Friday, November 16, 2018

Launch day for The Secret of Spirit Lake

Today I’m launching my newest book, The Secret of Spirit Lake. This one is for middle-grade readers (grades 4-6, ages 8-14) but it also makes a great family read.  The Secret of Spirit Lake is available as a paperback that you can order from your local bookstore, from Barnes & Noble,  or from Amazon.  You can also read it as an ebook for Kindle or many other ebook options, including Nook and Kobo.
Here’s the summary:
Eleven-year-old Tyra is stuck spending the summer with her irascible Grandpa Rudy in a lakeside town where she’s the only black person. Clearly this is going to be the worst summer ever. And a weird one, too. Every night, Grandpa Rudy disappears into the woods, hauling tools and maps. He’s searching for something, and Tyra desperately wants to know what it is. The Secret of Spirit Lake is a fun summer adventure that explores buried treasure, adoption, and the power of family.
I wrote this book a long time ago, back when my own daughter was about the same age as Tyra, but this was one of those projects with a long, twisted development path. Now it’s finally out, with a cover by Jin Suk, who is an amazing artist and designer. I’m so excited to finally have a chance to share this story with readers. It deals with themes and subjects that are important to me and my family, but it’s also a really fun story.

I hope you’ll check it out and let me know what you think. I still have to figure out if I’ll have any book signings or a party, but for now this is it. Please help spread the word!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

More Tracking: Lifetime submission stats, as of March 31, 2018

In light of my previous post, I thought I should also show the chart of aggregated submissions, over the years. So this is all of my plays--full-length, one-acts, ten-minute plays, one-minute plays, radio plays.

Acceptances are not just productions, but also readings, prizes, fellowships, and finalist slots in major competitions.  This is complete scripts, not queries.

As you can see there are years where I submit a lot, and others (like 2000, where we had a baby and moved) where the numbers sag. The creation of the Binge in 2003 has kept me a bit steadier. 2012 was a dip year because I was farming. Not quite sure why 2013 was such a bad year for acceptances--I should go into the records and try to suss it out.

The overall acceptance rate is normally over 10%, which feels solid to me, but again, remember that short play acceptances really boost the numbers here (see previous post).

The non-response rate has stayed pretty high, in the mid 30% range, which is a constant source of frustration not just for me, but for many playwrights. I've come to just accept it.

For me, I find that this level of tracking helps me stay motivated--I try my hardest to submit more scripts each year than the last (often failing, but I like the challenge of it). And I keep a close eye on acceptance rates--if I see another dip, I need to make sure I'm not doing something wrong.

I hope other people will post their stats, too.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Useful things to track: Submission Rates for Individual Plays

On Facebook, among playwrights there can be a fair amount of discussion about play submissions and rejections. I've seen a couple people ask about acceptance rates, which I think is an excellent question. I've only recently updated my database to allow me to have better stats on individual scripts. I've been tracking annual submission stats for many years, but I'm glad that I finally took the time for the new reports.

Here's what I have for a bunch of my full-length plays. Most of these are fairly recent, though Reading the Mind of God is a much older play. I still send these out, though with varying frequency.

A few caveats before I talk a bit more about the results.  In this database, not all acceptances are productions. In this case, I'm counting publication, a workshop, a reading, or even a finalist slot in a major competition.

So a few things jump out:

  • The acceptance rate is within a pretty narrow range, 6-8% for 9 out of 11 plays.
  • The two outliers are plays that are naturally going to be harder to place, but I've also not sent out either script nearly as much as most of the others. Will their acceptance rights move towards the average, if I get them more submissions?  (Lost in Lexicon is a children's musical, without many options, it seems.)
  • For me, it would appear that I tend to reach some sort of upper limit of just over 100. Did I run out of opps for these plays?  Did I get distracted by the other plays?
  • The totals aren't as high as I thought they might be. I'm left feeling that I need to work a little harder for each of these full-length plays.
  • I have a "hold" option, for when a company has said they are considering a play, at length. I just went through the database and cleared out any holds that are clearly not going to pay off. That was a little walk through a map of past heartbreaks.
Now that I have this report, I think I'll be checking it a fair bit, because I know I need to get my full-length plays out there more. I'd love to see each of these get to 100 and beyond--because they don't get picked and produced if they're not going out . I'm not doing my job if I'm not looking for opps, or people aren't requesting to read my work.

At the same time, I'm involved with a whole bunch of commissioned projects right now, and those, and a few past ones, don't even show up on this list because they were pretty specific for those institutions. Working on those projects takes up a lot of my submission time right now, and that's not a bad thing. My hope is that all the projects together keep gaining some heat, and will lead to more serious reads of these other plays.

But we'll see.

Just for kicks, I started setting up the stats for my short plays and one-acts. It'll take a while to do them all, because there are a lot them.  But for now, here are these:

You can see that, as you'd expect, the acceptance rate for short plays is MUCH higher than for full-length plays. And the top performers can be pretty strong indeed. Though for this small sample, there's also a wider variance.

As with the full-lengths, this report should help me identify scripts that have fallen off my radar and need to go out more. Or else scripts that aren't as strong as I'd hoped. 

(Two of the stronger performers, Quack and Insomnia, are now published, but these are pre-publication stats. My experience has shown that pre-publication performance is not a good predictor of how well the play will do after it's published.)

Sunday, March 25, 2018

What Playwrights Need from National New Play Development Workshops

For playwrights struggling to develop their work and careers such that they are at least getting a small voice in the national theatrical conversation, there are a few ways to start to break through. For some, attending a prestigious MFA program might be the ticket. But not everyone has the financial resources, or family space, or time, to carve out 2-3 years for an MFA. Other might try working with local theaters who are LORT members, or companies who are part of NNPN.  But those are hard to approach without an agent (more and more so all the time). Or a writer could move to New York City and try to get into the scene there. But not everyone can make that work with their lives.

For many others, national playwriting conferences and workshops provide a potential opening for their plays to be noticed, and to work with artistic collaborators from outside their own communities. The list would include the O’Neill, Sundance, Great Plains, Last Frontier, Inge, Bay Area Playwrights, Seven Devils, PlayPenn, the Lark, Cape Cod, National Winter Playwrights Retreat, Ashland, New Harmony, and more. At a time when our art/business is engaged in a conversation about increasing diversity/inclusion, these opportunities have a low cost of entry (compared to MFA programs or moving to a new city), are for a limited time (so don’t require you to quit your job or uproot your family), and many offer blind submissions, so that (in theory) the identity of a writer is not a barrier to selection.

I (and many others) would argue that for our artform to remain vital, we need to encourage writers of color, women, and those who identify as LGBTQ. And also not limit our writer pool to people of financial means. We need to include writers who have children, or who might be caregivers for family members. We need these diverse voices, and our informal network of playwright’s workshops can help bring them in.


I’ve been to some amazing conferences, and they’ve changed my life. (Thanks, Seven Devils!) I’ve been a finalist and semifinalist in a bunch of others (which is exciting and heartbreaking). And I think there are ways that we might encourage these organizations to be even more effective.

These are suggestions—some are free to implement, some are not. I realize that every organization has its own reasons and methods, and no one asked me for my advice. But I’m a writer who has been through the process, who has been a stay-at-home parent, and who has tried to figure out how getting into one of these important opportunities could be possible given the restrictions of my life.

So here goes:

1.  Early notification.  Most programs operate in the summer. My summer books up months ahead, both with family stuff and with writing projects. Two weeks away is tricky if you have a steady job or have kids at home. Three weeks or four weeks takes a LOT of planning and asking for favors. Many places start notifying in mid-March for July, which can work. Notifications in April are much harder for writers. Every extra week of notice helps writers. Less lead-time favors people without families or people with more financial resources. Shifting submission deadlines earlier does not inconvenience writers—so if you need to shift the deadline 3 weeks earlier to give 3 more weeks of lead time, many writers would thank you, and you might change your pool of applicants/participants.

2. Minimally coordinate to avoid overlap.  In my ideal world, we would have a big convening (via HowlRound?) of all the organization leaders, and they would all look at their calendars and coordinate a little. Yes, the summer is only 12 weeks long, so some workshops will necessarily be simultaneous. But the ones that overlap by just a few days force really tough choices for writers who are multiply selected (I know, boo, hoo). This year, I was a finalist at BAPF but need to attend the Dramatists Guild NYC national conference, and they overlapped by 3 days (thus had to step out of the pool). The Guild conference might also overlap the O’Neill.  At the very least, the Guild and workshops could attempt to coordinate so that writers who are at these workshops—some of our best writers—can attend the conference.

3. Set the dates early. Some conferences have only a range of dates posted when the submission window is open. Writers tend to apply to as many of these opportunities as possible, but they’re making uninformed choices if they don’t know what the exact dates are. Some family situations and many jobs will require significant notice and planning in order to take multiple weeks off. If we want people without significant financial resources to participant, we need them to be able to plan.  There are conferences coming up this summer for which you still can't find the dates posted online right now.

4.Consider using a common app or common requirements. Many places ask for artist statements and  have specific formats for cast list, development history, bio, etc.  Which is fine. But they’re all slightly different. Shifting this same info from format to format takes a fair amount of time for writers. Spread out over thousands of writers, this seems like many thousands of wasted hours. This is an application cost, of time, that has a greater impact on people without means or who are caring for children/family members.

(these are going to start costing money)

5.  Feed writers. If you pay a stipend, but don’t make arrangements for food, guess where the stipends have to go. There are creative options—Seven Devils has arranged discounts with local restaurants, plus they set up a cooler of picnic food every day that the entire company can access. This helps save money for folks on tight budgets.

6. Pay for travel. Many of the larger opps pay for travel. Just about all of them provide housing. Airfare costs will keep out people who don’t have deep pockets, which, given how income/wealth is broken out across America, means a less diverse pool of applicants.

7.  Increase stipends, or start paying one.  A few places offer them now. Sometimes it’s hundreds of dollars, some are up to $1,000 or more. And as a playwright participant, I am always extremely grateful for every dollar. But if we want a diverse pool of participants, in every sense, then in an ideal world, I think we’d shoot for $500/week. That amount would help cover lost wages, help pay rent, or help offset childcare costs. When I was the stay-at-home dad for our two small kids, I applied to the O’Neill with a vague sense of dread—how would I be able to afford to pay for someone to watch the kids for a month? (Fortunately/Unfortunately, I never had to figure it out.)  Also, if you pay a stipend, please post how much it is on your web site. Writers with restrictive budgets need to make informed choices.

Please understand, I think all these organizations are doing amazing work, and they are providing an essential role in the theatrical ecosystem. And I also understand that every one of them is scrambling for dollars every year just to keep their programs open. So a logical response to many of these suggestions will be a collective eye roll and/or sigh of despair. And, like many writers, if chosen for any program, I am incredibly grateful for the chance to work on my play, and to interact with other artists in a creative, nurturing environment. But it’s important for writers to at least state our needs, if we have any hope of them being met.

Most importantly, enacting any of these steps will help widen an important entranceway for writers who have traditionally not had access to participation in the larger artistic conversation. We need those plays, we need those voices.

(My secret fantasy is for some big foundation to think about this, and decide, "well, let’s try an experiment, and try funding these tweaks across the board for two years." It would impact hundreds of writers. Would it help diversify and change the pipeline? It might. Which would in turn might have ripple effects across the theatrical landscape, for years to come.)

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Writing by the Numbers 2017

Table work on Drift at the Seven Devils Playwrights Conference
It's time for the annual summary of my writing stats. I love this time of assessment and goal setting. It's perfect for a numbers geek like me, and it's so important to take a step back and try to look at where I've been and where I'm going. And to take a deep breath.

2017 was an incredible year for me. I was as creatively engaged as I've ever been--I spent a lot of time in the rehearsal room, on many different projects. Blood on the Snow returned for a 12-week (sold out) run. Both/And, my play about quantum entanglement that was commissioned by Central Square Theatre, ran at the MIT Museum all summer. I developed my full-length, Drift, at the Seven Devils Playwrights Conference with an amazing group of artists/human beings. Then I won a Brother Thomas Fellowship from the Boston Foundation and was also appointed the next artist-in-residence at Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA. I started workshopping Mox Nox, a commissioned piece, with Brown Box Theatre Project.  And my full-length play, Blinders, was staged in South Korea. I've been trying to enjoy every minute, because years like this don't come along very often.

Blood on the Snow ran all summer!

Here are my writing/life stats for 2017:  (I'm publishing these a little early, because I'm heading to the National Winter Playwrights Retreat. I will update these stats in mid-January, when the final numbers are in and I have some time at my desk.)

Number of Productions/Readings:  48  (44 productions, 4 readings) 
(These were of 24 different plays, including 4 full-length scripts. )

Number of Performances:  227.  (This includes published plays. I shattered my old record of 151 set in 2015, thanks to Blood on the Snow running for 60 performances.)

Estimated Audience for 2017:  13,092 total. (up a lot from 2016, and a new record for me. This is more viewers than a typical Boston fringe theatre might see in a season, which is an interesting way to to look at it.)

For published plays I estimate low--40 people/performance. The rest of the total audience comes from books sales, plays published in anthologies, etc. I don't track plays used by students in competition. So the actual number is probably much higher.

Books sold:  40+   Books sales continue to be dismal, despite a new cover for Tornado Siren, and book events in VA, MA, and DC for Steering to Freedom.

Blinders ran in South Korea in October


Total:   181   (down from 186 last year)
queries for plays:  36
play scripts submitted:  145   (Last year I sent  142)
no queries or book submissions. I did make a handful of screenplay submissions.

I'd hoped to get to 170 scripts out, but didn't have the time. I'm so grateful for the Binge List for helping me have a couple months where I'm super focused on submissions.  Also, since 2013, I've been working on at least 1 commissioned piece every season, and now it's 2 or 3 at a time. That takes up time and also alleviates some of the pressure to get super high submission numbers. In 2018, I will be working on 3 commissioned projects at once, spread out over the year, and I hope to pick up one more (with a little luck). Getting these projects is more about relationship-building than submitting scripts, and the development/production process for these tends to have me highly involved (which is how I like it).

Big audiences at the MIT Museum to see
the opening of Both/And

Hours spent on writing :  1,338 hours   (last year was 1,223)
  • actual writing and research:  371 hours (my goal was 400.  I had 416 last year.)
  • reading for work (not fun):  23 hours  
  • rehearsals and writing meetings:  468 hours  (includes teaching. last year was 438)
  • marketing and admin:  347  hours  (last year was 274)
  • New England New Play Alliance and Dramatists Guild:  129  hours  (last year was 67. This year I edited and published the New England New Play Anthology, and I am now the New England Regional Rep for the Dramatists Guild.  )
As with last year, I spent a lot of time working with my hands, on major house renovations--I re-sided and painted half of my house, and also gutted a bathroom. Altogether, I spent about 680 hours on house renovations. (Last year I spent 873 hours on the house.)
Finally finished the exterior!

This gives a total work hours of 2,018 hours for 2017.  (I worked 2,096 hours in 2016.)

One new stat I tracked this year is the amount of time getting to and from meetings and rehearsals. I spent 175 hours getting back and forth to those 468 hours of rehearsals and meetings. (Not a great ratio.) One of the perils of working from home and being self-employed is that it's often easy to say "Sure, I can meet with you." This is an example of how tracking can help shift practice--before I started tracking this number, I'd meet people just about anywhere. But once I saw how many hours commuting was consuming, I made a concerted effort to shift meetings closer to home.

The other time stat that doesn't show up in my overall work stats is play attendance. For me, going to see plays is part of my job. This year, I saw 59 plays, which is about an additional 120 hours of work time not showing up in my totals.  If I were to add commuting and play attendance, my overall work hours grow by almost 300 hours.

As a freelancer, tracking work hours is important--it helps make sure that I'm putting in enough time. But also that I'm not going too crazy--2,000 hours is about the equivalent of a full-time job. I don't make much money, and I also have a family. Plus, I'm a writer--I need to actually live some life, and not just work all the time. Finding some sort of balance is important.

Here's how my time was spent in past years:
2016:  2,096 total hours. 1,223 writing hours (416 writing/28 reading/438 rehearsing/274 marketing-admin/67 New Play Alliance)+873 on house renovations.

2015: 1,596 total hours.  1,035 writing hours (262 writing/52 reading/295 rehearsing/303 marketing-admin/123 New Play Alliance) + 561 on moving and house renovations

2014:  1,556 total hours. 1,426 writing hours (452 writing/109 reading/342 rehearsing/396 marketing/127 New Play Alliance) + 130 hours farming.

 2013:  1,898 total hours.  996 writing hours (394 writing/308 rehearsing/294 marketing)  + 902 hours farming

2012:  1,630 total hours.  896 writing  hours.  (386 writing/278 rehearsing and meeting/231 marketing)   + 734 hours farming

2011: 818 writing hours.  (I didn't break out rehearsals from desk writing time in 2011). My kids were a lot younger back then.

I'd say the hours this year seem about right (I tend to under-report a little). As with last year, the house renovations were a major time sink. Lots of rehearsal and workshop hours also cut into writing time. When I'm spending so much time developing existing plays, it's hard to get to the desk for new stuff. I'd definitely like to bring my writing hours above 400 next year, and cut home renovation time closer to 300 hours. My Mt. Auburn residency will involve a LOT of research time, both reading and time on the ground, which will be fun.
I put in a lot of carpentry hours in 2017.
Writing output:
1 new full-length play (Mox Nox)
A couple new short plays.
Lots of rewrites of a bunch of plays.

Plays watched:  59   (saw 45 in 2016)
Movies/TV series watched:  45   (39 in 2016)
Plays read: 29     (25 in 2016)
Books read:  15  (17 in 2016)

There was just a big poll on Facebook looking at how many full-length plays people have written, and how many of them have been produced. I've written about 21 so far, with 15 of them produced or about to be produced. But my pace isn't super fast--as I progress in my career, I'm becoming involved in projects that have long development processes, or take a fair bit of research. If I generate 1 or 2 new full-length works in a given year, that's plenty. I'd love to be in a place where the world is pushing me to write more, faster, but I'm still struggling to find homes for my spec scripts.

I got to see a lot of plays this year, which was great. Really need to push to read more plays in 2017. I'd love to read 1/week, but I've never come close to that goal.

Gross Income:  $31,343    
published plays:  $940
play production royalties:  $3,623   (for unpublished work)
film projects:  $5,000  (hired to write a script last year--this was the final payment)
play commissions:  $2,750
teaching: $2,158   (I did some consulting/coaching.)
my novels:  $332
Prizes/fellowships: $16,000    ($1,000 from MCC, $15,000 from Brother Thomas/Boston Foundation) 
misc. (essays, panels, editing, other): $0

Expenses:  about $9,715  
I'm spending some of my Brother Thomas Fellowship money on starting a new theatre company (more to come about this) and on a new web site and travel to my productions. Some of this spending has already begun.

Net Income:  $21,628   

I didn't think 2017 had a chance to beat 2016 for income (unless the Steering to Freedom film option got picked up, which it didn't), but then I was awarded the Brother Thomas Fellowship. I'd love to keep gross income over $25K for the next two years. The Mt. Auburn residency is $10K/year for the next two years, so that gives me a solid baseline. Not sure where the rest of the money will come from. I need to find a way to keep the momentum going.

As a playwright who has struggled to make any money for a long, long time, it feels great to finally have two strong years in a row. But I'm fully aware that I've been writing for almost 30 years, and I'm only now at a point where I could possibly support myself (and just me, at a very, very bare bones level) through my writing. My career would have to take a major positive shift to be at a point where I could support my family. But at least I'm able to contribute financially right now, and that's a good thing.

past years:
2016:  Gross Income:  $25,857  Expenses: $11,472  net:  $14,385
2015:  Gross income: $8,662  Expenses: $4,979  net:  $3,682
2014:  Gross income:  $7,974  Expenses $5,580  net:  $2,494
2013:  Gross income:   $7,767  Expenses:  5,758  net:  $2,029
2012:  Gross Income:  $3,844  Expenses:  $2,808  net:  $1,063
2011:  Gross Income:   $2,638   Expenses:  $4,665  net:  $-2,027
The Brother Thomas Fellowship was a huge boost
 to my 2017 income.

Those are my writing numbers. I'm very pleased with how 2017 turned out, writing-wise (though the outside world often feels like it's a giant dumpster fire). I expect 2018 to have many fewer performances and less audience, because I won't have Blood on the Snow and Both/And running all summer long. But I do expect it to be creatively satisfying--I currently have readings and development lined up for the following full-length plays: Mox NoxDriftChore MonkeysNone but the Best, plus the Mt. Auburn project. That will take up a lot of brain space and keep me involved with a bunch of very fun collaborators. I can't wait.

I hope this post is helpful. I find that writers tend to be very secretive about their finances and other numbers, which I understand. We don't want to brag, or we don't want to look like we're giant failures. And we don't actually have a good idea of how other folks are doing, so we don't even know whether our own numbers are relatively positive or negative. This post at least offers the numbers of one playwright (who also writes novels and screenplays), and as you can see, I've had slow years and good years.  I think it's important to keep sharing, so that as writers we can operate from an informed position to set realistic goals and negotiate stronger deals for our work.

Please let me know if you keep track of numbers like this.  If you post about it anywhere, let me know, and I'll post a link below.

These are some friends who have summed up their years:

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

On Beginnings: Trust and Patience

A few weeks ago, I learned that I will be the next artist-in-residence at Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA. It's a two-year gig, that pays quite well ($10K/year) as these things go. My task is to explore this historic and beautiful place, where 98,000 people are buried with their stories, and create and produce new, site-specific theatrical work to be staged at Mt. Auburn.

I'm the third artist-in-residence, being preceded by filmmaker/multi-media artist Roberto Mighty and composer Mary Bichner. In doing preliminary research for the project, I've had a chance to explore some of the work they created at and for Mt. Auburn--Roberto Mighty's project Earth.Sky  and Mary Bichner's Spring & Autumn Suites. Talk about setting a high bar.  Sublimely beautiful work that meshes so well with the atmosphere and landscape of the site.

Beginning a project like this is an interesting exercise, because it requires both great eagerness and great patience.  An eagerness to dive in and explore is required, but it's just as important to have the patience to hold back on committing to any one structure or story or set of characters. I don’t know what I’m going to find, and I don’t want to go in with too many preconceived notions right now. I need to read and listen and watch, and let the place and the stories of the place wash over me.

Equally important is trust, both in my experience and whatever talent I have. I have to trust that what I find interesting enough to explore and express will find a form that is useful and suitable and beautiful, not just for myself but also for the audience.  If I start thinking too early about how to make it good, or what will the audience think, I’ll crash the car. Sure, I want whatever I make to be excellent and impressive, and better than anything I’ve ever done before. But thinking about that too early in the process introduces the judge and editor to the seedling of an idea, and they will surely stunt it.

I’m getting a sense of the scope of what I’ve taken on, and it’s scary and awesome. And feels more like an honor to have been selected than ever. Doing my best means approaching the project mindfully and with energy and commitment. The rest will follow.

I think both patience and trust are possible only because I've been gaining experience with commissions and site specific work over the past few years. My work with the Bostonian Society on Blood on the Snow, and with the MIT Museum on Both/And were both situations where the initial approach wasn't necessarily obvious, and both required a lot of research on my own, as well as research that was guided by experts. At Mt. Auburn, their staff can help guide me in my explorations and I certainly won't be shy about asking questions.

So if you're looking for me over the next six months or more, you might want to look at Mt. Auburn Cemetery--I'll be wandering and looking and reading and listening and thinking. Which feels like a pretty great job.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Things I Didn't Expect When I Was Starting Out: You Can't Remember Everything

When you’re a new playwright, the struggle is all very much in the here and now. How do I write this play right now? Where do I send it right now? How can I manage this development process and production as it’s happening. Which is all very important.

What was impossible for me to see when I was just beginning is that all of this activity and writing and thinking adds up over time. I couldn't really comprehend that it would take me thousands of submissions, of dozens and dozens of different plays, to start to build a career that has any sort of momentum.  Though even now, I view any momentum with great suspicion, knowing that the doldrums, a full blown dry spell, might be right around the corner.

It also didn’t occur to me that my resume would eventually fill up the page, and as the years moved forward, I would have to leave stuff off. Productions that I loved, with great pride, would slowly drift off the list of my most recent work. Because I wasn’t in academia, I wasn’t initially in the habit of keeping a running list, a vita, of everything I had done. And why would I? It’s all so fresh.
Except that it turns out that it’s hard to remember every production and every cast member, or exact opening date over 20 years, 30 years.  (My first play, The Elevator, was produced 30 years ago, in 1987, by the Pendragon Theatre, in Saranac Lake, New York. But I'd have to dig deep to find the date.)

So a bit of unsolicited advice. Keep a running file on your computer, a vita, if you will, of every project you do, every award, every reading. You will rarely be asked for it, unless you’re applying for academic positions. But when your list of productions moves from a handful to hundreds, its going to be hard to remember the specifics. Though I’ve kept an extensive Microsoft Access database of where I’ve submitted my work over the past many years, with all kinds of fun reports and stats available, I have realized that I need to expand that database now, to keep track of specific details, all in one place, of all the productions and readings I’ve had. So I’m going to need to dig through the emails and my big file cabinets, and start a new section.

I actually have a massive Excel spreadsheet that keeps track of numbers of productions and money and attendance each yet, but it doesn't track names, or casts, or opening dates. And the whole thing is unwieldy.

Things you might want to track on your spreadsheet or database:
  • Name of play
  • Theatre Company Name
  • Venue (not always the same)
  • Dates: opening and closing.
  • Number of performances.
  • How much you got paid.
  • Attendance.
  • Director name and contact info.
  • Producer name.
  • Cast.
  • Stage Manager.
  • Designers.
  • Website/links to photos and reviews.

It’s going to take a lot of digging. Which will be fun, but also a lot of work. I’m grateful for each and every one of those productions, and for all the friends I’ve made along the way, and the audiences, and the inspirational collaborators. Now I just need to gather all those names and dates into one place.
You could do this in an Excel Spreadsheet. I like the Access Database, because I can hook up my productions with submissions info, and generate interesting reports and data. Because I'm a number geek.

Which you might already do.  But just in case you don’t, it’s never too early to start.