Most artists I think would agree that one thing that is needed in our industry is submission reform. It would be nice if we could wave a magic wand and have the industry agree to certain core principles. That would be hard to do... for example, in an ideal world, it'd be great to get rid of all submission fees. It's-- on principle anyway-- totally lame to generate revenue from the people your organization is supposedly serving. At the same time, like with college admissions (which aren't free either) wading through a large number of submission is an expensive proposition and the money to do it has to come from somewhere.
Anyway, a friend sent me this recent blog post from Rolando Teco, who is pretty damn steamed at the O'Neill:
What I would personally love to know more about is the Tammany style deals that Rolando discusses here. As both a director focused on new works and someone curious about how the industry really works, I'd love to know about this in more detail.
It is an open secret in the theatre world that of the dozen or so slots available each Summer to new plays at the O'Neill, all but 2 or 3 are pre-determined in backroom deal-making worthy of Tammany Hall. As if this weren't bad enough, the O'Neill is one of the few playwriting competitions that still asks its "submitters" to fork over a hefty $35 fee for the privilege of landing in the slush pile. So given this context, it is hard to believe that the team that works there had the nerve to put this language in their latest appeal sent out to playwrights all over the world via email:
The O’Neill’s Open Submission process is unique in the field of developing works for the stage, requiring neither agent submission nor previous experience. This commitment to a truly democratic process has led to great discoveries of new artists and works, now iconic in American theater.
To me, open submissions are in many cases the theater industry's version of the MET's "Free Admission" policy. The Metropolitan Museum of Art gets quite a bit of funding based on the idea that it is free and open to all. So they post a "suggested donation" of $20.00, and have some really strongly worded boilerplate about "hard economic times" at the cashier's desk. It's "free" more than it's free, in other words. At the same time, a lot of Open Submission places have "open" submissions as opposed to actual open submissions (something I wrote about here).