Things I wish I’d known when starting out: don’t second guess what ‘they’ want.

I’ve been giving workshops in the South West this week, enjoying the passion and engagement of the playwrights I’ve met and the vibrant communities they constitute. They’re confident dramatists, mature, informed and getting on with it: making their own companies, directing and producing each others’ work, collaborating and creating… It’s been inspiring and uplifting to see such activity and optimism in the face of cuts and redundancies I’m hearing about elsewhere in the UK.

So in the midst of this week of discussions and long conversations I’ve been reminded again of some of the things I wish I’d known when starting out

It seems regardless of how experienced you may be as a self-producer, when it comes to potentially  getting your foot in a building based theatre’s door, the questions are the same: What are they looking for? What kind of script may get me noticed? What do ‘they’ want? Or at least those were the queries some of my fellow writers asked me over the slightly warm wine, smiling like conspirators, lowering their voices.

For years I’ve seen emerging playwrights trying to second guess directors, producers and literary managers, or considering shaping their emerging work towards whatever is currently doing well. It’s an understandable impulse, but deadly. Never try to jump on a band wagon. Whatever is currently trending would have been seeded over eighteen months ago. By the time ‘your’ version amounts to something, it will be very much out of date.

And as to what ‘they’ want…? What every director and literary manager and producer is looking for is fresh work, made with energy and skill and passion, about subjects that matter to you, communicated in a way that has resonance to all. They want strong, developed, realised ‘voices’ with something to say. They don’t want mynah birds, or would-be mind readers. They want to be surprised, moved, excited. They want to hear what you think is important, in the form and aesthetic you want to use. So trust it. Trust your own voice and your own passions.

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