Getting Help with a Hard-to-Place Play

I’ve posted before about trying to get a production of my play “How to Kill A Cactus.”

I’ve had such a hard time identifying theaters that might like “Cactus,” I finally decided to ask for help on a couple of the LinkedIn groups I belong to. I’ve gotten some good suggestions, and some people have asked to read the play, which is part of what I want to talk about in this post. But I also want to talk about why this play is hard to place.

I finally figured out why this play is hard to place

People have strong reactions to this play. Either they love it, or they hate it. Either they think it’s perfect as it is, and all it needs is that first production where you iron out all the kinks in the play; or they think it needs major changes, and I mean major.

Finally, a playwright friend of mine, Rebecca Tourino, read the play and figured out why people react so strongly. And why it’s hard to place.

It’s because people don’t know what kind of play it is

The play is hard to place because a lot of people don’t know what kind of play it is. The play is about a same-sex woman couple – but the play is not about the problems of being a same-sex woman couple. One of the women in the play is bisexual – but the point of the play is not about the struggles of bisexual person has in life. The couple argues about whether or not they’re going to have children after all – but the play is not “about” a couple working through the problem of whether or not to have children.

People who don’t like the play will ask, why do I have all those elements in the play, if they’re not the point? They say that if those things don’t “add” to the play, they shouldn’t be there.

A lot of people expect a normative situation

Basically, a lot of people expect that a play will be about heterosexual people in opposite-sex relationships. They don’t say it, but that’s what they expect. (They also expect it’ll be about white people, but they don’t say that, either.)

A lot of people see an opposite-sex, heterosexual, white couple as normative. So if the play involves a couple but differs from that in any way, the play has to be about that difference and the couple’s struggles with it. People may not realize that that’s what they expect, but it is.

They also expect a normative audience

Sometimes, people say I shouldn’t write “about lesbians,” or “for lesbians,” but that I should write “about people” and “for people.

Well, aside from the fact that lesbians are people (OMG really?), not every play is going to appeal to all people. A lot of people don’t realize this; they think there are plays that appeal to particular groups, and there are plays it appeal to everyone.

They expect plays to appeal to all people

I’ve heard a lot of people say that theater is universal. Yes, theater is universal. You go around the world, and you look back through time, and there’s always theater.

But particular plays speak to particular groups of people. If you see a production of “Our Town,” and a production of “A Raisin in the Sun,” the audience is different, right? A production of “A Raisin in the Sun” in the US has a lot more African-Americans in the audience than the production of “Our Town” does.

And what a lot of people don’t realize is, a production of “Our Town” has a lot more white people in the audience. That seems obvious, of course, but a lot of people don’t think about it that way. They think white plays appeal to everyone. In fact, they don’t think there’s any such thing as “white” plays.

Heterosexual white people in opposite-sex relationships are people, too

Of course white people, who are heterosexual, and in opposite-sex relationships, are people. But so are white LGBTQ people in same-sex relationships. So are mixed-race couples who are considering whether or not to have kids. So are African-Americans who move to a new place that seems strange to them. So are Asian-Americans who are trying to make a place feel like home. And on and on.

So what does this mean for my play?

So after all of this, what does it mean for my play? It means I need to find a theater that will accept a play about a woman who’s trying to make a home for herself in a strange new place – when that woman happens to be a lesbian, in a relationship with a woman who happens to be bisexual, and when they’re arguing about whether they’ll have children after all.

I need a theater who doesn’t expect the normative heterosexual white people in an opposite-sex relationship.

The thing is, how in the hell do I find theaters like that? There aren’t a lot of plays like mine.

I asked people on LinkedIn for help

I’ve asked a lot of people for ideas about where to submit this play, and finally I posted to a couple of groups on LinkedIn. I’ve gotten a couple of suggestions, and several people have asked to see the play. I’ll investigate those places, and sent the play to those people.

People on LinkedIn are great; they’ve been generous and helpful, and sometimes, a person just has to reach out!

I’ll let you know what happens.


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One Response to Getting Help with a Hard-to-Place Play

  1. Pingback: Oops (was Getting Help with a Hard-to-Place Play) | Playwright's Muse

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