Theatre Horror Stories

Theatre Horror Story: Locked Out of My Own Reading

This is a new part of the blog, different from the playwright profiles and Monologue Monday. These are stories highlighting current problems in American theatre.

This story comes from a playwright I know. They belong to the Dramatists Guild and are good at what they do.   

The Story

In 2016, I pitched a script to a local theatre hoping for just a workshop. The AD [artistic director] said he loved it and suggested three public staged readings, with Q+A. As time went by, three readings were reduced to two, then to one. I was assigned a director and the first rehearsal was scheduled on a Sunday morning one week before the reading date. I arrived at the theatre to find it locked, and a voice mail telling me 3 of the 6 actors were unavailable, but we’d pick up again Tuesday or Wednesday. The week went by and I heard nothing.

[What world did this AD grow up in where it is okay to just cancel a reading and not even tell the playwright????] 

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Artwork by Maiyal. Follow her on Twitter or her website

I wrote a complaint to the AD which went unanswered. So what if we cancel your reading without notifying you? Eventually I spoke to one of the theatre owners who was sympathetic to me, and he said I was supposed to have received a letter from another of the owners (never happened), and an email from the director (never received).

[Looks like the owners and AD went to the same school of unprofessionalism]

A couple of years later I decided to try to mend fences, even though I was the victim. Sometime later the theatre put out a call for directors to pitch projects for their next mainstage season, and I pitched one of my full-length plays. Got an email from the AD saying the theatre was not doing original plays for its mainstage season (which was not specified in the call). Some months later the theater announced its mainstage season, which included an original full-length play – by the AD.

[What’s the saying? Burn me once shame on you, burn me twice, shame on me? Nah, burn me twice, shame on this dishonest evil little theatre hurting playwrights]

Abuse and unprofessionalism in the theatre should stop. We’re supposed to be on the same team, but that seems to be the exception, rather than the rule.

Hopefully, I can keep making these posts until American theatre becomes a safer working environment. I’ll probably be 1,500 years old by then. 

I want to thank our anonymous playwright who bravely came to me with this story. 

If anyone has a story to share, please reach out to me. You will always be anonymous.

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The Playwright Revolution starts here (with an emoticon from here)