On June 23, close to 30 playwrights from across the state of Connecticut and from parts of Massachusetts gathered for a Meet ‘n’ Greet at The Way of the Labyrinth during its annual playwright retreat. The weather cooperated with a gorgeous early summer day, and the host, dramatist Judith Clinton who also runs The Way of the Labyrinth, supplied a live band for some fun ambient music. Of course, the food and drink were plentiful.
This Meet and Greet event was true to its name. What was most impressive about the dramatists who attended was how everyone upon arrival started mingling, meeting colleagues and talking about their work. There was a synergy in being together with others with similar interests. Some knew each other and traveled together; others were re-united with someone they hadn’t seen in a while, and a majority of people came interested to meet other playwrights. There was ample sharing of resources: playwriting groups, theaters accepting submissions, classes, workshops and upcoming productions. What happened was amazing because it was so organic.
Midway through the event, there were welcoming remarks. I had planned to follow that with a round-robin of everyone introducing themselves, along with a current project. It was clear that taking that step would have been redundant as everyone had already circulated and met the others in attendance!
Not only were the attendees from a broad geographic area; there were playwrights who were recent graduates just starting out, and some who have enjoyed long careers. The plays represented were just as diverse: from one-person shows, to devised work, to full-lengths.
The topic of ‘The Coping Issue’ got me thinking. What was special about this gathering was how open and present everyone was. My hunch is, this is a group of writers who might also have good coping skills.
When I think of coping in relation to being in the business of theater, I think about coping with financial matters, coping with wellness (mental and physical), coping with the crazy theater lifestyle, coping with creative struggles (including writer’s block and rejection), and even coping with success. Like an entrepreneur or small business owner, artists have to manage the various pieces of maintaining their existence and well-being. One may excel in some of these areas, but rarely does one excel in all of them. Typically, creative people are thought of as not being good with numbers or finances. But finances must be handled with or without crisis. Sometimes, coping means finding someone to hire to take care of the things we aren’t good at or that drain us. Sometimes, it means finding people who are supportive through hardships and successes.
I know, for myself, coping means having support systems in place. Supports includes friends and family, professional colleagues, and resources that are available to me. As part of the theater community, we are lucky to have amazing resources to help us through challenges in addition to resources that are part of our ‘hometown’. Personally, I have found the Actors Fund (www.actorsfund.org) to be an awesome resource. Note: right at the top of all their communications, it reads, “The Actors Fund, for everyone in entertainment.” When I was struggling with how to keep going in this crazy business and to feel that I was gaining some semblance of self-sufficiency, The Actors Work Program helped me figure out how to transfer the many valuable skills that I learned in the theater to well-paying work — work that I would find satisfying and that would enable me to continue working in my field. Twenty years later, I remain grateful for the conversations I had with my Actors Work Program counselor whenever I reflect on how I have managed to weave my passions and my skills into a life in the theater.
Coping keeps us going. Hopefully, it helps us get to a place where we are thriving, satisfied and successful—however you define success.