Be Wary of Playwriting Trends
Trends are unavoidable. Whether it’s clothing, music, or playwriting, there will always be trends. Things that are more popular at any given time, and things that are less popular. And as a playwright, you need to be aware of these trends.
Now keep in mind I said BE AWARE of them. I didn’t say FOLLOW them. At least…not necessarily.
If you find yourself writing about a timely topic, and you’re really passionate about it, then I say go for it. Write the play. But if you’re writing about a trendy topic simply because you think the subject matter will make your play more popular and easier to produce–well, that’s one play I would advise NOT writing.
Because here’s the thing about trends: they always come and go. What’s popular today might not be popular in a year or two. And remember, getting a play produced is not a quick process! First you have to write the thing. Then, it will typically go through some development. You’ll work with actors and continue to improve the script. Once it’s finally picked up for production, it will be added to a theater’s schedule for next year.
Now think about how much time that will all take. From initial concept to curtains up, it could easily take several years before your play gets produced. And in that time, the trendy subject you wrote about might be an old fad. No longer popular.
You should also keep in mind just how close you’re going to be to this play. How many hours you’re going to spend working on it, reworking it. Thinking about it. Revising it. Rehearsing it. Trust me, you don’t want to have to spend all that time working on a play that you’re not really passionate about. You’ll start to get tired of it. Bored of it.
So what should you do instead? It might sound simple. It might sound cliched. But it’s still true, and it’s still the best policy: Write what you’re passionate about. Write what you love. Write what gets you excited, what speaks to your heart, what stirs your emotions. Because THAT is a play that you’ll be willing to work on for years.
THAT is a play you’ll never get bored of.
And chances are, THAT is a play with a deep enough message that it will never become outdated.
So don’t feel bad if your play doesn’t make references to the current political system or the latest social media app. Just write what’s in your heart, and trust that it will touch other hearts, too. And as always, when you’re finished, make sure to send that play out to theaters that are looking for new work.