Apparently my post on Albee has elicited quite a response from the blogosphere, I urge you, dear reader, to check out the comments section of the last post. There's some great stuff in it. Much of which I disagree with, but it is all passionately and eloquently argued. (I would briefly note, Josh, that I didn't mean my thing about not doing albee's work to be a threat to albee for speaking out, but rather a self-depricating well-i've-probably-ruined-my-chances-with-this-post kind of joke, sorry if that didn't read).
In response to everyone's responses, I want to try to offer some continued thoughts on victimhood. I'll probably get myself in more trouble, but hey, to quote Rumsfeld "when you can't solve a problem, enlarge it."
So let me discuss more on the Victim Mentality specifically, and why I find it so counter-productive. 13P's slogan of we don't develop plays, we do them is an implicit rejection of the victim mentality. It identifies a problem, but rather than be consumed by the problem, it places responsibility on themselves as artists to do something about it. We're all victims of somebody, as Dan points out, many directors are victims of badly behaved writers. Many people are victims of bad producers. Or bad actors. But it is more helpful for us to see what our own personal responsibilities are. The only thing we can change is ourselves, what we are doing the ways that we are defeating ourselves. Changing that can affect wider change.
I take a lot of inspiration from Nosedive. James Comtois has taken responsibility for creating the environment necessary to do his work. He has organized a group of people to support it, and he works with them to create his shows.
This similar impulse lies behind my desire to coproduce and direct volume of smoke. The desire to create the environment necessary to be creative. Now there is also the issue of what happens when you want to create those environments from within existing companies. And that's important too. I don't want to produce every show I direct. I'd go broke very quickly for one thing. There's a complicated outside/inside game we have to play. And creating power within the institution of theatermaking ain't easy.
And it's not that we aren't victims. I'm not trying to deny that people suffer, that there are "forces of darkness" out there, that there are shitty directors, actors, writers, designers, producers who are ego driven instead of focused on the common good. What I'm saying is that focusing on what other people are doing to screw you over instead of what you can do to change things is going to result in absolutely nothing changing. Because the only thing we can really change is what we are doing. Writers and directors should be finding common ground, trying to change the system, trying to create alternatives, trying to create the environments they need to work together, and doing that means looking at the ways that we ourselves are responsible for what's happened. The important issue (for example) isn't that writers don't have a union. After all, a lot of professional directors aren't SSDC members, and most friends i know who are AEA members kind of hate it. The issue is that writers (and directors and actors, but I think it's more common with playwrights) allow themselves to be exploited because there are so few opportunities for them to do their work.
I'll give you an example from my own career. I worked with an actor on a show who turned out to be a disaster. Belligerant, wouldn't follow direction, was convinced that other actors (and one of the designers) were in a conspiracy against him, couldn't learn lines. Just a total disaster. And it would be easy for me to blame everything on the actor. But all that will do is lead me to make the same mistake again. Here are some of the mistakes I made vis-a-vis this actor:
(1) I hired him even though he was gave off a really weird attitudenal vibe in audition. I had this warning bell going off in my head, but the producers liked him and convinced me that it wasn't that he wasn't listneing to anything I said, but rather that he was just excited.
(2) I didn't check references. Knowing that I was worried about his attitude, I made no effort to get in touch with people listed on his resume to find out what was going on. It wasn't until very late in the game that I talked to a colleague who had worked with him and he told me he was "insane".
(3) When he proved a constant problem in rehearsal, all I tried to do was contain him instead of figuring out what was going on.
(5) I never fully expressed how completely unacceptable his behavior was, figuring that he must know his behavior was completely unacceptable.
(6) I hoped the problem would go away and
(7) Once I changed tack on all of that, and figured out that the problem was not solveable, I didn't insist that he be fired. I suggested it at one point, and when the producers balked, I didn't threaten to quit if he wasn't removed. I wasn't willing to walk from the show, and I should've been, because I was worried about blowing an opportunity to get work done.
Now I feel pretty victimized by this guy. He was abusive. He took most of it out on me. He made my life hell for quite a long time. But the part of it that's my fault is the part of it that I can change.
Similarly, I've complained on the site about the exploitation of directors in 10 minute play nights. So now I have a list of questions that I ask when I'm offered a 10 minute play, and if enough of the answers don't jive, I won't do them.
Identifying problems is imporant. You have to identify them and spread awareness of them. But there's a general consensus out there amongst a braod specturm of artists (including me) that new play development as practiced in this country doesn't work. Continuing to simply identify that problem doesn't really cut it. Furthermore, from my perspective, that's not what Albee was doing. He was using a problem that is widely agreed upon (play development) and using it as a platform for bitching about those interloping actors and directors who just get in the way of his beautiful visions.