This is an entry about theater, elitism, and the great class divide, so if you came here to read about fake nails or forgotten New Wave bands, come back in a bit or read the archives. I know, I know... writing about theater is boring. My photo essay on Witchboard should be coming later today, or first thing tomorrow, so come back then.
The Boyfriend and I were walking to a friend's house in Williamsburg last night when we started talking about a certain theater "opportunity" I've applied to, but haven't heard back from. I apply to it every year, and although it's supposedly for emerging artists, it's really for already biggish names and anybody willing to suck a few dicks (figuratively speaking).
But I'm not bitter. I prefer the dick suckers to the rich kids. At least I can compete against them.
I've also been thinking a lot about this stuff in regards to the O' Neill and fake submission opportunities in general. Further, I've been toying with the idea of applying to graduate school. I'm not even sure I actually want to go to graduate school. It's just that sometimes it seems to me that one has to have an Ivy league MFA to be a working playwright.
I'm not against education, but I think it's a problem that theaters use the MFA programs like NBC uses the up fronts: as a preview of what's to come. The training programs are supposed to be training programs, aren't they? I'm okay with fancy pants Ivy Leaguers doing well too, but it would be nice if those Lit Managers and Artistic Directors were also going to see Off Off shows and researching scripts from out of town as well, wouldn't it? That way, some of us lower class writers would have a shot. At least then we'd have some different voices.
It seems to me that plays are always about rich white people, written by rich white people, to be performed exclusively for rich white people. I wonder how much of that is because of the MFA programs? Contrary to popular belief, these programs aren't exclusively merit based. Most of them are cost prohibitory for working class or middle class students. The free programs only take a couple of students a year, and what are the chances that a nobody from Kentucky is going to get in over somebody who went the best private schools, an Ivy undergrad, and whose parents' financial support enabled them to not work so they could complete impressive internships?
I guess it's probably just under dog-ism, and I'm not sure how much of it is real or imagined, but it's a miracle I've even gotten as far as I have. I sometimes feel as if I started crawling to New York as a baby. It's been a long and painful journey. Until I moved here with $150 in 2003, I'd never even met somebody who went to an Ivy league school or had a trust fund. My mother is a secretary and my father is in the Navy, for God's sake. I was the first person in my family to ever go to college, and it was by way of heavy loans, scholarships, and sheer ingenuity. In order to get through college, move to New York, and make self produce my first few plays I had to do things that would make your average Harvard freshman cry. Seriously, like, whoa.
I don't mean to sound all "poor me". I've come a long way and done a lot of awesome stuff. I'm also deceptively scrappy and tough (seriously, there were days when I would have pushed you in front of a train in exchange for a Big Mac), so I hate to seem whiny or weak. It' s just frustrating because I feel caught between two classes, and I struggle with anger when I see people who aren't necessarily any more talented than me getting opportunities I wanted because they have more pedigree.
So I was discussing this with The Boyfriend when I joked that i should just put "MFA, Yale" on resume. Without thinking, he said, "Why don't you?"
It's so obvious! I don't know why I hadn't thought of it before, especially since I have an obsession with the old fashioned Dandies: working class or middle class men who broke into high society by impersonating it and then, like Oscar Wilde, doing it better than them.
This is a lesson I've already learned a number of times. The last time I learned it I was 21 and had just moved to New York. I learned that if you could manage to look stylish and rich then the stylish and rich will let you in anywhere. You can easily accomplish this by shoplifting, maxing out credit cards, borrowing clothes from rich kids, and convincing horny old men to take you shopping. Why, to this day I still call restaurants as my imaginary assistant, Marco, when I want a hard-to-get reservation. You'd be surprised how much it helps.
In that spirit, I am adding the following to my resume. Let me know of any other cool things you think I should add. Also, it should be said that some of these aren't crazy elitist, but just things I would have liked to have accomplished, but haven't, so I'm just going to skip ahead and pretend I did:
The O' Neill
SoHo Writer/Director Lab
Ars Nova Playgroup
TARHEARTED READERS HAVE ADDED:
McCarthy Genius Award
I know there must be others.
Joshua Conkel of the Hansville, Washington Conkels
P.S. After I posted this I came up with an idea: why doesn't somebody in an MFA program post all of their assignements and readings on an anonymous blog so that everybody can get an MFA vicariously? VicariousMasters.blogspot.com. Come on.... make it happen!