The Need for Stars?
“Be so good they can’t ignore you.” – Steve Martin
Writing a play and then staying the course to see it produced is a daunting task. It requires tremendous focus and 100% dedication to each step in the developmental process.
Once you think your play “works,” the next step is to have a staged reading to introduce it to the public, either in NYC or elsewhere. A reading is the step before a workshop or a production.
So if a staged reading is the step before a workshop or production, what is our goal for the staged reading? Getting people to see the reading. And not just ANY people – specifically, people who could help us get to that next step, a production or a workshop. (We also want to get smart, experienced people to the reading for them to give us feedback as well, but for the purpose of this blog post let’s stay with the people who can help us move the play forward.)
So, who are these people? How can I get them into my reading?
It’s All About Relationships
Since everything in this business is about relationships, you should be developing relationships and networking like crazy as soon as you realize that you want to be a playwright. Specifically, you want to cultivate relationships with Artistic Directors, directors, producers, and generally, almost anyone in the industry.
Sooner or later you realize that everyone in the theater lives or dies by their network of friends and friends-of-friends. And it’s helpful to be friends with or in close association with someone who knows or has access to a “star.”
Getting a “Star” Interested in Your Play
I can hear the plaintive cry from many of you: “I don’t have access to a star, and don’t know anyone who does!”
Sigh. That’s where most of us start, but if you’re in this industry for any length of time and make an effort to network, you’ll inevitably meet someone (or hire someone) who knows someone to make a connection for you. And if your work is good enough (and your price is right), you’ll probably be able to hire someone that’s worked on Broadway before to be in your reading. Often it’s not as expensive as you think.
BUT the real answer is that quality work shows up very early, in the writing and in the score (if we’re talking about musicals). Sometimes I start to read a script and quickly become riveted to the story. When it’s this good, I smile and say to myself that “the magic is starting to happen.”
Losing yourself in a theatrical world established by a talented writer is a completely magical experience. The “magic” is found on the page long before it makes its way to the stage, and if you’ve read a few hundred scripts or so like many of us have, you know it doesn’t happen all that often.
“Star” actors see the “magic” when they read your script; the same with “star” directors, music directors, and yes, theaters and producers. The cream always rises to the top. Eventually.
Unfortunately it usually takes its damn sweet time getting there.
I Don’t Have a Star – Yet
Notice the operative word here – YET.
In order to find that “star” you think you need to attract the theaters and producers that you think you need to help move your script forward – the most important thing you need to remember is that the first star of your show is …. your script.
Let me say it again.
Your writing should be so good that your SCRIPT is your very first “star.”
So, while you continue to network and develop each of your plays, remember it’s the constant fine-tuning to your scripts that is the real work.
No amount of networking or self-producing expensive staged readings can substitute for the nitty-gritty down-and-dirty daily work of meeting with yourself every day to sit down and write.
- In order to make your writing the true star it needs to be, remember to acknowledge the daily discipline to write (or re-write) every day.
- Remember to recognize the need for real craft in your work, and
- Understand the need to constantly keep learning.
You must be a constant student of life and of the craft of writing to master the craft of writing.
As Steve Martin quipped, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”
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