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Playwrights for Hire: What to Do When Your Writing Won't Sell

Gianfranco expores the many career options available to writers.

I'm here to prove that there is life beyond not achieving instant success. (stock image courtesy of Microsoft Office Images)

"What's your fallback?"

"Do you have a safety net?"

"What are you going to do if (fill in compromising situation)?"

How many times have I heard these questions? Better yet, how many times have you heard these questions? Actors and actresses, directors and stage managers, set designers and costume designers - we've all gotten these inquires at least once during our never-ending road to success.

They are big questions to answer, because frankly, we don't want to consider the prospect of failure. The truth of the matter, however, is that it is always a possibility.

I'm not here to fuel the questions I've listed above. What I am here to do is to prove that there is life beyond not achieving instant success. This week in particular, I will be talking to all you playwrights out there who've ever asked, "What happens when I can't make it as a playwright?"

My answer: Sit down, grab a cold lemonade on this hot day, and read the list I've comprised of careers any playwright can go on to.

This list falls in no particular order, and by naming said careers below, I am not implying that these jobs are easier or harder than being a playwright… Got it? Good. Now read on!

1) Dramaturg

A cherished position in many theater companies, a dramaturg can be both a busy and heavy position, yet at the same time, a very rewarding one. Their responsibilities are numerous depending on the company: research and development of new work, historical and cultural research of existing work, development of a company's current season, assistance to playwrights, composers, and directors during rehearsal, and even becoming a spokesperson and historian for past playwrights. The process of becoming a dramaturg can be very selective due to the immense volume of work.

2) Book Author and Screenwriter

Consider this: Maybe your writing is good, but the market you're selling to is not your niche. It's great to keep a focus on what type of writing you most prefer; however, streamlining yourself will keep you from exploring other forms of writing. Leaving the dialogue-heavy compositions behind you for a while, explore new worlds. An advantage of writing a book or screenplay is that it will allow a writer to focus heavily on details, whereas on stage, every detail will blend to become the big picture. In a book, an author can describe every corner of a room from the oak tree outside the window to the ant crawling across the wooden floors. In a script, a screenwriter may attempt to control the camera to focus in on the branches and leaves of the oak tree and then pan down to the ant as it scurries into a crack in the wall. Though markets for both books and scripts are flooded at the moment, through deviation you may discover something new about the way you write.

3) Teacher

Maybe what first attracted you to writing was grammar. For example, maybe the syntax of Shakespeare's grammar perked your ears every time you heard it. Perhaps the vocabulary Shakespeare spoke in to convey symbolism, theme, and plot vexed you so that you continued on to dissect every piece of literature that crossed your path. Whenever your friends had a question about what Hamlet was trying to say, you were translating line by line like a human sparknotes. And last but certainly not least, the admiration you held for your English teachers could never be challenged by the likes of your science and math teachers. If any or all of these sounded like they were you at some point in your schooling (or maybe they still fit you!), what would be better than looking into education?

The list of potential careers continues: literary manager/agent, editor, publisher, critic (because everyone's a critic) etc. It's endless!

However, the best piece of advice I could ever give to a fellow playwright is this: Believe in what you love. Continue in what you love. And keep writing.

Until next week!


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