It occurs to me that you, as a theater-person-type, the type of person that reads blogs like mine, read all sorts of heartfelt words of encouragement about how to ignore your wallet, ignore the oncoming Singularity which will merge our brains with the brains of Apple Computers so we all become a big synthetic mass experience hub-bubble, ignore your parents, ignore, ignore, ignore. You are told to think about your art, and your muse, and the pleasure of staring blankly at a screen that is definitely not staring back at you. You are told to find the solace in solitude, to pronounce your desire to write for the stage a higher calling, to think of yourself as both a community servant and rare individual voice. You are told to think beyond and above the market, to love the smell of ink and typewriters, to buy books at places that are squalid and dusty, to believe in the power of what's LIVE about the stage.
But what if you think that is all hogwash? What if you suspect that you could do a lot of things and all this moralizing just is starting to make you sick? What if you want to quit already, and do something else, or just do nothing and fuck anyone else who thinks that's a bad way to live? Here's how.
1. Just don't tell anyone. Honestly, people like me are complete pricks about people deciding to quit the theater. It casts a poor reflection on us. So leave us out of it. Don't say "That's it, I've had it!" and write a manifesto about it. It will cause impoverished bohemians and trust fund babies alike to all judge you the same way: as someone who doesn't really care like they do. Who cares? If they want to carry on being lunatics, that's their problem.
2. Get a really nice TV. Seriously, these days, TVs are like totally goddamned amazing. Get rid of that one you've had since college and go nuts. You'll see the folly of a life in the theater at last.
3. Be really good at your job. Could you be really good at your job? I mean, the one that pays you? Is it really that hard to be good at it? Honestly. Try it.
4. Go see a play and silently imagine you don't have to bother doing that sort of thing. What a terrific pain in the ass it is to do that sort of thing. Just move on. You could be playing golf. Have you considered that? Lots of people play golf. People your age.
5. Write a list of your favorite books, albums, movies and plays. Compare those lists. Depressing? Not if you quit. If you quit, you can just stop trying to come up with a list of favorite plays.
6. David Mamet is totally a weird conservative now. He calls NPR "National Palestinian Radio." How did that happen? Do you want to wind up crazy like that? Get out while you can. If someone asks you why you don't want to do it anymore, show them that thing he wrote in the Village Voice.
7. Read Outrageous Fortune. Which basically could be renamed "Honestly, Don't Bother." The system is rigged. They don't want you. They think there are too many plays. They think your career is just adding to their problems.
8. Think about the Coffee Shop Job. At that job at a coffee shop you had, did you actually make more people happy and make more money than you have in your entire life as a playwright? Think about that. Why did you quit that job?
9. Turn in your Badge. You know that badge you got when you graduated from college that you have to show at all the secret artist meetings? The one that you keep in your wallet? You have to mail that in.
10. Get over it. You're not a playwright because you 'love theatre.' You're a playwright because you either were looking for a place to get a date in high school or you have been expressing a childhood trauma publicly for too long. Listen: you're a grown up now. You're dating material. You might even be married. You no longer live with your parents. Whatever awful thing that made you this way is in the past. Writing plays never fixed it anyway. Try ice cream and a couple of cats.
I hope that helped. Be free.
- Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.