Production As Validation

Recently I made the observation that playwrights should not be using a production as validation because that is too discouraging. I would like to elaborate on this point. The reason production should not be considered validation is that it sets the bar too high. Plays will not get written if you insist that they should only exist for the sake of the stage. The theater community likes to disparage the worth of a play script as literature. They insist that a dramatic story is nothing if the play is not produced. The problem with this attitude is that it will discourage the playwright from ever writing the damn thing. The odds of a play being produced are very low. If you tell playwrights that the only value in writing a play is having it put on the stage and then tell them that the odds of that happening are extremely low, you will simply be actively discouraging from doing the writing.

The first responsibility of any artist is to bring something into being. The artist must create and that means taking something from his imagination and putting it out into the world as something actual like a story or a picture. The artist will never reach his potential if he never takes this first step. Therefore it is vital that we never discourage the initial process of bringing something into being. You are discouraging the artist when you give him an unreachable goal with impossible odds and make the situation seem hopeless.

The fact is that creating a dramatic story has some inherent value without the theater’s involvement. The dramatic story does not need the stage to exist. It can exist on the page. Many plays have been published and will be read without the reader ever seeing the play brought to life on the stage. If people don’t read plays then they are just denying themselves the pleasure of the full range of dramatic stories. You only have a few opportunities to actually see a play on the stage. For the playwright, the important thing is to bring the dramatic story into existence on the page and then put it out there through submissions. That is quite an accomplishment in itself.

I’m contemplating writing a play to dramatize this realization. Only it won’t be about a playwright and his play script. It will be about a screenwriter and his screenplay. Now the chances of a spec screenplay ever becoming a major motion picture are slim to none, and slim just left the building. But writing a screenplay may still have some value if you give it to people to read and you live in a small town where nobody expects anybody to accomplish anything. These people will admire anyone who dares to dream big and they can be excessively impressed by your ability to tell a dramatic story. The discrepancy between their absolute adoration for the screenplay and the actual level of achievement represented in writing a spec script can be exploited for comic effect.



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