Many American playwrights call this time of year “acceptance season”, because theatres announce their seasons. Many American playwrights have another name for this time of year: “rejection season”.
Beyond the half empty/half full debate, this line of thinking indicates a larger problem in the American theatre community. When playwrights receive rejections during this time of year it’s easy to assume they will not see their work performed for an entire year. An entire year without work can feel exhausting, soul crushing, and dream killing. Finding the motivation and courage to face next year’s rejection season sometimes means overcoming self-doubt, finding self-motivation, and investing in self-promotion. The bridge between amateur playwright and produced playwright seems impossible to cross, not to mention the financial hurdles that must be overcome…
However, in 2012 the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and HowlRound teamed up to create the National Playwright Residency Program. This program gave playwrights three year positions in established theatre companies with salaries and benefits (!!), and this week a new cohort of playwrights and theatre companies was announced.
Besides the financial support (which may be the first time in history that playwrights are on salary for be playwrights, not teachers/managers/etc.) this program gives playwrights three years to invest in one theatre company. Playwrights have the opportunity to use their experiences as freelance artists to shape the theatre companies that they work with for the better, and the three year time span means acceptance/rejection season doesn’t hold so much weight. Hopefully the National Playwright Residency Program will continue to grow and encourage other theatre companies to create opportunities for playwrights.
Also, the playwrights are on salary and benefits. Did I mention that?