see 'Angels,' which was so honest and painful, and it had this black drag queen in it, Belize, with a big heart. I finally had a character to relate to.
We rely upon the poets, the philosophers, and the playwrights to articulate what most of us can only feel, in joy or sorrow. They illuminate the thoughts for which we only grope; they give us the strength and balm we cannot find in ourselves. Whenever I feel my courage wavering, I rush to them. They give me the wisdom of acceptance, the will and resiliance to push on.
What was once a cottage industry dedicated to the discovery and development of new voices and works has become instead the raison d'etre for many a playwright's existence . . .. And since readings have become playwrights' main source of exposure, the nature of playwriting has changed to fit readings' needs. Investigation into what is eminently theatrical has been substituted - more and more these days - by what can simply come across and read well.
I attacked those Western playwrights who use their influence and affluence to preach to the world the nihilistic doctrine that life is pointless and irrationally destructive, and that there is nothing we can do about it. Until everyone is fed, clothed, housed and taught, until human beings have equal leisure to contemplate the overwhelming fact of mortality, we should not (I argued) indulge in the luxury of "privileged despair.
Tragedy is born of myth, not morality. Prometheus and Icarus are tragic heroes. Yet none of the myths in which they appear has anything to do with moral dilemmas. Nor have the greatest Greek tragedies. If Euripides is the most tragic of the Greek playwrights, it is not because he deals with moral conflicts but because he understood that reason cannot be the guide of life.
John N. Gray
Well, one of the things we're supposed to be able to do as playwrights is write from a place of empathy, get into another character's shoes and experience things both mundane and tragic. And people don't -- like me right now -- people aren't necessarily the most eloquent when trying to express their emotions. I guess I feel as a playwright that those people deserve a voice, too, a voice that isn't so articulate that they themselves can no longer identify with it.
In other words, if Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy showed more than their fair share of pathology it was due less to the requirements of their creative work than to the personal sufferings caused by the unhealthy conditions of a Russian society nearing collapse. If so many American poets and playwrights committed suicide or ended up addicted to drugs and alcohol it was not their creativity that did it but an artistic scene that promised much, gave few rewards and left nine out of ten artists neglected if not ignored.
Eyeing the traffic circulating the lobby hung with bad art. Big invasive stuff unloaded on Stanley Bard in exchange for rent. The hotel is an energetic, desperate haven for scores of gifted hustling children from every rung of the ladder. Guitar bums and stoned-out beauties in Victorian dresses. Junkie poets, playwrights, broke-down filmmakers, and French actors. Everybody passing through here is somebody, if not in the outside world.
Most British playwrights of my generation, as well as younger folks, apparently feel somewhat obliged to Russian literature - and not only those writing for theatres. Russian literature is part of the basic background knowledge for any writer. So there is nothing exceptional in the interest I had towards Russian literature and theatre. Frankly, I couldn't image what a culture would be like without sympathy towards Russian literature and Russia, whether we'd be talking about drama or Djagilev.
Screenwriting is a terrible way to make a living and I always try to talk anyone out of it. Until you sit in a story meeting with studio executives with no particular ability or actors who haven't even graduated high school telling you exactly how to change your script, you haven't experienced what it's really like to be a screenwriter in Hollywood. Also, unlike novelists and playwrights, you don't own the copyright on your original material. It hurts when you sell a project you love and then suddenly the project you really cared about will never see the light of day.
Amy Holden Jones
Some playwrights are obvious influences on younger writers. Arthur Miller (realistic, politically engaged dramas) and Christopher Durang (satirical dark comedies) are examples. But August stands apart, ... He has his special way of seeing things. I remember he and I were at one of those fancy benefits the Rep has. The gay men's chorus was singing, and I was very proud to have brought them into a Rep event. And August says, 'You know, I don't see any black people up there.' That was his focus the lives of black people.
Daniel J. Sullivan
If a queen comes to America, crowds fill the station squares, and attendant British journalists rejoice, 'You see: the American Cousins are as respectful to Royalty as we are.' But the Americans have read of queens since babyhood. they want to see one queen, once, and if another came to town next week, with twice as handsome a crown, she would not draw more than two small boys and an Anglophile. Americans want to see one movie star, one giraffe, one jet plance, one murder, but only one. They run up a skyscraper or the fame of generals and evangelists and playwrights in one week and tear them all down in an hour, and the mark of excellence everywhere is 'under new management'.
In fact that is why the lives of most women are so vaguely unsatisfactory. They are always doing secondary and menial things (that do not require all their gifts and ability) for others and never anything for themselves. Society and husbands praise them for it (when they get too miserable or have nervous breakdowns) though always a little perplexedly and half-heartedly and just to be consoling. The poor wives are reminded that that is just why wives are so splendid - because they are so unselfish and self-sacrificing and that is the wonderful thing about them! But inwardly women know that something is wrong. They sense that if you are always doing something for others, like a servant or nurse, and never anything for yourself, you cannot do others any good. You make them physically more comfortable. But you cannot affect them spiritually in any way at all. For to teach, encourage, cheer up, console, amuse, stimulate or advise a husband or children or friends, you have to be something yourself. [... ]"If you would shut your door against the children for an hour a day and say; 'Mother is working on her five-act tragedy in blank verse!' you would be surprised how they would respect you. They would probably all become playwrights.
Alongside the development of theatres came the growth of an acting culture; in essence it was the birth of the acting profession. Plays had generally been performed by amateurs - often men from craft guilds. Towards the end of the sixteenth century there developed companies of actors usually under the patronage of a powerful or wealthy individual. These companies offered some protection against the threat of Puritan intervention, censorship, or closure on account of the plague. They encouraged playwrights to write drama which relied on ensemble playing rather than the more static set pieces associated with the classical tradition. They employed boys to play the parts of women and contributed to the development of individual performers. Audiences began to attend the theatre to see favourite actors, such as Richard Burbage or Will Kempe, as much as to see a particular play. Although the companies brought some stability and professionalism to the business of acting - for instance, Shakespeare's company, the Lord Chamberlain's, subsequently the King's, Men, continued until the theatres closed (1642) - they offered little security for the playwright. Shakespeare was in this respect, as in others, the exception to the rule that even the best-known and most successful dramatists of the period often remained financially insecure.