Geez! I haven’t posted in three weeks. Eek! But to my credit, I was doing writing related activities. I just returned from the Last Frontier Theater Conference in Valdez, Alaska, where I presented my play Feedback.
If you’re a playwright and haven’t been to a writing conference, I highly recommend them because not only are they obviously a great way to meet your peers, but most importantly, they re-affirm your identity as a playwright. In my day job, that seems to get lost sometimes. It’s so easy to feel defined by your actual money-making job. So to have that flame of pride and inspiration re-ignited is a really good feeling.
If you’ve never been to a conference, they basically work like this: there are several days (sometimes up to two weeks!) of scheduled readings and lectures on the craft of playwriting. At some point during that time, you present either a full play or a chunk of a play you’re developing and you get feedback from a theater artist or artists that have been assigned to your play. And at night there are generally performances and events to socialize.
Last year I went to the Sewanee Writers Conference and the year before, the Southampton Playwriting Conference. Both were wonderful experiences, but for me, Last Frontier was the best. I felt most at home at this conference. I’m sure that there are a host of factors that played into that, notwithstanding the general friendly, welcoming nature of the people of Alaska.
I think one of the major contributing factors to the awesomeness of the Last Frontier Conference was the lack of hierarchy. Everyone was really friendly and welcoming, from accomplished, bigger names playwrights to volunteers. There was no sense of division between people. I felt I could approach my lead panelists with ease and comfort and not feel like I was intruding on their time. They genuinely wanted to help.
Having been to a theater conference every summer for the last three summers, the one thing I always forget is that you have to have a great deal of social stamina. About 75% of the relationship building at conferences comes from hanging out after readings and over a beer at night. I’m trying to work on building on social stamina but grandma gets tired after a long day of readings. I’m one of those people who loves socializing and meeting new people, but I get pooped after too much of it. And theater conferences are pretty much 24/7 socializing (or networking as some would like to put it, but the connotation of that word gives me metaphorical hives).
But, hands down, the Last Frontier Theater Conference was the best theater conference I’ve been to.