Be Nice to Your Playwright

I am so pleased to be finding more and more arts related blogs out there and the most recent I have come across is just great.

Joshua James’ Daily Dojo is a working, living playwright’s view of what a working, living playwright has to go through in that line of work these days.

I started reading his November 8 entry where he discusses his frustration (quite entertainingly) with the way directors/actors/etc feel scripts are just a starting point to do their own thing.

Come to find out, this long entry is just the latest entry in his “Talkin’ Smack About Theatre” series. Two other entries (Hey, What’s That Guy Doing In a Dress and Hey, What’s That Guy…Part Deux) give actors, directors and others advice about how to get the most out of working with a living playwright (and how to work with other people in general.)

The other entries in the series are a rant on how so much Broadway is a cover of someone else’s work (ie adaptation, revival, etc). I haven’t had a chance to read the cover entries yet, but the “Guy In A Dress” entries, while long are a lot of fun to read.

The titles come from Joshua’s experience showing up at a theatre to find a character in a dress because he is “making bold acting choices.” He does a great job exploring the friction behind the necessity of remaining true to the playwrights intent and choices and the urge artistic people have to explore the opportunities the material presents beyond the limits the playwright set.

He acknowledges that some of that exploration can be illuminating for the author too–provided he is consulted and included at all. He also shares a number of anecdotes where the playwright’s name shouldn’t even be used in association with the work because the changes blatantly run counter to what he/she was trying to achieve.

Again, he presents it all in an entertaining manner –writing dialogue and presenting courtroom testimony accompanied by parenthetical sidebars of advice– all the while making his argument/plea for empathy/compassion/cooperation/consultation with playwrights.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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