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The X-Factory

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about new play development. I’ve been writing a new play, dramaturging a reading, and beginning design work on a not-new but new-ish play.

One issue that has always fascinated me is the “tipping point” (a term I just made up out of no where, definitely without ever having read a Malcolm Gladwell book about it) of new art: the moment or factor which takes a play (or song or film) from obscurity into cultural relevance. What is that X-factor that makes a passion-project into an icon?

I read an article this week, which sought to elucidate this issue:

Yale Rep’s Binger Center: Where Plays Get a Commission, and a Commitment

This thought-provoking essay spoke about Yale Rep’s commitment to supporting full-scale productions of new works, so that they can live on in the canon after their first productions. The idea is that playwrights need someone to take a chance on them so that they can write more demanding, perhaps expensive theatre. This program allows the art to be bigger, fuller, and more imaginative.

It got me thinking about the things I believe. About what makes a piece of art flourish. What can I do to cultivate art. How can I (we all!) reach critical mass?

I have some theories:

1) Live Passionately

I keep seeing and reading about this: a work of art can only reach others if the auteur is coming from a place of deep passion and caring. If the work does not have an emotional engine, no one else will empathize with it. The problem is: passion can’t be faked. You’ve gotta have something to care about first in the first place.

2) Be Lucky

I just can’t dismiss the seemingly random nature of the business of art. Just ask anyone how they got a particular gig or commission: “Right place, right time,” they’ll say. Of course you can be in the right place at the right time more often if you…

3) Be Prolific

Let’s face it: you can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket. And the more tickets you buy, the greater your odds. Of course, the trick, in the arts, is to convince someone else to pay for the tickets.

4) Work Hard

It’s the easiest way to be prolific.

5) Make Friends

I’m serious. The cool thing about friends is that they do nice things for each other. Do something nice for someone, they do something nice for you. Or not! It’s that easy! They’ve got your back. Plus you like each other! And at least they’ll come see your show!

6) Give Up

Let’s be real: success is made up. It’s just there to scare you and tell you you’re inadequate. The real way to be successful? Give up all that. Just have fun. Love what you do. That can’t be faked. Accept the probability that you will never be anything but an enthusiastic amateur. Once you accept that, well, you can’t lose.

That’s all I got. What would you do?


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