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Networking and Self-Promotion… Being an Artist

Saturday night, my wife and I attended the "B.U.S. 8" (Bricolage Urban Scrawl) fundraiser at Pittsburgh's New Hazlett Theater. The event supports the Bricolage Production Company's theater season. The theater, and its lobby, were packed with people. That's never easy for me, but this was something I had to do — pure self-interest as an artist.

Why in the world would someone so sensitive to the stimulation that is a city go into Pittsburgh? I find Pittsburgh to be worse for my mind and body than Minneapolis. The streets are confusing and narrow; driving into the city is exhausting. Once in the city, it is one of the worst maintained places I've been. Though Pittsburgh is often listed as one of the most "livable" cities, I assume such reviews are based on the suburbs and higher-end neighborhoods. There are some beautiful spaces and great little communities within the larger city. It's just the city is… a mess.

The city is also home to a thriving performing arts community. A list of theaters on the Carnegie website is overwhelming.

Since I am a writer, a proud dramatist (playwright), I need to network and know the local community. Artistic directors, producers, and the others involved in deciding which works appear on stage are more likely to consider the works of a playwright considered easy to work with and willing to promote events. It is important to me that the local arts community know that I will do whatever I can as a writer and artist.

For a "normal" person, the theater lobby was overwhelming. It was packed, much like the "bus rides" meant to inspire the night's plays. The space was, surprisingly, too small for a small theater company. That's a very exciting problem to have: too many supporters. (Yeah!) But, it also meant that I had to step outside several times to catch my breath and refocus. I was shaking badly, my ears were ringing, and my eyes hurt for some reason. Reading the program was difficult.

My right arm tremors when I'm tired. I worried that I might unintentionally slap a generous patron of the arts. That would have been a bad thing. You don't strike the patrons. I was also sweating badly, from the all-over pain I was experiencing. I worried that I might smell… like a city bus.

But, with the help of my wife, I managed to mingle a little, speak to some of the VIPs, and did okay, overall.

I even managed to stand and wave to the audience when I was introduced as a playwright. That was pretty cool.

One of my plays, The Gospel Singer (or, Religion is a Drag), was selected for Bricolage's "In the Raw" play festival. The dramaturg working with me said Bricolage received more than 80 script submissions; only three new works were selected. A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry, and A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams, are the classic plays to be featured during the festival. There's something a bit intimidating about having one of your plays listed alongside two of the greatest works in American theatrical history. (Tangent: The 1961 film version of A Raisin in the Sun is even better than the more famous Streetcar adaptation. Watch it.)

The Gospel Singer will be performed "In the Raw" on May 19 and 20, at the Bricolage Theater in downtown Pittsburgh, PA. The price of admission is whatever you will generously contribute to Bricolage. If you'd like to learn more about "In the Raw" (including The Gospel Singer), visit:


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