Not long ago I submitted a play to a development program that was offering playwrights an in-depth development opportunity. I won’t name names, because I know and have worked with several of the people who run the program, but the rather annoying way in which I learned that my play hadn’t been selected has prompted me to share a few thoughts.
Before I continue, however, I feel as if I have to offer a few platitudes. Namely: I know this is a tough business, and I’m quite accustomed to the attendant disappointment. I try to learn from the rejections I receive—which, I should add, are frequently very positive—and also to avoid taking them too personally, because it’s very rarely an assessment of the quality of my work; there are just too many good scripts for too few opportunities. So none of this is sour grapes.
Having said that, here’s how I learned that my play hadn’t been selected: one of the other playwrights I was competing against, a friend of mine, announced his good news on Facebook. I heard, in other words, through a status update.
In another instance, I learned that a play I’d written hadn’t been selected for a similar development program by seeing, again on Facebook, that the development organization was promoting the four plays it did select… and in this case, the people running the program are friends of mine: people I’ve collaborated with before. They had told me at intermittent times during their evaluation process that they were still considering my work—not according to their announced schedule, which they completely missed, but when we happened to be chatting… on Facebook.
This, needless to say, isn’t good enough.
The process of submitting work should be, I believe, formal: a playwright shares a play, it gets considered the same way all the submissions are considered, and then that playwright is notified about the results. Notification, too, should be formal: first the winner(s) are contacted, but they’re asked to keep the good news quiet; then the losers are notified, in whatever way is appropriate; then the theater makes a public announcement; then the selected playwrights can crow all they like.
Social media, however, invites a less formal variety of communication… but it’s just not appropriate. I caution the theaters who are engaging in social networks—which they should all be doing—to do so with respect. We’ll all be happier for it.