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what makes it worth it

August 17, 2011

What a strange week, and it’s only humpday. I apologize for the light blogging; I started my internship at Ms. Magazine and am proud to announce that I will soon be cross-posting occasionally. I had been worried about the fact that my fellow interns are all college students, but I was relieved of all fears when I met them and immediately saw in them all the best aspects of my former students at Smith. I thought, I spent years collaborating with women like this, often democratizing the student-teacher relationship as much as possible so that we were genuinely working together and learning from one another. This will be no different.

So I’m spending my mornings reading the news, looking for stories to reprint or to cover from our own angle. Then I get to meet with the editorial staff to discuss and decide which stories we’re going to cover. Then I get to do research and writing for my own material. Then I get feedback on my writing from really great and experienced editors. Not a bad way to spend five hours if you’re me, and well worth spending my unpaid time on for a while.

But on the other hand, I have spent my evenings this week attempting to salvage an artistic project that, it turns out, was never meant to be. My producing partner and I had chosen a play for a reading based on the assumption that the playwright was interested in developing the piece collaboratively, and because we were interested in the subject matter. The play is loosely based on sex researchers in the ’60s who used surrogate wives as part of sex therapy. Unfortunately, the only development the writer was willing to do was to change it from a subliminally sexist play to an overtly sexist one. After one rehearsal and a round of condescending avoidances from him, we pulled the plug.

It was not an easy decision. I do not take commitments likely, but I struggled with which commitment should take precedence in this case. I had agreed to provide a playwright with a reading of his play, and he had invited industry professionals to see his work. But I also have an artistic commitment to making good work in a collaborative environment, and a feminist commitment to making work that tells women’s stories from a critical perspective. Neither of these values was being upheld, and I believe we made the right decision.

When it comes to theater, I’m really not sure what the point is if we’re not doing work that we believe in. You cannot make money in theater. There are very few paying jobs, and those that do pay often offer no more than a stipend. If we cannot stand by the work as a piece of art and say, we mean this, why would we do it? For me, it just wouldn’t be worth it.

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