I always wondered when I’d finally use the name of the blog as a blog post. My instinct was to wait until I knew it would be my last post. And maybe I should’ve held out but now feels like a good moment to return to the very tongue-in-cheek title of this blog.
(Also, I’m still wildly delirious from the second shot so who knows if any of this will make sense.)
By now, you may have heard the news.
Since Thursday night, my inbox has been full with people wanting to reach out and “get to know me” and more about my work. My FB friend requests and instagram requests are constant (which quick note, I only use instagram to post pictures of my cat and my Facebook page is mostly for rants about…exisiting so I’m sure many of them will unfriend me soon). People have been coming out of the woodwork to congratulate me, even some people who I know for a fact don’t like me…
I’ve been trying to reckon with the idea that there are going to be people who see me differently and I’m not really sure how to process that. I’m still the same messy, chaotic playwright I’ve always been. And yet there are people who are sliding into my DMs giving me backhanded compliments (“I’m surprised you got it” or “I’m surprised you were elligible”) and others who are using this moment to propel their own self-interests whether they were supportive of me or not.
And, I’m not saying the Prize isn’t a big deal. When I got the phone call, I literally thought they were calling to tell me I was a finalist and they had to keep telling me, “No, you won.” To which I responded, “Holy shit.” It’s a very big deal to me. With that said though it’s not a Pulitzer so I’m not sure why people are deep in their feelings about it.
I could easily write a long post about all of those feelings but instead there’s been something else on the forefront of my mind. Because while I have your attention, and especially while I have the attention of younger and other emerging playwrights, there’s something much more pressing I’d like to say
There’s more than one way to be a playwright.
I was told pretty explicitly that unless I moved to New York or Chicago, I would never have a playwriting career. I remember being told not waiting out for one of the five “good” playwriting schools would mean the farthest I could expect to go would be maybe a couple of local readings here and there but nothing national. Even while I was on the phone accepting the award, I was asked why I didn’t go to Yale.
Like I could just apparate there.
To this day, I still do not have a Chicago or New York premiere. Matter of fact, I haven’t even had a play read in NYC. I have not lived in any of the cities you’re supposed to live and that isn’t changing any time soon. Not because I’m avoiding them (I’d love to live in Brooklyn) but because I can’t afford to live there. I don’t have parents that will pay my rent and I follow the job. Wherever the job is, that’s where I move to. And no job has taken me to those cities.
I also haven’t been able to get into any of the fellowships or any of the “big” festivals. I’ve applied for years. I’ve tried for years. 2020 was the first year I actively decided not to apply to the fellowships because I’ve gotten tired of being told I’m not special and I realized I’d need to find a different way.
Yet, if I were to put one of my favorite hashtags up right now #amIaplaywrightyet, everyone would say “YES RACHEL OBVIOUSLY.”
I’m not saying “I’m famous now. Bow down.” I’m laughably not even close. I bet when the award was announced, most people were like “Who?” Which is both humbling and hilarious.
What I am saying is don’t buy into the lie that theatre only exists in Chicago, NYC, and LA. Don’t buy into the lie that if you don’t get into the “big thing” then your career is over. It isn’t. It just means your career is meant to look differently.
And that’s okay. That’s actually what ultimately will make you extraordinary.
My students ask me all the time “How did you do it?” because they’re looking for a road map. I used to be a lot clearer but these days I say “I just said yes whenever I possibly could.” Because I don’t want them to think if they just do it the exact same way I did, then they too will have a career. I’m a chaotic person and I chose a chaotic route; that doesn’t work for everyone.
Obviously, if you want specifics, I’ll gladly give them but ultimately I hope that any playwright who needs to hear this does:
We’re all extraordinary. You’re valid no matter where you are in your career. And again, there’s more than one way to make this impossible dream come true.