Tonight I completed and mailed off the last of the play reviews I did as part of the selection process for an Early-Career Playwright's Program at (not sure that I'm allowed to say for privacy purposes) an important American Theatre. When I was asked a few weeks ago if I'd be willing and available to help remove some of the play-reading weight from the shoulders of the five selection committee members, I was excited, but hesitant. The due date was the same day I have a 12 page research paper and five page psychology paper due, and coincided with more than a few projects in my life that are deep in the development and/or launching phase: how would I have time to read and review plays?
Not to mention, that I've spent a lot of time over the years (and years at a time) reading plays as a fulltime job (though on an arts non-profit budget, ie: peanut shells and pre-chewed gum). So the invitation to step back into the play-reading chair, as it were, held a familiar "This is what I Do!" kind of feel along with the "Oh, Lord, Not Again!" gut rumble.
But the invitation came right on the heels of inner monologues and outward conversations about how much I want to be infusing my school reading and writing, with non-school, culture-active stuff. You can't get much closer to that than being asked to identify if the play you're reading was written by someone who may be the next Suzan Lori-Parks, Erik Ehn or Charles Mee. So, swallowing the fear that I was just responding to a flattered ego, I said Yes.
And it was painless (though two of the plays were very painful to get through), delightful and energizing. Much of the relief this time through, was that unlike my time as a Literary Associate, where I had to respond to each playwright with specific comments and encouragement about their play, regardless of how misguided, irrelevant or artlessly contrived it was, for this process, the focus was really on the playwright: whether or not the play was good, does this person show potential and aptitude for the program? Basically, it was doing one of my favorite things: CASTING! I Love Casting! I love looking to see who would fit in a role or situation, getting to think about what would be perfect for someone, and what someone would be perfect for. I've loved when my jobs have involved auditioning people, watching auditions, or recomending people for projects. And I see this come through as well in how I see friends and acquaintances, and how I can get excited about someone doing something new or unexpected, and thinking and saying "that is perfect for you" or "I can't wait to see you doing that."
So anyway, I got to read 1 intriguing and promising, though heavily-flawed play, 1 hackneyed, over-earnest play, and 1 horrid lifetime television for women play. It was fun. Thank you my friend on the selection committee of unsaid theatre's unnamed playwrights program. You've given me a refreshing blast from the past that feels very grounded in my present. And thank you amateur playwrights, for writing with all of your heart, even though you've clearly never seen a play in your life: without you, I would not have the thirty dollars I'm getting for reading your valiant efforts.