In theatre, unless you’re lucky to land an ongoing tour, every piece of theatre is ephemeral not only metaphorically but literally. You’ve got a few weeks or a few months on a project, and then it’s over–you move on to the next, or rather, spend a good deal of energy finding the next. As a playwright, I’m immersed in a world where I’m constantly submitting scripts, making connections, sending inquiries–there is no stopping, not if I want to have something I can still call a career. Because each project or production lasts such a short amount of time, I am constantly searching for another, constantly finding a new theater to work with, constantly recommitting.
Now, there are plenty of other folks in the world who have to constantly search for work because they’re on a temp schedule (including many artists in their “day job” life, as well). And there are plenty of folks who strive within their salaried job, who always have another project to attend to. I’m not trying to make artists out as this secluded special class who are the only folks who deal with this. I’m just observing that we deal with it.
Like anything, the ephemerality of productions and the constant striving for work has pros and cons. The cons are obvious: uncertainty, both economic and existential; the potential to have to take the less-perfect gig because you need something; the anxiety that comes with never knowing what your career will look like in a year or even in a few months. But I’m actually here to talk about the pros, because that’s what I need to remind myself of.
As a playwright, I constantly recommit myself to my work. Of course I’m always writing–and that’s one aspect of a playwriting career–but I’m also always recommitting by actively searching for production, for residency, for workshop. As anxiety-inducing as this is, it’s also a constant and focused way to recognize my passion for and dedication to this path. I don’t have to keep a dream journal or one of those “list where you want to be” lists because I have a submission log, ten thousand cover letters, a list of which theaters I need to submit to next.
No matter how much anxiety this mode of work causes, it also allows for and requires a constant “yes” attitude. Yes, I want to do this. Yes, I am a professional playwright and I will pursue this career as well as this craft. Yes, I am, I will. And that’s worth more than something.