Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Invisible Playwright


Life isn’t fair when it comes to the arts.

I recently attended a special showing of the winners for this year’s Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts Awards. There were paintings, photographs and artistic pieces in the Fine Arts building on the fair grounds. The building was crowded with on-lookers perusing, examining and comment-ing on the winners there. A common consensus seemed to be that the judges this year had certain preferences in mind when they selected the winners. Some would say dark, dreary, and somber. Much of the work resembled an overcast day in Minnesota. So what has changed? Actually nothing.

Name any artistic venture be it writing, film, music, drama, painting and so forth; the results are always the same. Someone else judges the work and pronounces it good, bad or in need of more revision.



A publisher does that to the aspiring writer. So does an editor whose judgement is supposedly more clearly focused than that of the writer himself. It’s understood that if you want to be published, you have to play by their rules.

The studio does that to the film maker as do the financiers behind the film project when they put pressure on the studios themselves. A producer or director does that to screen writer. A theatrical producer does that to the playwright. Once they have the story in their hands, it becomes their baby.

A record label or musical producer does that to a singer or a band under the assumption that the ‘man’ knows better what is going to sell and climb up the charts.  Galleries do that to artists.

Managers and agents guide, cajole, push, threaten and otherwise pass judgement on the careers of their clients.

Employers do that to their employees. Unions to their members. Guilds to their member artists.


Seldom does the artist have total control over his or her work. There always seems to be some kind of compromise, conditions to be met or adjustments to be made. Welcome to their ‘real world.’ The solution, if any, might be compromise, capitulation or withdrawal. In the end, there is only one person to decide that, the artist himself.


The artist, in the generic sense, must be true to himself. The art has to be their vision and therefore they get to decide if they want to go to the next stage of distribution. For many it becomes a question of compromising their own vision with that of someone else if they want broader exposure.

Each and every avenue of art is a tough nut to crack. It has to be driven by a self-imposed desire for fulfillment in one form or another. Just finishing an artistic venture is enough for many. Going beyond that initial stage is a challenge for most. Compromise is the Claritin call for all…if they’re willing to accept it.



Playwrights can take on the role of producer to ensure that their vision of the entire ‘theatrical experience’ meets expectations. Authors can take charge of their own marketing and connecting with their audience. Musicians can choose their own venues and movie-makers must find their own financing and go the independent route.

It’s all a question of how passionate one feels about their art. How far they willing to go to push their vision? Deciding what is their own personal bottom line to get their ’baby’ out into the world?

Ultimately like a mother with child, the creator has the greatest satisfaction. For in the wondrous world of creating lies the greatest pleasure and satisfaction. Anything beyond that is a faint smile hinting at the joy found within. Those on the inside of that world ‘get it’; outsiders can only look at those smiles and wonder what it all means.