10 March 2013

ETB's 10 minute play festival- Hugely disappointed

I was very excited to have my play selected as part of the 10 minute play festival at English Theater Berlin.  And I was excited to have the folks from Shakespeare im Park direct my edgy piece, as I knew they were diehard risk takers.  Truly, I was looking forward to seeing what they would do with "Fluffers," a play for two women.  I wrote the piece for two actresses with my mind on the fact that there are just not that many good roles for women in the theater.  I wanted to create a play about a serious and under-represented topic (sex work) in which the characters were not represented as victims and also were the actresses playing the roles got to have fun! 
On March 8th, I put on my striped tights, black dress, and favorite hat to attend the premiere of my 10-minute play at English Theater Berlin.  I was excited to see my work produced! 
I become a little concerned for my play when I looked at the program and realized that there where no women in the cast  .  The set up of the space was interesting, a hanging vacuum cleaner, currywurst being boiled or fried in the bathroom, huge buckets of ketchup and mayo, peanut shells covering some of the risers, I video projection of a repetitive image on one wall, and the directors, dressed as three choir boys, sitting above it all.  "Ok," I thought. "Keep an open mind."
And then it started.   The actors, three skilled physical performers dressed in latex Mexican wrestler costumes ate currywurst, lots of it, while the text of the winning plays was projected onto a screen and read by one of three choir boys in either a monotone or very quickly with no inflection or emotion.  Also, the use of a vocal distorter made it difficult to understand the language in the text.  At the end of every play, a vacuum cleaner hanging from the ceiling switched itself on and off. Then the next piece would start.  From an audience perspective, all five pieces looked exactly the same.  Though the directors assured me that the choreography for each piece was different, and that they did in fact, pay attention to individual story and try to synthesize the five pieces, it seems that the synthesis was so over-conceptualized that it erased the uniqueness of the individual pieces, and in fact, completely ignored the underlying themes of the 5 individual plays.
I appreciate experimentation and risk-taking, but I wrote a story, then asked my friends and colleagues to take the time to give me their feedback.  Then I rewrote it and asked them again.  I chose my words carefully, polished them, made sure I said what I wanted to say.  I put a lot of work into writing my platy!  Then I submitted it to a writing competition, for which the prize was getting to see my work produced onstage.  This was an opportunity to see if this play could actually stand on it's feet.  AND it was an opportunity for two female actors to have fun with some roles where the characters' identities did not revolve around their relationships with men. 
Unfortunately, even though I was one of the skilled playwrights to win the competition, I still have no idea how my play looks onstage or how the dialogue actually reads.  And nobody else does either.  Winning this contest will not offer me a leg up as an artist.  It will not offer any stepping stones in my career because no one will see my work.  And what is possibly the most painful part is, now that my work has one a 10-minute play competition and been "produced," there are not many other 10-minute play competitions I can submit "Fluffers" to, as the majority of these competitions only accept new, previously unproduced work.
I feel a little sad and a little screwed.  I feel like there is not even one part of my artistic vision or what I had to say politically that was heard or paid attention to by the directors.  Honestly, I'd like a do over, but I don't think I'm going to get one.


  1. Ugh. I'm sorry, you know I love experimental performance art but that sounds like a totally different project than a 10 min play fest. Re-write and a different name for further fests?

  2. That's what I would say. I performed my one-act in NY and then added more material to it, and I'm still submitting it to one-act festivals. I think you could probably turn it into a nice one-act if you wanted to. I encourage you to do this!

  3. I had a very similar experience once with a music composition that was performed by a quartet as part of a cpntest I won. It was humiliating - the piece was technically difficult, so they slowed the tempo down by almost 50% and played it more like a slow minimalist piece, completely destroying the hectic, whirlwind nature of the piece. Not even consulting me about it felt condescending, and not taking the time to do it at the right tempo felt disrespectful. I walked out - for me it was particularly painful because at the time I was really positioning myself AGAINST Philip Glass aesthetic and they turned my piece INTO a Philip Glass piece. It seems clear from your description that the people who put this on didn't respect the will of the submitters, they just dd their own thing with it, which to me screams EGO TRIP. Pretty annoying.