Meg's Reviews > Outrageous Fortune: The Life and Times of the New American Play

Outrageous Fortune by Todd London
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Jan 17, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: nonfiction, drama
Read in February, 2010

Four stars for the research and the execution, not so much for stars for "really liked it." Actually mostly reading this book was "really depressing," but you know what? Guys, okay. Sometimes it's just really important to take a good look at reality, particularly reality as portrayed through pie charts and anonymous quotes. Because the fact is that theater is full of a lot of backseat drivers, like we're all convinced we know exactly what's wrong and how many times have you sat around with your theater friends, drinking and shaking your little fists about WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE INDUSTRY? But of course you were all just rolling on anecdotal evidence and, like, the most recent eBlast you received? So if nothing else, Outrageous Fortune gives us actual evidence and actual discussions to have.

I pretty much think anyone interested in making theater should read this, and don't give me crap about how you don't want your illusions shattered or how you don't need to feel sad, because honestly, the things in this book can be changed. They seriously can be. But we're not going to change them by guessing at what they are, and this book and this study actually do us the favor of defining some issues and goals. So: now what? (A thing I would totally attend: A series of follow-up lectures & discussions on this book's findings. TDF, y/n?)

Also whenever I felt super bummed out about what I was reading in this book I would talk to some of my new music musiciany friends and they would be all, "yeah it's like that for us, too...EXCEPT ONE THOUSAND TIMES WORSE" and they would be right and I wouldn't feel better so much as feel less bad. So. Sorry/Recommended.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Brooke Berman You know what? I just read this book too, and I agree with you Meg -- wholeheartedly.

This book is not about shattering illusions. It is actually, to my mind at least, about arming oneself (full disclosure, I'm a playwright) with some really good information -- namely, the perceptual differences between playwrights and artistic directors about what matters and what audiences want/need and what a "relationship" is based on. With these subtle (or not so) understandings, we can go forward and make our work and also, speak about our work to the gatekeepers in words that they will understand and that address their own deepest concerns. Why not come in with a little bit of perspective? Why not understand that it's objectively hard to get a play produced, and then, go do it anyway? Plus, the face of new play development really does need to evolve, just as everything evolves. Why not look at what's not working in order to build something else?


message 2: by Meg (new) - rated it 4 stars

Meg YES. Exactly. Maybe the most illuminating chapter for me, in a lot of ways, was the one in which both artistic directors and playwrights were asked to rank reasons why they believed certain plays weren't produced, and the list of reasons the ADs gave was arranged SO differently than the way the playwrights' list was arranged. That's not just information about the concerns that each side, that's information about the gulf of understanding between the two. And that, to me, is one of the biggest takeaways here.

If anything, reading this makes me feel more confident going forward -- I've always known I was in for a fight, now I know the grounds. Now I'll know what's an institutional challenge vs. what's a personal challenge. It can't ever hurt to be smarter about this process.

Plus, what a great record as things do evolve. Would be great to have something like this published every 10-15 years.


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