Remember when your mom told you to “Play nice?” Do that. Forget that it’s smart. Forget that it’s professional. It’s just classy.
The reason I bring this up is that I recently bought coffee for an Artistic Director who passed on my latest play (I mentioned this in my last post). I’ll take intelligent criticism wherever I can get it; she strikes me as someone who knows her way around a play, and she obviously had some negative thoughts about this one.
Unsurprisingly, she took me up on my offer for coffee/lunch/a-pitcher-of-martinis (she chose “coffee”). Surprisingly, she praised me for accepting my rejection so classily. This set off a bell in my head, and as we sat down to fancy beverages, she explained that she regularly receives nasty emails from rejected playwrights.
“Why would they do that?” I asked.
“What do they think they’ll gain?”
“Do they think a nasty email will somehow make you want to accept their play?”
She shrugged deeper.
“Don’t they realize you talk to every other Artistic Director in this town?”
She shrugged once again. She had no answer, and I don’t either.
Look, I understand rejection. I get it all the time. And, truth be told, I was particularly disappointed in this one, because I thought I had it shored up. It was a quirky idea that I don’t think anyone had ever done, and I wrote it well. When she said no, of course my first thought was that she didn’t “get it.” But a few days later, I started questioning my opinion of the play, which is something we should all be doing all the time. First rule of playwriting: try to suck less.
Art is, by its nature, subjective. You can write a brilliant play with a rock-solid plot and dialogue that makes angels weep, and an Artistic Director can still say no. Why? It might not fit their mission. It might be too much like a play they did last season. It might have too many characters. The Artistic Director’s cat might have died that morning. Or, she might not be able to hear those angels weeping that you hear so clearly.
And even if that’s not true—even if you are brilliant and you wrote a brilliant play and the Artistic Director is a complete imbecile—you don’t tell her that in a nasty email. You have absolutely nothing to gain by such an egotistical act. And everything to lose.
I’ll have a new play a year or two from now, and I’ll send it to her, and she could very well love it. If that should happen, I would much rather be the classy guy who bought her coffee than the ass who wrote a dickish email.