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October 26, 2007


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Callie Kimball

You're right. The media, our government, news outlets, everything is structured to frighten us, fragment us, and render us immobile, numb, ADD, and imbecilic, unable to organize anything more complex than a sock drawer.

Institutions will do whatever they can to justify their existence and squeeze out competition. It’s not a conspiracy, it’s human nature. Greed. Maintaining the status quo.

Technology has created an exponential increase in the amount of choices available to us in the last 10-15 years. I mean, I don’t have credit cards that earn points, I don’t have an iPod, I don’t have cable TV, I don’t play video games, I don't shop, I don't have a camera phone, and I don’t pay my bills online. Why? Because each of these things represents a potential time-suck in my mind, and I have deliberately chosen to spend my time writing and going to theatre. It's my way of keeping the effects of Balkanization at arms’ length, though it renders me a bit of a Luddite. (Although a friend confessed today he doesn’t know how to text message so that made me feel loads better.)

(Sidebar: I feel like I'm talking around the edge of this and can't find a clear path in.)

This week, prompted by your blog post, I started thinking harder about all this and ended up quite hopeful. See, I think it’s just a matter of years before we figure out now to navigate this BNW of information and use it well. And quite simply, until WE can manage IT instead of vice-versa, we will continue to willingly self-medicate with it. And governments and institutions will continue to be pleased and unthreatened.

The eternal conflict is between the Individual and Society. The cost of being an individual has pretty much always meant being rejected by the group.

And that actually gives me hope. Hope that we’ll someday figure out how to get past this existential sense of informed futility. Why? Because it’s our damn job as artists to see everything more clearly and show the way.

Joshua James

To be honest, I quite frankly, didn't buy Gary's letter.

Nor do I buy the people he described as "excited to open and read a new play" . . . it sounds like a good soundbite, but it doesn't jibe with the reality I've observed and experienced.

And it didn't address the circles of development hell plays are going through.

That's not to say one or two of those gentlemen (and they were all men, if I recall) weren't truthful or honest. I do. Just not all of them.

For if ALL of those men, in their positions of power, were truly as dedicated to discovering new voices in theatre, we wouldn't be having the malaise or difficulty we have now.

I know it sounds cynical, but as I mentioned previously, this is where I am now . . . it's simply based on what I've observed.


Joshua pinpoints what felt PRish, to me: Those ADs aren't the gatekeepers to their literary offices. In fact, they pay good money to have rings of readers and managers to keep the flood of scripts in check, and to keep developing scripts under a system of control that does not surprise managers, funders or trustees.

If they wanted to change the system, and actually had the power to do so, it would be changed. Too much is at stake -- the loss of support they fear -- to let it change, yet.


I know Gary Garrison quite well, from my days at NYU's Dramatic Writing Program, and it's no surprise that he would want to be as diplomatic as possible in his response to the NDP purgatory. Gary's a nice fellow, and it's understandable that he would want to save other playwrights from eating themselves up with resentment. However, just because one is at peace with the process, doesn't make the process any more helpful or necessary. Though I know most of the people in the NDP world are talented and well-intentioned individuals, the fact remains that the activity they are engaged in is dictated by economics, not by the obvious need for a self-perpetuating system of endless readings/workshops.
If every theater in the country had all the money it could possibly want, and never had to take begging bowl in hand before the government and private foundations, how many staged readings and workshop productions would continue to be done? Very few, if any at all, I imagine. Plays that were accepted by theaters would be automatically be put in the schedule for full production. Now, maybe it's pointless to bring that up, since the funding situation in this country is bleak and only getting more dire, and theaters will never have the great big bundle of cash inside a safe in their administrative offices that would free them to fully produce every play they were interested in. However, we should all take a clear-eyed look at the situation, and not fool ourselves into thinking that we are all participating in this system simply because the plays need it.

Joshua James

I don't think the readings / development thingie is done to develop new plays . . . I think it's done for two reasons -

One: Justify grant money for developing new work.

Two: Molify writers who aren't getting productions.

Neither have anything to do with actually producing new work.


Oops. I meant "NPD", of course, for "new play development," not "NDP", which stands for nothing that I know of.


Oops, part 2.
I said "THE obvious need for a self-perpetuating system of endless readings/workshops" when I meant to say "AN obvious need..." meaning that, of course, I myself think there is no real need for these procedures.

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