Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Alum Emily Kaye Lazzaro: an experience of the first-ever Dramatists' Guild Conference

You guys! I got back on Sunday from the first annual Dramatists Guild Conference. It was really great! Well, it was mostly great. Turns out conferences as a whole are very weird things. Also, I’m really shy, so it took me the majority of the conference to come out of my shell and make some friends. But then I did make friends! So that was great. Great great great. Here’s the thing about playwrights: we’re all so crazy to even be pursuing this as a profession that whenever we meet another person who is also stupidly doing this it’s like finding a kindred spirit. It’s such a weird, niche thing to do. I saw that this was really true when I got home and had dinner with a bunch of (non-theatre) friends and tried to tell them that I talked to Doug Wright! And David Ives sat next to me at the bar! And Christopher Durang sat on the couch next to me to wait for his taxi! And nobody cared. My friends, I mean. Just because, if you didn’t see I Am My Own Wife then you don’t know how moving and thrilling and imaginative it was. And if you were never an actor then you were never in All In The Timing in school. And you might never have read anything by Durang. Because most people don’t read or see those plays. We’re making art for a very small (some would say elite) group of people. Uh oh! Sad face alert! This is the part of the recap where I tell you about the theme that kept popping up at the conference: theatre is hard and nobody likes it! Haha. No, it’s not hard. It’s fun. And lots of people like it. But the economics are all wrong. It’s too expensive and playwrights don’t get any money, ever.

There was much talk of The State of Theatre In America. Which, in case you don’t know, the state of theatre in America is this: bad. It’s bad. Fine. We know. To be fair, you couldn’t not address it. It must be addressed! That’s why Todd London’s keynote speech was so great. He went through the details of his study called Outrageous Fortune about how playwrights get the shit end of the stick in almost every way. Most of us already knew about this study, but it’s important to acknowledge it anyway. The great thing about it was that he ended by telling us all what steps are being taken to change the current state of theatre in America. Playwrights are getting more rights and higher prominence. He ended on a positive note. Which was great for me, because I came to the conference hoping to leave with a feeling of positivity about my life’s work. And I did!

Since these things can be overwhelming, it’s good to go in with some goals in mind. My goals were to meet some other playwrights, get inspired to write, get ideas about how to promote my work, and get a clearer understanding of the business end of playwriting. And I think the conference fulfilled my expectations completely. I didn’t go to every talk or reading or workshop or panel discussion. But I went to the ones that I thought looked the most awesome. And I would definitely say that all in all the conference was a great success. And if nothing else, going to a big conference center in the middle of nowhere (if you don’t have a car) with hundreds of like-minded people really makes you feel a part of a community of artists. And telling someone you met twenty minutes before that the worst part of the conference so far was that assy-tasting gas station wine you drank in your hotel room while watching HGTV and having them understand and relate to you is definitely worth the price of admission.

Check out a lot of the action on NEWPLAY TV's  DG Conference video library here.