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SAGA OF A FAILING PLAYWRIGHT

 

by

 

Hugh Aaron

 

 

Throughout  most of my already long life – I’m in my eighties – I’ve known more failure than success, but I’ve had enough success to provide me security and a measure of self-respect.  However, as a playwright I’ve known only failure if you measure it by the number of my plays that have been produced. Of the more than two dozen works that I’ve written the production score is one, (a one act play that I didn’t attend), this after submitting them over the years to more than 800 theatre companies in the U.S and the UK.

 

Based on this failure, a rational human being might conclude that my plays have no merit, or at least that they aren’t suitable for today’s audiences.  It would seem reasonable that because while in college in the fifties I studied the playwrights of that era, I’m so conditioned that today my plays may well be out of date.  Back in the sixties I had an almost auspicious beginning. Playhouse Ninety, a program that once a week would stage live performances of plays on TV, accepted my first play - but never used it. The producer asked that I change the unhappy ending; I refused. Ah, youth!

 

Now after such a mass of rejections it would seem logical to conclude that I ought to give up and go on to something else – sailing, for instance, or daily dining out. Still, writing (I’ve published eight books including two novels and a short story collection), especially drama, comes as natural to me as breathing.  So somehow I had to find a way to evaluate the judgment of that enormous mass of artistic directors and play readers who, for whatever reason, chose someone else’s play over mine. I had to prove to myself that the plays, if not masterpieces, were worthwhile after all, that today’s audience would enjoy them, maybe even be swept up in them.

 

Would play readings do it? In our little Maine town of 1200 souls many of my neighbors had done acting in high school or college, or if not that, had wanted to act but never had the chance. Indeed, one of our elderly citizens had once acted in the movies and on TV, but at her current stage of life was afflicted with a short term memory. No problem, if she’s to read, I thought. And another of our citizens had actually taught directing at Columbia for almost a decade.  After putting the word out that I was seeking readers, a flood of replies came back, and our local church offered their sanctuary as a venue if attendance could be conditioned on voluntary contributions no matter how small.

 

Five years ago we read the first play, a comedy about religious prejudice and letting go of the past with a well rehearsed cast of five.  The audience gave it a standing ovation, and the after performance discussion between cast, playwright and audience on the issues of the play continued for a half hour. Since that first reading we have read four more plays in as many years, (The most recent play had a cast of ten.) all concerning contemporary issues, and the audience reaction in each instance has been the same. The readings have now become a tradition in town and people are asking what’s next.

 

While all this has been going on, I kept submitting those very same plays to playhouses across the country with only negative results. This despite the fact that I’ve proved the plays do have merit, that an audience will respond to them, even react enthusiastically and ask for more.  So the question becomes how should I take this failure, how respond to it. No longer do I blame the plays themselves. Nor can I blame the artistic directors who apparently find the plays somehow wanting.  One major lesson age teaches a person is to never deny reality.

 

Reality has to be reckoned with. Under the circumstances, it would be impossible to buck it, but it can be circumvented.  Chances are I’ll have to produce the plays myself. Our small town and the communities nearby offer no such opportunity, so it means relocating to a city where there are plenty of willing actors and a large ready audience. And that’s just what my wife and I intend to do for the next half year. Another lesson age teaches: believe in yourself despite failure.

HUGH AARON shares...

 

HUGH AARON, born and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts, is a graduate of The University of Chicago where his professors encouraged him to pursue a literary career. However, he made his living as CEO of his own manufacturing business while continuing to write. Since he sold his business in 1984 he has devoted full time to his writing resulting so far in two novels, a travel memoir, a short story collection, two collections of business essays, a book of movie reviews, a child’s book and a letter collection. The Wall Street Journal also published eighteen of his articles on business management and one on World War II. Many of his books can be found at Amazon.com. The Shine Journal has welcomed AARON's work here before.

He has written ten full length and ten one-act stageplays, and two screenplays. His collection of five novellas entitled QUINTET was recently published. Most of his plays deal with contemporary issues, several have had readings at local libraries, churches, and in private homes and some are scheduled for full stagings in 2007. The author resides in mid-coast Maine with his artist wife.

Visit his website:  www.StonesPoint.com where readers can find reviews and reader comments on his books and a list of his plays.

MOTIVATION:

"I wrote the piece simply to get my frustration out. I find that writing down my thoughts is therapeutic. But even more, it’s an act of self-discovery. How do I really feel about something and how do I reckon with it? Until we voice or write down our feelings even if disguised as fiction, or as an honest confrontation  with the brutal truth in the form of an essay, we do not consciously know them. Saga of a Failed Playwright fulfilled that search and allowed me to make peace with the situation."