Friday, May 27, 2011

Networking and the Theater

I'm the sort of writer who all he wants to do, deep down, is sit in a little cottage overlooking a quiet body of water and write all day. And then at the end of the day I spend the time with Sue and my kids and my dumb dog and listen to some music and have a nice dinner with a decent bottle of wine on the porch that overlooks the water.

Well, that ain't the way it goes.

What's I'm learning more than anything about the playwriting business is how much of it is a business. And how much I have to learn. There's TCG and Humana and the O'Neil Center and this fellowship and this conference and how it seems you have to know all this and be connected to all that. You just don't write a play and people recognize you for the genius you are and then they put it on and everyone loves it so much they come to the next play that you write. It may seem as if that's how it works, but that's only the outside looking in.

I've always been a writer, no doubt. But I've always been bad at networking. I've always been one of those people on the fringe, watching. Hell, I thought that's what writers did: They observed then wrote about the things they saw. And I always thought the social part was best left to the people whose time wasn't occupied with writing and art.

And I've never been good with groups, always much more comfortable one-on-one with people. 

And I know so much of this is colored by all that time--years!--spent in the corporate world, trying to fit in with people who I really didn't fit in with. I truly was the round peg trying to fit into the square hole (and square it was, so surprising for what you might expect from a software company, so mainstream, so conservative, so mind-numbing boring, filled with people whose value system was based on a house in the suburbs and not rocking the boat.) But that all came later. There were places and people who I look back open with a great amount of fondness. At one point I worked in a department where now I realize we really were all family.

But the world changed and business changed along with it, until finally I found myself in some sort of twisted Fellini/Tarantino/Disney world. Which brings me to networking.

I would have to go to conferences (all of them in Orlando because that was the sensibility of the president and owner of the company) and I would spend about a week trying to blend into the wallpaper because no one, and I mean no one, had a bit of interest in spending time with me. It was high school all over again, except I actually liked high school. I guess, yes, in retrospect, I lived out my high school days in my thirties, dealing with people who, as Lou Reed sings, were doing things I gave up years ago. I went from having friends and working with people who respected me and the work I did, to being a veritable outcast. I'm not even sure how it happened.

I remember one particular incident--an evening soiree, I guess you could call it--where I was with some co-workers, people who I shared an office with and with whom I worked with everyday, who actually ditched me. Ditched me. I can't believe I just typed those words and that I can truthfully say that something that embarrassing happened to me as an adult. And the next day we all acted like it didn't happened. No, what the hell happened to you guys? Where'd you go? I thought you were going to wait for me? None of that. Just an obvious signal that we don't like you. That was just one of so many times when I just swallowed my pride and said I have to do this. Yeah. I know. The question is why did I have to do it, and the answer was I could telecommute most days of days a week and it paid good money, which meant I could take care of my kids while my then wife could work on her career. The things we do for our loved ones.

The company would put us up in these hotels dotted throughout the theme parks, actually pretty nice rooms, and I would dread it, because I would have these nightmares that were ferocious. One I remember with such vividness that even today I wonder if it was a dream or if it actually happened: I dreamed that storm troopers burst into my room, broke the door down, and I clearly heard gunshots, and the sound of ejected cartridges hitting the walls and the floor and furniture, and the smell of gunpowder. What part of the recesses of my psyche that came from I don't know, but it's pretty telling that my soul was pretty damaged by about then.

So, now I'm learning and seeing how important it is to be connected in the theater world, but I think I still have vestiges of PTSD. I'm not kidding. The idea of doing all that schmoozing, I'll honestly say, scares me. You'll notice that when I go to plays alone, I bring a book, so I've got somewhere to dive if it gets too weird for me.

But here's the happy ending. It's never gotten too weird. I am finding that people are accepting and friendly and genuinely seem to like me. (Please leave your Sally Field jokes at the door.) I'm finding that people do accept me for who I am, and are interested in the work I'm trying to accomplish. I've known all along that theater people are some of the most accepting, open people you can find. That age doesn't mean a hill of beans to them (unless of course their age precludes them from getting a part) and that young people in the theater, for the most part, are willing to work with someone twice their age without a second thought.

It seems all my life I've wanted to make the world a better place. It's a concept I applied to my freelance business, and it worked. The business was successful and I was happy. I'm not sure where all this going or rereading this post where this rant came from. It's just the mind and the creative process at work. Just another stretch of the path I'm going down.

No comments:

Web Analytics