Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Rom-Com - in worse shape than I thought

I can't say I'm disappointed in the submissions received (over 50 so far) to the NYCPlaywrights "Take Back the Rom-Com" project - having done calls for submissions before, I am well acquainted with the high percentage of crappy ten-minute plays usually received for these things. It was exactly what I expected.

But what's really annoying is what a high percentage of the plays received are neither comedic nor romantic. I was so exasperated by one submission received yesterday that I broke my own rule about never contacting submitters except to acknowledge receipt of the play. People are mostly not interested in feedback - they want you to tell them how great their play is, and I responded to this guy by asking what he thought was romantic about the play. His response:
I'm sorry? Is The War of the Roses with Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner not a romantic comedy? Did you want a funny version of a Danielle Steele novel?
As it happens, "The War of the Roses" is classified as a black comedy by Wikipedia. The fact that this person believes that it is a romantic comedy is proof that people don't understand romantic comedy.

We had a nasty little back-and-forth exchange with his refusing to believe that his 10-minute play which consisted entirely of a couple of domestic partners bickering hatefully with each other wasn't the last word in romance and comedy.

And I just rejected another play which was about a bitter ex-boyfriend showing up in a restaurant to tell his ex-girlfriend the guy she was meeting for dinner was a killer. I haven't heard back from the guy, but this time instead of asking what the author thought made it a romanic comedy I simply stated:

"This does not meet the criterion of “romantic comedy.” Humor of course is a matter of personal taste, but this is in no way “romantic.”

If he has anything to say in response I will post it here.

I swear, it's as if any play that involves people who have had sex automatically qualifies as romantic comedy no matter what else happens in the play.

Some other gems:

A play which involves 8 characters (this is a ten-minute play, remember) that isn't romantic so much as a commentary on romantic tropes. Fail.

A prostitute picks up a guy at a bar, and though it's clear she isn't going to charge him for the sex, it's also clear that the only thing that's going to happen is sex. A one-night stand is not "romantic." Fail.

The guy in a hetero couple falls off a ledge and dies at the end. Fail.

A play based on absolute gender essentialism, in which a woman explains to her husband why women just don't like to have sex. Fail.

This is not to say that I love all the plays that do qualify as romantic comedies. I hate several of them. But I will have a bunch of actors to help me determine the best romantic comedies of those that qualify. My job now is to weed out those that do not qualify. Which so far is more than half of all the submissions.

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