This is my third year reviewing submissions for a playwrights' residency program in NY. Every year I wait excitedly for my packet of plays to arrive in a giant manilla envelope. Then, every year my smile slackens upon reading the first line of the first play, wherein I remember that 4,999 out of every 5,000 un-represented (by agent) play submissions are horrendously un-readable. But I must read on, constrained by my commitment (and paycheck) to read every single word on every single unnecessary page. By play number four I remember why I stopped working in theater Literary departments: You thought retail was soul-killing? Try spending day after day reading people's open-hearted, dream-filled, creative offerings and thinking to yourself, "Sir/Madam, you are entirely deluded in thinking you have a career in play-writing; rarely (actually quite frequently) have I encountered a text so devoid of talent or promise."
It's only slightly less depressing than watching SAG-enforced open auditions.
But in the end, I get a little bit of cash, a little boost to my inner-critic-ego, and a nostalgic (is it truly in the past or just on pause?) return to theatre work.
Here's some quotes from my reviews:
(And no, the playwrights do not read these- just the selection committee- I'm not that mean)
"A flat and tired treatment of an unoriginal narrative, this play fails to be believable in either characterization or action."
"[The] themes fail to take shape either in character interaction or in the language/imagery of the piece. The metaphors appear but never take on meaning."
"This play appears more an exercise in dramatic theory than an expression of creative vision."
"The repetition and gestures that are the primary substance of the play appear only as attempts at avant-garde, rather than embodiment of the dramatic tension. "
"A sentimental and melodramatic story spread thin by too many dramatic questions."
"Hackneyed and derivative ex-lover scenario with tinges of detective drama a-la 'Murder She Wrote'."
Split Me Open
22 hours ago