Six Ways to Know More Plays (without going broke)

One of my resolutions habit goals for this first quarter of 2018 is to get up close to more plays. The more you know, the more you know how, you know.  January is a long dark month for theatre people.  Only a few shows stand in the limelight this time of year. So when you can’t go to the theatre you bring the theatre to you.  My first week of 2018 had me reading seven play scripts, one of which was Lachlan Philpott’s Silent Disco, which may be the subject of another blog post some time because it is so damn good. There are literally thousands of plays I need to know better, and probably should know by now to be worth my salt, but don’t.

So what are your options with knowing more plays?

  1.  So obvious, go see theatre. As a writer for performance, this has to be on your dance card in capital shouty letters.  No brainer.  Should be easy, right?  It is and it isn’t.  Seeing theatre is (capital shouty letters) EXPENSIVE. A conservative estimate of an off-off-mainstage national average has to be about $40.  Many major metropolitan production houses are now asking for at least $68 for a go look see. Larger shows, especially those gobsmacking, budget-sucking musicals, ask for far more damage to your wallet than a unlucky night at the casino.  Crickey, even the local non-professional theatre in my small regional city asks $30 a pop.  Not that I’m complaining, because good theatre is costly to make. Still it’s a burden.  If you live in a regional area like me, then wow, crack on and put the cost of airfare and accommodation onto that ticket price. I’m bankrupt just thinking about it.What’s a struggling sensitive artist to do? You could check in to the theatre companies that run volunteer programs— often part of the deal is you to get to see the shows for free.  You could ask to see a dress rehearsal or preview.  You could apply for a grant to see a bundle of shows that as a struggling artist you would not normally be able to see— I’ve done this and, yes, it can happen for you too.   You could also check if the theatre company is doing creative development readings or pre-production readings. Often they run for free or for a nominal ticket fee. All of these options gets your bum on seats for a fraction of the full blown show tickets. Failing all attempts to wiggle butt into the cheap seats of your must see theatre shows, check out these alternatives…..
  2. Buy the published script. Published scripts are a strange departure from the idea of getting that live story experience that theatre offers, but hey, it’s way cheaper.  A play script is usually no more than $20, and most times it’s far less.  Plus actually reading a play helps you really study it as a writer, not just have it wash over you with all the bells and whistles of a 3D show.Cool, let’s all buy the scripts to shows we can’t afford to see. Good idea but many, many scripts are not available in print, especially new ones. Bookshops don’t tend to have large play sections. Libraries tend to also not have great shelves full of them, and few libraries have newly minted scripts. If you live outside a metropolitan area, look forward to much in the way of blank looks when you seek a play title from your local bookshop or library.
  3. Read script for free online.  Just go ahead and type the title of a play you want to read along with the three magic letters “pdf”. If the play is out of copyright, chances are it will appear as a readable online document in your search results. This works a treat for all those gnarly Greek tragedies you just know you should be reading and gleaning knowledge from. Works well for any classic play in fact from Aristophanes to Lorca. If it doesn’t appear in the search results then you know it’s probably still under copyright. Leave that alone and move to the next level in this play hunting game.
  4. Purchase it online. Amazon holds a good collection of scripts for performance. About $15 a pop with a quick download. Trust me, this adds up. And much of this is only available for plays by high profile writers. Then there’s Playlab for Queensland writers, or Australian Script Centre and Currency Press for Australian playwrights.
  5. Join an online script collection institution. Online organisations like Australian Script Centre or your State Resource Archive are vast treasure troves of scripts. For a minimal cost you can access huge wodges of script electronically or otherwise. For a single yearly membership fee you can try and then buy if that’s your fancy from literally thousands of scripts.
  6. Git yer theatre digitally.  There are a couple of online viewing options for scripts, if you really cannot do without seeing the words performed. One of my favourite sites is Digital Theatre, where a small but beautifully filmed collection of live performances can be viewed for a modest sum.

Sometimes all of the above fail. It’s a tragedy.  Recently a producer said to me, “I need you to write me a play like The Parisian Woman ….” So I set off to know this play so I could gather what the producer was talking about and thus begin writing my first freakin’ genius opus for 2018.

Dead stop.

The Parisian Woman, currently running on Broadway, is a big political hit. But I am not in New York and I do not have any current plans to nip across the big lake and take in the show.  My next point of call was to try to find a copy of the script online. The play does not appear to be currently available. And if it is sitting quietly in some bookshop, digital or otherwise, it will likely not be the updated 2017 version that has been blowing toupees off heads in New York City with Uma Thurman being the main buzz. It was an older play, 2013 in fact, but I doubt if that version will do as a fair study. But even that 2013 version is eludes me.

Not a shred of it exists online but for a couple of trailer teasers and a snippet on Youtube of a performance of the older version. The Parisian Woman must remain a mystery to this writer for the moment.

 

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