5 Things That Don't Mean What You Think They Mean If You Are a Lame Inconsiderate Unprofessional Musical Theater Writer

1. Rehearsal Starts Monday Morning

What you think it means: My writing deadline is Monday morning.
What it actually means: Rehearsal starts Monday morning.

You'd think this was a no-brainer, but actually it kind of needs to be said.  Your writing deadline does not end the day rehearsals begin.  You have a director.  They need to look at your text so they can have any idea what to do in the room.  Because 29 hours is not a lot of time.  When is this director going to do this?  It really depends on how busy your director is.  Probably the Thursday before.  But if they have other projects, maybe two Mondays before. Your actual deadline is when they need your text.  Always ask.  Same for your Music Director too.

2.  The Director is Your Friend

What you think it means: My director of my reading is literally a friend of mine.  They won't care who I cast.
What it actually means: I should probably check in with my director and music director about who they like.  And I should probably not have cast it before hiring them.

Theater is not made by two people.  Even if your graduate program tells you that musicals are a product of the collaboration between a "words person" and a "music person."  Musical Theater is made by a hundred and fifty people.  Your writers, your directors, your choreographers, your designers, your cast, your crew, your musicians, and yeah, your producers (sometimes that's you.)  You get the idea.  They're all real people with real expertise and real opinions that are worthy of your consideration. 

Look.  You'll probably end up getting your way.  But do you want to have your way at the cost of alienating your team?  Or would you rather have it after you have asked everyone else what they think and either learned something new or gained their respect?  The director is your friend.

3.  Your Cast of Characters are Ethnically Non-specific

What you think it means: My cast can be any color, creed, or orientation.
What it actually means: Your cast will wind up being white because you did not specify.

Okay.  I'm not going to dwell on this.  You've probably read any number of diatribes I have written on this subject.  And if you have not, certainly check out this interview with Bernie Telsey where he says casting directors "don't get credit" for diversity.  THIS type of thinking is your enemy.  And certainly more likely when you're an aged dinosaur who willfully turns a blind eye to sexual harassment and misogyny.  But that is a different article for a different time.  Meanwhile, how do you solve this problematic Maria: make specific choices.  "But wah wah," you cry, "that means I have to potentially be responsible for representing someone other than me or mine!" 

Yes. Now go do it, and do it responsibly.

4.  Your Mentor Got a Prize

What you think it means: I can ask them for a recommendation to the same prize because they are invested in me artistically.
What it actually means: Your mentor got a prize.

Okay, let's start here: if you don't have a mentor, you can ask for one.  Go find someone you like, and say the words out loud: Will you mentor me?  And see what it gets you. 

Moving on, it actually does mean what you think it means.  Too.  (Inconceivable!) But it doesn't always have to.  Your mentor is an artist.  They are trying their best to use their powers for good by making themselves available to you, and opening doors for you that you might not be able to open for yourself via a benefit-of-the-doubt that they have earned for themselves.  But it has to work in both directions.  I'll say it again.  Your mentor is an artist.  They need support just like you need support.  Even if they are opening their fifth Broadway show.  They still need support. 

So maybe before you ask them to vouch for you again, make sure
a) they aren't in the middle of something and could use a cookie and a hug, and
b) your own personal conduct as of late has not been embarrassing

I once got an email on a Saturday from a mentee who was in the middle of writing a new draft for their workshop (that started the next Monday- see 1.) asking about a recommendation for a fellowship I had just completed for myself

Being unprofessional not only reflects poorly on you, it reflects poorly on anyone who has ever vouched for you.   Which brings us to:

5. You Know People Who Know People

What you think it means: You know people too.
What it actually means: You know people who know people.

Access is a funny thing.  It isn't like power, which only multiplies when you share it.  It's a delicate balance of favor-asking and privacy-respecting.  If you're in your twenties it's a little less likely that you know influential people than if you're older.  Attrition hasn't happened yet, and your peer group hasn't decided to specialize, but take note.  It will happen.  Especially if you're writing musical theater.  Because let's face it, those actors you're using for your cabarets will get to Broadway before you will.  Those dramaturges and producers and directors you worked with at NYMF or The Fringe?  They are the next literary person at The Public, Development Coordinator at The Lark, Talent representative at Gersh.  What does this mean for you?

Probably nothing if you've done any of the above things I'm trying to save you from.  But even if you haven't, probably nothing.  Remember this, so when that probably nothing manifests as something, you're grateful and not a dick.  Send hand written thank you cards.  Respect their time.  Know in advance what your asks are.