20 Aug Kick Off Celebration with Lauren Yee!
If someone were to ask if OOB is a week long party, they’d be half right. Yesterday marked the beginning of our 44th Off Off Broadway Short Play Festival, so we invited our Final 30 to drink and be merry with the Concord Theatricals staff and with our special guest, the nationally acclaimed playwright Lauren Yee!
In addition to being a winner of prestigious awards such as the Horton Foote Prize, the Kesselring Prize, and the Francesca Primus Prize, Yee was also an OOB finalist in 2010. Her play was not chosen to be published in that year’s collection, but her work has since been performed at major theaters around the country – her play Cambodian Rock Band premiered at South Coast Rep, and The Great Leap has been seen at the Denver Center, Seattle Repertory, Atlantic Theatre, and the Guthrie. Fun fact, she has also been a judge for OOB twice.
Our Senior Director of Acquisitions and Artistic Development, Amy Rose Marsh, held a Q&A with Yee where she shared advice with the Final 30 along with personal anecdotes about her journey as a jobbing playwright. But, to the utter surprise of no one, Yee broke with tradition and started the interview by asking the finalists to introduce themselves and share their current obsessions. When writing a play, she explained, “You commit yourself to this world for a specific time. You need to be obsessed with it!” The playwrights in the room delighted and surprised us with answers ranging from “urban development,” “haunted objects,” “keeping my kids from losing their phone,” to “women who are bad influences.” Yee answered her question and shared that her 8 month old child is her current obsession.
When Marsh asked Yee what she remembers from her OOB Finals week, she remembered the festival being “scrappy but exciting,” and though her play ultimately was not chosen for publication and licensing the experience was still valuable. She met other artists and “formed collaborations.” “They were the ones who lead me to the next thing,” she explained, and this became a running theme throughout the talk. “Anyone who tells you there’s a big break is lying,” rather success is built slowly through festivals, readings, and the people you meet along the way.
When asked what advice she’d give to her 2010 self, Yee poetically described that she often viewed breaking into the industry at the time as an immense green field with a fence, “and that fence is always closed to me” until suddenly it wouldn’t be. However, she later learned that the fence she imagined only “opens in hindsight.” Little bits of work “adds up to something,” so it’s important to keep working regardless of where you are on your career path.
Marsh then asked Yee what keeps her going when writing gets hard, and she expressed that she thinks she “brings in collaborators much sooner than most people.” Early in her creative process Yee will surround herself with other artists she trusts and is “OK failing in front of them.” She generously shared stories of all the small ways she built a network for herself, such as her time at the Hedgebrook residency, the time she took advantage of a city-wide discount on beer and invited Marsh out for a drink, or how she still invites colleagues out for coffee. “I’ve been having these coffees for ten years.”
When Marsh later asked if there’s any advice she’d give as a former OOB judge, Yee replied, “It’s not about the people judging, it’s about everyone else.” Throughout the week the playwrights and their creative teams have several opportunities to meet each other and other industry professionals who may become interested in their catalog of work.
The party continues tonight with our first round of short plays at The Vineyard. Afterwords, everyone is invited to grab a drink or two (or more) with us at sideBAR next door. To our Final 30 – you’ve worked hard to get here, so have fun this week and break a leg!