It’s a lot like riding a bike.

We’re at halftime of the 2009 festival season.  The fringe is done (except for the Encores), and we’re waiting for NYMF to begin.  I saw a few fringe shows this year, and I’ve got a few NYMF shows on my radar as well.  But over the course of my entire life, I’ve probably seen a gross of festival shows.

To be honest, most of them haven’t been that good.  But that’s ok, you know why?  Most were by new writers, and that’s what festivals are for.

Over the last few years, however, festivals have faced unreasonable amounts of pressure to produce the next big hit.  I call it ‘The Urinetown Syndrome’ . . . and it’s unfortunate.

New writers need time to work on their skills in front of an audience, without worrying about whether people think they shows are ready to move Off-Broadway two weeks later, and without worrying about what the critics think.

So many fringe and festival shows are first-timers for authors.  Are we really surprised that most aren’t great?

I think first scripts for writers are exactly like the first time you got on a two-wheeer.  You’re trying super hard to balance everything, you can’t even think about where you’re headed, it takes you much longer to get anywhere, your style is wobbly, etc.

So, if you’re a writer, don’t beat yourself up if your first show, fringe or not, wasn’t fast-tracked to full production.  It was just your first script.  Be happy that you didn’t take a spill on your brand new Huffy and scrape up the side of your face (that happened to me . . . literally, when I was 10, and figuratively, with my first script).

The important thing to do is . . . wait for it . . . yes, get back on the bike and go for another ride.

I guarantee your second one will feel easier than the first, and the third will be easier than the second, and so on and so on.

Just keep wriding.


  • Mike Davis says:

    Very good point Ken. I think a lot of people forget the purpose behind a Fringe, so they’re hard on new writers. I’d also like to mention that another reason some of the shows aren’t breathtakingly performed is that a lot of these shows are hiring relativly new actors. So this is their first time getting to be seen in this light as well.

  • Montserrat says:

    I agree, while my fringe show in 08, got me an award for playwrighting, it did not move to a commercial run (though who knows it could happen) the reviews got me exposure, the exposure got me a TV pilot. The thing to do is keep moving, keep writing, keep creating, but most importantly keep learning, and using every opportunity to open a door; any door or window leads to amazing things. But expecting to go from a festival to a commercial run is a recipe for heartbreak, find the joy in doing the festival, anything that comes after that is just icing on the proverbial cake.

  • although i am not a writer i really liked the article, cause from time to time i go out an look for shows of newcomers, because somehow i like the rawness of those shows. and to be honest, at any time everybody is doing something for the first time – give him/her a chance to do it better the second time 😉

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