The difficulty in securing an agent is not confined to those writers just starting out. I tried to get a theatrical agent when I wrote my play a few years ago and hit a brick wall, even with my resume. And I didn’t list AfterMASH so I know it’s not that.
Hollywood literary agency that represented me did not have a theater
department so when I wrote my play a few years ago I decided to get a
second agent to handle that facet of my career. Unlike these major
conglomerates with three letters that handle screenwriters, theatrical
agencies are all boutique. Going down the list it seemed every Jewish
girl who wouldn’t go out with me now has an agency.
I made a few
calls and found no one was interested. The fact that (a) I wasn’t 25,
and (b) they couldn’t cash in on movie rights made me persona non representita. And this was before anyone even bothered to read my play.
a playwright friend, I was referred to one agent – we’ll call her Beth
B. I had a nice conversation with her, she said she really wasn’t
looking to take on new clients but wanted to read my play. So I sent it
along with a resume. Two weeks later I get a letter from her. The first
sentence was “Ohmygod, I had no idea you co-created ALMOST PERFECT!” She
went on to say it was her favorite show, the writing was brilliant, she
wrote a letter to CBS complaining when they cancelled it, it was like
we were in her bedroom, and she was often confused for our star, Nancy
Travis. I thought – I am IN!
Next paragraph – pass.
few months later I was in New York and decided to call her again.
Sometimes when people meet they click and who knows? Maybe she’d have a
change of heart. She agreed to meet with me.
It took three trains
to get down to her agency. Every other agency was in mid-town, in the
theatre district. This one was in the land of discount sneakers and
checks cashed while you wait. Once there, after waiting a good half
hour, Beth B. finally appeared and ushered me back to her office. My
first thought upon seeing her was – Nancy Travis? The only thing she had
in common with Nancy Travis was that they both breathed air. Beth B.
was large, horn rimmed glasses, and had giant frizzy Carole King hair.
the pleasantries, she explained that she liked to represent hot young
playwrights who lived in New York. The key to her was they’d be able to
go to openings and readings and be seen in all the right places.
said, “what if I produced my play in LA and it got good reviews?” She
said that would be disastrous for it ever getting mounted in New York. I
suggested that maybe the New York theatre scene was a tad elitist,
fully expecting her to back off and say “No, no, not at all.” Instead,
she said proclaimed, “Yes, that’s right.” I was a little thrown and
wondered if New York had the theatre to support it. “Suessical? Thousand
Clowns with Tom Sellick? Annie Get Your Gun with Crystal Bernard? There
weren’t exactly new Arthur Miller or Tennessee Williams pieces starring
Brando or Burton coming in this season.”
It was clear we were
not “clicking”. So finally, I asked Beth B. what advice she could give
me? She thought for a moment and finally said, “Write”. I said, “Excuse
me?” She repeated it. “Write. I find that the first play is an
introduction, the second gets a reading, the third gets a workshop, and
the fourth maybe gets a production. So just keep writing.”
nodded and finally said, “Beth, that’s great advice. In fact, it’s the
same advice I’ve been giving young writers… for THIRTY YEARS. But since
I’ve had more of my work produced on a national level than all your
clients combined times ten I think I can SKIP A STEP.”
Beth B. was not on the invite list for my New York reading.
know it’s discouraging when an agent doesn’t want you, but always
remember, there are plenty of agents out there that YOU don’t want. If
it takes more time to find a better match it’s worth it.