Do I Need a Star?

Do I Need a Star?

The Need for Stars?

 

“Be so good they can’t ignore you.” – Steve Martin

Writing a play and then staying the course to see it produced is a daunting task. It requires tremendous focus and 100% dedication to each step in the developmental process.

Once you think your play “works,” the next step is to have a staged reading to introduce it to the public, either in NYC or elsewhere. A reading is the step before a workshop or a production.

So if a staged reading is the step before a workshop or production, what is our goal for the staged reading? Getting people to see the reading. And not just ANY people – specifically, people who could help us get to that next step, a production or a workshop. (We also want to get smart, experienced people to the reading for them to give us feedback as well, but for the purpose of this blog post let’s stay with the people who can help us move the play forward.)

Who are these people? How can I get them into my reading?

 

It’s All About Relationships

 

Since everything in this business is about relationships, you should be developing relationships and networking like crazy as soon as you realize that you want to be a playwright. Specifically, you want to cultivate relationships with Artistic Directors, directors, producers, and generally, almost anyone in the industry.

Sooner or later you realize that everyone in the theater lives or dies by their network of friends and friends-of-friends. And it’s helpful to be friends with or in close association with someone who knows or has access to a “star.”

 

Getting a “Star” Interested in Your Play

 

I can hear the plaintive cry from many of you: “I don’t have access to a star, and don’t know anyone who does!”

Sigh. That’s where most of us start, but if you’re in this industry for any length of time and make an effort to network, you’ll inevitably meet someone (or hire someone) who knows someone to make a connection for you. And if your work is good enough (and your price is right), you’ll probably be able to hire someone that’s worked on Broadway before to be in your reading. Often it’s not as expensive as you think.

For a quick answer, you can contact your intended celebrity by signing up for the IMDbPro, which is what most people use. You can also try contactanycelebrity.com.

BUT the real answer is that quality work shows up very early, in the writing and in the score (if we’re talking about musicals). Sometimes I start to read a script and quickly become riveted to the story. When it’s this good, I smile and say to myself that “the magic is starting to happen.”

Losing yourself in a theatrical world established by a talented writer is a completely magical experience. The “magic” is found on the page long before it makes its way to the stage, and if you’ve read a few hundred scripts or so like many of us have, you know it doesn’t happen all that often.

“Star” actors see the “magic” when they read your script; the same with “star” directors, music directors, and yes, theaters and producers. The cream always rises to the top. Eventually.

Unfortunately it usually takes its damn sweet time getting there.

 

I Don’t Have a Star – Yet

 

Notice the operative word here – YET.

In order to find that “star” you think you need to attract the theaters and producers that you think you need to help move your script forward – the most important thing you need to remember is that the first star of your show is …. your script.

Let me say it again.

Your writing should be so good that your SCRIPT is your very first “star.”

So, while you continue to network and develop each of your plays, remember it’s the constant fine-tuning to your scripts that is the real work.

No amount of networking or self-producing expensive staged readings can substitute for the nitty-gritty down-and-dirty daily work of meeting with yourself every day to sit down and write.

  •  In order to make your writing the true star it needs to be, remember to acknowledge the daily discipline to write (or re-write) every day.
  • Remember to recognize the need for real craft in your work, and
  • Understand the need to constantly keep learning.

You must be a constant student of life and of the craft of writing to master the craft of writing.

 

As Steve Martin quipped, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”
Make Submissions Easy

Make Submissions Easy

‘Tis the (Submission) Season

 

Ah, the coolness of the air, the crisp sound of the leaves rustling underfoot. It’s the time of non-profit galas galore and Christmas party networking.

For playwrights and librettists, it’s also the season of submissions.

I’m sorry to say that some of the major submission opportunities have already passed (the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, the Richard Rodgers Award, the Jonathan Larson Grant, and Sundance Theatre Lab, for instance). If you didn’t apply this year, there’s always next year.

However, there is still time for some other major festivals, like NYMF (which has extended their deadline to November 18).

 

Why Submit to Theaters and Festivals?

 

If you want to get your production on its feet and onstage, there’s no better way to begin the process than by participating in an established theater company or festival’s lineup, if you’re ready for it.

What do I mean by ready?

  • Your script has had at least one table reading and seems to “work”
  • You have had a few theater professionals advise you to move forward with the piece
  • You’re through with the re-writes, and it’s time for your script to live and breathe onstage in order to learn more about it.

I believe we’re living in an Age of the Playwright, something akin to the ancient Greek Fifth Century era, where the power of the theater and its storytelling was at its peak. Never before has there been so many writers and storytelling for production (which includes film, tv, and internet storytelling in addition to live theater). Our society is primed to consume storytelling via visual dramatic action, much more so than in previous eras when vital storytelling was shared primarily through words: through oral tradition or through text (novels, newspapers, poems and radio theater).

I call this the Age of the Playwright instead of the “Age of the Director,” since the ideas come from the playwright’s vision. A director interprets the theme and makes it come alive on stage, but the original vision, intention and form – the raison d’etre of a piece – remains embedded within the meaning endowed unto it by its creator, the writer.

And unfortunately more and more, the costs associated with birthing it to life come from the writer as well.

Enter the non-profit theaters and festivals. Drum roll, please.

 

Creative Playmaking in the 21st Century

 

I’m certainly not saying anything new, but the cost of putting your precious show onstage can be daunting. This is the world that I live in too, as a producer and mentor for many writers.

How do we create opportunities to put stories on stage in the 21st century? How can we produce our work, or help others to produce our work, without needing to take out a second mortgage on our home or risking money that we really shouldn’t risk?

The secret is two-fold of course:

  1. Through constant pitching for OPM (Other People’s Money) and
  2. By consistently submitting your work to as many opportunities as you can.

In a field where it seems as if “they” hold all the power, this is a wakeup call to remind you that YOU hold all the power.

  • This is your “baby,” your creation, and no one will foster it and promote it better than you
  • You hold all the cards, because at some point it is really a “numbers game” and entirely within your power to pitch or not to pitch, to submit or not to submit.

Let me say it again: “they” don’t hold all of the power; YOU hold all of the power.

You create your own opportunities.

 

Pitching and Submitting: Make It Easy

 

There are differences, and you must do both.

By “pitching” yourself and/or your work, usually in person, you are demonstrating that you are a professional artist that believes in yourself and in your work. “Submitting” is the process where you submit your work to a person, theater or festival, and then wait to see if you are selected through their process.

Every artist should have their two minute “elevator pitch” down pat, ready to go at a moment’s notice when fate puts an opportunity smack dab in your face. How many times have you felt yourself unprepared for that moment when the universe put someone in your path who could help you professionally,? Get your elevator pitch ready now.

That’s why I now insist that I constantly have a memorized elevator pitch for the shows I’m currently working on ready to “present” when an opportunity shows itself. You can follow up by email with people you meet in person with “pitching” materials prepared ahead of time, that give information about your show, reviews, a sizzle reel, etc.

Pitching should happen in person and over email if you know someone personally. A “cold” pitch is less effective, unless introduced by a common acquaintance. I try to always remember to follow up with prepared material after meeting someone and speaking about one of my shows. I keep their business card in my pocket or in plain sight as a reminder, so I don’t forget.

That may be a good goal for you in 2020.

 

People Are Interested in You!

 

People are interested in hearing about you and your work. They may also be willing to help you produce it or connect you to others who can, because either the work sounds compelling or, more often, they just really like YOU and want to help you succeed.

It’s up to you to sound articulate and represent yourself and your work really well by being prepared beforehand.

While pitching usually happens in person, submissions are done in the privacy of your own home or office. They rely on your organization of material and the productive use of your time. You MUST set aside a regular time each week to submit. Make it part of your weekly routine to submit to at least 4-5 opportunities a week on a regular basis.

 

You Hold All the Power

 

Writers who make a routine of setting aside a regular time each week to submit create more opportunities for themselves than writers who submit in a haphazard “I’ll get to it when I get to it” manner. Ditto those writers who have their pitches memorized and follow up afterward with pitching materials.

It’s all part of being a professional playwright in the 21st century.

 

It’s my job as a dramaturg and producer to inspire you and to help you in every way I can. I’m constantly trying to think of new ways to do this.

Recently I’ve been sitting down with writers to help them figure out ways to send out submissions more easily and quickly, making it “no big deal” to submit their work. If you make it part of your routine and have the needed documents at your fingertips, it actually becomes no big deal.

And that’s how you create opportunities that come to you.

 

Upcoming Submission Deadlines

 

I always advise my writers to join the Dramatists Guild and Play Submissions Helper to keep up with their submitting goals. I also am now reminding writers of upcoming deadlines in my weekly member newsletters. It helps to have the prodding come from a few different places!

Here are some of the upcoming deadlines for approaching deadlines for November that may be of interest to you:

The Eric H. Weinberger Award for Emerging Librettists at Amas Mustical Theatre

  • Deadline Nov. 29

The Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival

  • Deadline Nov. 30

Lost Nation Theater (see their Artistic Vision)

  • Deadline Nov. 30

Waterman’s Playwrights Retreats (Female Identifying Playwrights only)

  • Deadline 11/30

 

If I can help you dramaturgically with your script, help you achieve your submission goals, or if you would like a production consultation with next steps for your project, email me at cate@catecam.com   I’d love to speak with you.

 

Create More Time

Create More Time

How are you doing so far on your 2019 goals?

Some people regard discipline as a chore. To me, it is a kind of order that sets me free to fly.” – Julie Andrews

January set me back. There’s nothing like life happening to you to keep you humble.

Between the excitement, confusion and work adapting to life with two new puppies (adorable as they are, it is work), teaching two intersession Winter classes at Stony Brook and becoming very ill with the virus du jour that’s going around – well, let’s just say that at the end of January I am very far behind on my January goals.

It’s a good thing I plan my goals out quarterly, or I would be completely discouraged.

Are you anything like me? Are you already so far behind on your 2019 goals that you want to just hit the reset button?

 

Handling Overwhelm

 

There are a couple of things that help me to refocus when I’m about to just throw in the towel and give up.

  1. I plan my goals for the year quarterly, not monthly. This allows life to happen to me and keeps me from over-planning the year out in advance. Fewer goals keep the overwhelm in check, and still allows me to feel successful.
  2. I’ve been meditating consistently since the end of 2016. I can’t tell you how much healing and self-discovery it has brought me. When life threatens to overwhelm me, I am able now to step back and recognize that this is a step on the journey and to relax.
  3. My MasterMind group, my entrepreneur Master Class group and my accountability partners keep me on track. I’m able to be honest about my overwhelm with people who have been there and can offer real support and solutions.
  4. Committing to build this community online keeps me honest. I can’t give up, because this is the gritty journey we’ve committed to as artists and entrepreneurs. It comes as part of the package, and I’m right there in the thick of it just like everyone else.

 

Time Discipline

 

If I look back at my goals over the last few years the most consistent goal has been “Time Management.” Since I list the same goal year after year, it’s pretty evident that I still haven’t mastered it yet.

As I begin 2019 as a full time entrepreneur-artist, I am solely responsible for how I spend my time. Yikes.

Last week I met the incredible super-productive guru Ari Meisel of Less Doing, who totally inspired me and revealed more productivity solutions than I could keep up with. Some of his  suggestions I’m going to implement immediately, such as using Trello as my CRM and making more use of productivity apps such as IFTT and Zapier, but really, I learned that my time management and productivity problems come down to the need to manage my own mindset.

 

The Need for Routine

 

I read somewhere that every successful writer creates time to write. They don’t just sit down and write when inspiration hits, they create a routine every morning or evening to write for a specific amount of time whether they feel inspired or not.

It’s this creation of a routine that I’m finding priceless.

We’re all creature of habit. I’m now creating a habit that works for me instead of against me. Each morning I get my Starbucks coffee and sit to meditate (my Calm app tracks my sessions for me) because that’s just my habit. A painless and easy “check” to start my day off right. In her outstanding book The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp also recounts the necessity of routine, saying, “By making the start of the sequence automatic, [artists] replace doubt and fear with comfort and routine.” For Tharp, her routine jumpstarts her creativity.

It’s not just humans who need this structure and routine. As I research how to raise and house train these puppies, the experts always stress the need to create a daily schedule. Their day should have a consistent flow of eating, going outside and playing to help their little systems adapt to our schedule. A structure frees them and us to coexist more peacefully, something I’m appreciating very much indeed!

Wolves are disciplined not only when they hunt but also when they travel, when they play, and when they eat. Nature doesn’t view discipline as a negative thing. Discipline is DNA. Discipline is survival.” 
― Cesar Millan, Cesar’s Way: The Natural, Everyday Guide to Understanding and Correcting Common Dog Problems

In creating that routine to housebreak them, I’m reminded of my own need to discipline my time and activities. It’s not just for the puppies!

 

Finding a Routine is a Process

So now for 2019, my new schedule flows like this:

  • 6:30 Wake up, get everyone out the door (including walking puppies)
  • 7:00 Feed puppies, household chores
  • 8:00 Morning meditation with coffee
  • 9:00 Writing
  • 12:00 Exercise
  • 1:00  Focused Work
  • Somewhere between 5-6 I’ll break for dinner
  • After dinner I allow myself some freedom 🙂

How do you feel about this? Do you find that having a disciplined time to write helps keep you on track?

I’d love to hear your thoughts! We’re all in this together. 

Share it with us here in the comments as we support each other on this journey.

Are you interested in joining a community that has your back, holds you accountable to you goals and inspires you on the way?

Email me at cate@catecammarata.com to find out more.

It’s a New Year, So Let Go

It’s a New Year, So Let Go

What do you need to leave behind this year?

 

As 2018 draws towards its close, like most of us, I’m doing some reflection on the past year.

For many years – almost a decade in fact – I’ve spent the last week of the year as a personal retreat space to heal, to review the past lessons the year has taught me and to make a plan to forge ahead into a new life – a new year, bright and shiny with promise.

Do you do this too?

I’ve found that there’s something about the quiet and darkness of the winter, and the ceasing of normal activity between Christmas and New Year’s, that’s truly sacred. I lick my wounds, rejoice over my successes, and get in touch with my authentic self to make a plan to continue the journey I was meant to live.

There’s always been something about the prospect of a clean slate and a fresh start that has inspired me. But one thing that’s emerged time and time again within the promise of the New Year is the need to leave the past year behind and to let go.

Letting go of what didn’t work, what wasn’t meant to be, of what we can’t change.

  • Letting go of regret.
  • Letting go of loss.
  • Letting go of the fear.
  • Letting go of so many things, but mainly letting go of the person you don’t want to be any more.

Because it’s only when we let go that we open ourselves up to all that’s still to come.

It’s only when we let go that we allow ourselves to move forward instead of backward.

It’s only when we let go of what isn’t working in our lives that we can actually remember who we are and what we came for.

 

So Enough

 

Enough of the past. Enough of what didn’t work. Enough of all the trying, the endless second-guessing, the crawling, the begging, the pleasing, the endless beating ourselves up, lamenting what we could have had if only we had done or said something different.

Enough.

When we hang on to what was, we miss out on what is. We miss who we truly are and what we truly want out of life. We miss why we are here on this planet and the reason for our beautiful creativity and talent, our huge hearts and our innate love of life.

Personally, 2019 celebrates the ten year search for meaning for me.

New Year’s Day 2009 found me totally lost, unhappy, overweight, diminished and truthfully in despair. What had happened to that beautiful young theater artist with so much passion and so many plans? What happened to the gifts I knew I had? I knew that I had allowed myself to die inside.

I had a family I loved more than anything, that consumed me completely. We had a beautiful big home on the North Shore of Long Island. I was teaching theater, writing a bit, working at a professional theater company doing marketing and sales. I toiled on day after day, always so super busy taking care of everyone and everything around me – that I forgot I had a being and a spirit, and my life meant something, too.

My life counted for something! It had to! But what? I knew I had to find out and do things differently, or I would continue to die inside, living for everyone else and taking care of everyone else but me.

At the beginning of 2009 I had a reckoning with myself. A journey that was literally “do or die.”

I made a choice to live. I made a choice to discover why I was here, and what I was meant to do.

I needed to cast off the life that was killing me, no matter how “perfect” it looked on the outside.

So…. I prayed, I consumed self-help books voraciously, and I remembered the vivacious little girl that I had been. The young theater artist who received so much encouragement years ago from mentors and professors, who had so much passion and ideas for creating the life she knew she wanted.

And…. I jumped.

My Aha Moment

 

I thought of that little girl from Cincinnati a few weeks ago as I was at a star-studded opening night party for a big Broadway show. Truly, it was the most glamorous event that I’ve ever been to – I even had my makeup done before the show! And I had the most wonderful time, feeling comfortable in my own skin, knowing so many others in the room, and I looked around the room and realized – this is where I belong.

I did it. I did it for that little girl. I kept my promises to her.

How did I do it?

By letting go of what didn’t work. By making a commitment to love and cherish myself just as much as I did the others around me. By honoring my dreams and intuition and strong impulses.

I did it by using the knowledge of how to create theater magic onstage to tranform my own real life off stage.

But I first had to let go of almost everything in my life that wasn’t working.

A lot wasn’t working.

 

What do you need to let go of? Let it go here and now. 

 

Step into the authentic you this year. Make the magic happen in your own life.

I am launching another MasterMind group this year, to help other magnificent creators move their projects and their life forward. I am also launching a beta group for high performers looking to transform their real lives from the inside out, just as I did mine.

Email me at cate@createtheater.com if you’re interested in changing things up for yourself this year.

Looking back at 2018, what do you need to let go of once and for all? Share it with us here in the comments as we support each other on this journey of letting go.