There has been some excellent discussion this week about elitism in the theater and whether the rise of the MFA helps to create a greater class disparity for playwrights and a theater for the wealthy. I won't rehash (much) what has been said here and here and here, but I'm going to agree with Scott Walters, who very clearly lays out how privilege works in the theater and how the MFA programs, agents and theater staffs are all complicit in an unjust system. Put simply: you can't have diversity without diversity in class as well. Also, and not to be cynical, it stands to reason that what's true of THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD is also true of the theater industry.
Anyway, I've come to respect Scott's work a lot. I think he's one of the fiercest advocates of the working class in the theater as I've come across, and it goes without saying that I like that. It's funny given that my introduction to his blog (and, really, to the theater blogs in general) was a post in which he republished a New York Times review of my play, The Chalk Boy, in which the critic basically said that I was tarhearted (not true) and that I hate small town America (half true*) and then went on to use my play as an example of Ruralism, a prejudice against rural people. My response is one of the first things that come up if you google me. So despite a rocky intoruction, I have a lot of respect for the man. (By the way, The Chalk Boy is getting published. You can buy your two billion copies right here. Look for MilkMilkLemonade coming soon!)
Like I said, I don't want to rehash what's already been said, but I do want to be honest about my feelings. Whether it exists or not (and an upcoming study seems to indicate that it does), I do percieve people with MFAs to have a lot of advantages that I don't have. And I want them. Seriously, gimme those!
The problem is that I absolutely do not want to go to graduate school. Even if I could go, which I can't, I just plain don't really want to. What can I say? I'm working class. I want to work. I want to make plays and just learn by doing. Isn't that valid? That's what playwrights did in the WHOLE HISTORY OF EARTH prior to the past twenty years or so, isn't it?
When MilkMilkLemonade was going on I was a nervous wreck, but over the moon as well. We were turning away audiences for lack of space, getting almost unanimous rave reviews, and garnering a lot of word of mouth, and I got two publishing opportunities while the run was still happening. I thought perhaps something might come from it, even the smallest opportunity. And, to be fair, a few small doors did open. A little downtown theater I love has asked me to submit, which is good. (Finally, an invitation to be considered!) And the play is being published, so there's that.
Still, every single big theater in Manhattan was invited (and actually, many of them came.) I know for a fact that a few people from said theaters happened to love the play a lot. Also, the play was covered and reviewed heavily by the mainstream media as well as on blogs. Lit Managers and Artsitic Directors have no excuse for not knowing about that play, and it does seem unfair that somebody who just graduated with an MFA would have a better shot at an opportunity than me after I've spent the last decade actually making theater.
Don't get me wrong, college is great! I'm all for education... but folks who go to trade school learn something too.
*I later regretted my response to Scott, because I kind of apologized for my play when in fact the review was sort of lame. Actually I do kind of hate small town America. I'm not crazy about the cities though either, and I think that my anger is justified and a legitimate place from which to create art. The Chalk Boy is a rad play. I stand by it.