Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Exception to the Ruhl?

I remember talking to a good friend of mine several years ago. He is somebody I consider to be on the cutting edge of technology and business.

I mentioned how Netflix seemed to be gaining in popularity, and that I had read that Blockbuster was now going to start offering a Netflix-like service. I mused that it looked like it would be a battle between the two companies.

My friend laughed and said, "Are you kidding me? The war is over." He turned out to be right, at least for the forseeable future. The war of Netflix and Blockbuster was over before it really even started.

I am in the employment business, and though I wasn't really there at the time, many veterans who were tell me similar stories about the emergence of companies like Monster.com. They talk about how, in the mid to late nineties, managers and owners of staffing firms laughed derisively at on-line job boards. "I have been in the business for twenty years, and I am telling you that nobody is going to want to post their resume on-line for the whole world to read. People just don't operate that way.".....Who's laughing now?

So, now we have this article in the LA Times, (hat tip Playgoer,) about playwrights writing for television. The list is long and notable, with some of our best playwrights now writing for Law and Order or CSI. They are not ashamed, nor should they be. But what I have taken away from the article is this: The War May Be Over. Maybe playwriting is not in any way shape or form an advisable direction for the talented writer who wants to operate as a professional.

I know that Paula Vogel will disagree; she championed the talented Sarah Ruhl, who was just awarded a Macarthur Genius Grant. ($500,000.00 over five years!) That's not small change at all. I want to be optimistic, but sometimes it is hard.

The cream is supposed to rise, but the LA Times article lists many of the playwrights we at a least call "professionals." If theatre's professionals can't make a living in their home something is wrong.

Update: There is an interesting discussion going on in the comments section of the Playgoer post about these issues.

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