In the last year, I've spent quite a bit of dough on my theater work: loans for my education and life in New York City with my family, submission fees for what ended up being rejection notices, a few productions, and what a grant awarded by Theater Communications Group couldn't cover for my family's research and exchange excursion to Russia. I've made a very small sum of money from my first play publication. So, looking at the books, that's a net loss financially.
But if you look at the resume, I'm in the red: productions, publication, a grant from America's national theater organization to develop a new play! Hoo-ah!
And there are also new things that have come my way (because I went looking for them). I was invited to the inaugural New Play Lab at the 35th William Inge Theater Festival because of Mend the Envelope. I was given a scholarship to join the Kenyon Playwrights Conference because of 40 Days of Night (all five pages of it so far).
Now, that's all cool and amazing, but between the $250 festival fee, transportation to and from Kansas and accommodation and some meals for the four days, it wasn't feasible for the former, and getting to Ohio and paying $1000 was beyond my reach for the latter. Still, it was nice to be invited to both.
I'm finding that there is no shortage of opportunities as a playwright, but there is a shortage on how much money and time can be devoted to getting one's art put on view, especially when so many opportunities offer only free tickets, exposure and a guarantee of making money after they've covered their own fees in exchange for my time and effort. I think there should be a business guide for playwrights called "Pay to Play." There should also be a new rule: producing organizations must pay the playwrights a reasonable amount of money for the use of their work. Period. There's also no shortage of literary managers and theaters willing to have a look at new work, and perhaps those letters of inquiry ought to start flying out post haste. In this case, making the time to do this is the main objective. It's a question of priorities, and with a new baby on the way, I think art needs to move down a few rungs.
We've spent enough money the last few years to either put a down payment on a house or buy an apartment in a foreign country with leftovers to set aside money for our kids' education. Believe me: I'd like right now to be able to have those things. We've made choices, however, that have not allowed this to be possible right now. So it goes.
The smartest moves we've made in the last year have been leaving one masters program and starting another. I finally wisened up and started making a greater investment in our future by taking this online education course that will yield a Masters of Education and an IB Teacher Award, which I think will be a ticket to working in some rather interesting areas around the world. If there's one thing I've learned the last few years, it's that movement is the greatest fodder for the imagination. Mend the Envelope was forged from concept to production in no less than five countries. I know I'm just getting started with my theater. I'm one of these emerging playwrights, and I'll continue submitting old work, creating new work and finding new inboxes to greet.
I already know my endgame, and it's very simple and sweet: I'm going to be an old man teaching some kind of theater course at a university. I would like to think that the whole course is going to be devoted to investigating how to live a creative life, how to search for the things that matter most in the most alien of environments, and how the theater can be used as a tool for sifting through the fog of illusion on the hunt for truth and clarity.
That's a nice thought, but I'll probably end up bringing in pictures of the family and telling them how bat-shit crazy we were/are and putting it on them to discern some kind of meaning. It'll make for a fun class at least, and at that point I'm confident money won't be a problem.