Teaching Drama

Celebrate the Competition

Written by Lindsay Price

Episode 33: Celebrate the Competition


Lindsay chats with herself on what it means to celebrate the competition, why it’s important in the arts, and why she thinks finishing is more important than winning. And not in a “let’s all get a participation ribbon” kind of way.

Show Notes

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Episode Transcript

Welcome to TFP, The Theatrefolk Podcast. I am Lindsay Price, resident playwright for Theatrefolk. Hello! I hope you’re well. Thanks for listening.

Today, I’m going to talk about being nice to your rivals. But first, let’s do some THEATREFOLK News.

So, Craig has been wading through the archives of our blog and finding all kinds of wonderful past posts. We’ve been doing this blog since 2005 and it’s easy to forget what has been posted in years gone by. I can barely remember what was posted last week! But we can forget no longer. We are posting past jems on our Facebook page. Are you one of our Facebook fans? Or have you liked our page or whatever it is that Facebook is doing now?

Just this week, we posted a past newsletter filled with playwriting exercises, a free Shakespeare Analysis class, and an interview I did some years ago about the amazingness of high school drama students.

And, add to that, some things ONLY posted on our Facebook page this week: a link to a Princeton playwriting contest for students in grade 11, free lesson plans for elementary students, another to a list of 25 ways to celebrate Theatre in our Schools month, and a link to a Game of Thrones high school drama parody. Fun stuff, check it out.

Speaking of amazing drama students, I wanted to share this. I got an email this week from a twelve-year-old – uh-uh, twelve – thanking me for my play, Tick Talk. He was in a production and it did very well at his District One Act Festival and he went on to talk about how the play made him realize how other human beings go through a lot pain and being aware of that – being aware of what others go through. And then, he was also very aware that his performance – and he got a lot of compliments on it – he won an award for his performance – but his performance was inherently linked and connected to the words on the page. That he couldn’t succeed as an actor if there was no play. I was pretty blown away. I’m keeping in mind that, when I was twelve, I would never have looked an adult in the eye, let alone written such an articulate thought out treaty on the connection between actor and play and the connection between theatre and the world! And I have to say, this is at the core of what being a playwright is to me. That is success to me! A letter like this, that can really make a thousand crappy comments about how my little skits are going, it makes it all worthwhile. Okay, maybe not a thousand, but this one’s going to keep me going for a long time. It means something.

And I guess what I’m saying is, if you’re doing a production and your playwright is alive, find a way to reach out to them and tell, talk to them about your experience. We want to know. We want to know what it was like to be in our plays. You know? I like that.

And lastly, where, oh, where can you find this podcast? We post new episodes every Wednesday at theatrefolk.com and on our Facebook page – remember that Facebook page – and Twitter. You can also find us on the Stitcher app AND you can subscribe to TFP on iTunes. All you have to do is search on the word “Theatrefolk.”

Episode Thirty-Three: Celebrate The Competition

I don’t know why I made that a two-syllable word. Compe-tition, competition! Oh, we’ll just go with it.

So, when we talk about the competition – compe-tition – more often than not, we’re supposed to think of our – now, see, I’m never going to be able to say that word. Okay! Wait, wait, wait. No, no, no. Here we go. Competition, competition, competition…

When we think of our competition, we’re supposed to think of them as the enemy. That’s how it works in sports, right? I am running against you, you are my competition, I must beat you. I must beat you into a bloody pulp so that I can stand victorious, or something like that, right? One winner, one individual, or one team, and that’s how it works and how it’s worked since the Greeks started the Olympics thousands and thousands and thousands of years ago.

And though we like to think of ourselves as arty types, as different than the jocks of the world, let’s be truthful – let’s be very truthful – and say that though we arty types like to think we’re different, that we’re – let’s say it – that we’re better than the jocks in our communicative, loving, collective community artsy way, it’s the same! It’s the same within the arts. We look at others as The Competition – capital C – Competition.

Other playwrights, other actors, other dancers, and – let’s be truthful – we sometimes think of everyone else in our field as the enemy. “I need to be better than X, Y and Mr. Z so that I comes to the light. I come to the forefront. My work rises to the top, I go the head of the class. How did Lady Y get that gig? I’m so much better than her!” That’s how we get ahead, isn’t it? By being better? Crushing the competition? Thinking of the competition as less than? Gossiping about such and such an actor? And to that end, why on earth would we celebrate the people who are trying to do the same thing that we’re doing? That’s just going to leave us at the back of the pack, right?

And, I can’t lie. I have had my moments where I have thought as other playwrights were the enemy. I have a jealousy streak that runs, oh, it runs very green and very thick through my veins and, oh, you know, jealousy, well, it’s part of dealing with competition. And, for a time, I was not – not, N-O-T – not good at dealing with it.

I did not want to see my competition in action. I did not want to hear about what they were doing. They were always doing better than me and, oh, I should just give up because, well, so and so is just ugh! Can’t believe they got that job!

And there was a time I actually had to stop, I had to stop going to see plays because that’s how bad my jealousy was. It’s just seething that somebody else got something – well, of course, of course – I so rightly deserved. You cannot see me now but I’m doing a little head shake at myself. I am shaking my head. It was pretty bad and I’m sure I wasn’t fun to be around and, you know, after a while, a lot of seething, it gets very tiring! Seething is very tiring.

But finding my own path as a playwright, well, that was, literally, that was one of the best things I ever could have done to cure jealousy. It’s evaporated for the most part. I have a career. I have a living. I have no reason to feel jealousy towards anyone. I’ve got what I want. I am human. Twinges still happen and I try to work against them. That’s all I can do – try. I try to think in the community spirit as opposed to the win-win-win spirit, and I do believe that to celebrate those who exist and work in the same field as me is very, very important.

I want to celebrate the competition because, if Playwright A is succeeding, that means that there is, out there in the world, a playwright doing well at their craft. That in itself is not a regular occurrence. Sometimes, it’s very rare. So, if a playwright is doing good, that is something to celebrate because, if playwright A is doing good, that’s only going to help down the line. And you don’t know, if I’m jealous of Playwright A, or I’m seething about Playwright A, or I say bad things about Playwright A to get myself ahead, you know, if I gossip, well, who knows what the future holds? What if there’s a possibility for Playwright A to become a collaborator, you know? You just never know what’s going to happen down the line.

And celebrating the competition, it doesn’t have to be so individualistic either, right? It can be simply how we respond to our community as a whole. There is such a thing as being happy just to have others doing the same thing that you’re doing, that there is some competition – any competition – that there is a community of folks all humming along, singing a song, doing the same thing. It would be a very lonely 100-metre race with one great guy and that’s it! It’s important. There has to be other people in our fields. We have to compete against others. That is what life is!

It is impossible to avoid – either on a conscious or a subconscious level – we are all competing at something. You know, when I’m on the treadmill and there’s someone going gang busters beside me, you can bet that I’m standing a little taller, I’m going a little longer. And, in the end, it’s really not about that other person. It’s that it benefits me. And, if there’s no competition then I’m writing in a vacuum. And, at the core, if there’s no competition, that means there’s no art, period. So, competition, I think, is a benefit – that’s something to be celebrated and it’s very different in the arts, right? The nature of having competition is not about being on top, I don’t think. It’s not about being the only one – the winner. We need competition but it’s a much different mind-set than sports, right?

Winning is still the be-all and the end-all in sports, and I’m not sure when or if that’s ever going to change. We try to do that, “Hey, man. Winning isn’t everything. It’s not whether you win or lose. It’s how you play the game.” It doesn’t work for those folks – that mind-set, it just doesn’t go, it doesn’t fly. And why would it? There are just some areas that focus – have to focus – on beating the competition. There can only be one winner of the 100-metre dash. You can’t have all the runners hold hands and cross the finish line together. It doesn’t work that way and life doesn’t work that way. There’s only one winner of the Super Bowl. There’s only one person who gets a job, right? If you’re all in competition for a job, you’re not going to hold hands and, like, go, “Let’s do this job together!” That doesn’t happen! It doesn’t work.

Ugh. It just must be so hard, though, to exist in a world where your worth, like an athlete, right? Your worth as an athlete is dependent on and determined by whether or not you win. And I watch the Olympics sometimes and I see athletes who are, they’re the best in their country and that’s not enough. They will not win. They will not get a gold medal. They will not beat the competition. And I kind of wonder, what that does to you psychologically? What about those people who have been told, “You’re number one. You’re number one. Nothing is acceptable but number one.” What happens to them when they don’t win? And what happens to them when they win, you know? What happens when they win at sports and fail in life? Or the winning is so encompassing and consuming that they will do crazy, illegal things to manufacture a win? Just look at, you know, Lance Armstrong.

And the opposite’s also true. Like, you know, what about the people have been so caught up in this whirlwind of winning that they actually sabotage their efforts? They actually go in the opposite direction? They do whatever it takes to lose. I actually know a couple of people like that who just, losing was the only way out. It’s a puzzle.

Okay, I’ve got a little sports psychology tangent. But it’s so fascinating to me! And it’s, really, it’s that, “What is this nature of competition?” and I just heard somebody talk, I heard an actor talk about celebrating the competition and I really wanted to talk about that today and about how it’s something that I’ve struggled with and something that I think is, at its core, it’s so important for us, as artists, to be aware that there is a reason that there’s a whole bunch of us out there doing the same thing and that maybe it’s really not a bad deal, not a bad thing to be happy that you’re not the only one, and that you’re happy that there is competition.

And, oh! Oh! Watch this, watch me spin that site, that sports thing, I’m going to bring it around to playwriting. Okay, ready? Here we go. So, the sports mentality, it does relate right back to the theatrical definitional of conflict, right? A guy who is willing to do anything and everything to get what he wants. Conflict is the thing in the way of that character getting what they want. So, what are they willing to do? What are they willing to do to win at all costs? It is a fascinating puzzle.

I am not a winner gal, and what I mean by that is in the sports sense. I am not a “Be number one!” I’, not interested in winning at the expense of others. “Ha-ha! They failed, I win!” Oh, see, here I am. I can’t think of a really great personal analogy. I am no saint, there we go. I am no Mother Teresa. I have certainly, I have done one or two little dances, regrettably, at someone else’s failure. But I’ve never, it’s never been, “You fail, I win!” That just boggles my mind. I can’t do that – that kind of rabid dog on a bone mentality to swoosh everyone out of the way and leave carnage in wake. It’s the reason I’ll never be a “winner.” That’s okay. I’m never going to be on top. I think I’m okay with that. In fact, I know I’m okay with that. I’m perfectly happy.

And I think that one of the reasons why is because I do have a different definition of what success is. And success for me, as an artist, winding this all back into artistry – I should keep focusing on that – is that it’s not about the win. It is about the finish. I think, for artists, it’s finishing that’s key. If I’m finishing, if I am crossing the finish line, that means I’ve got product out there in the world. That is doing my job. That is what technically makes a playwright – finishing plays that are ready, willing, and able to be produced, and then go on to be produced and then I go on to the next one. Finish a draft. Get a play produced – that is what’s satisfying to me. That is success, if I’m going to continue with this, that is winning. Finishing is winning.

And just because I’m not interested in winning in that “sense,” I am interested in the nature of competitiveness for the same reason that I think that it helps me, benefits me, you know, because it makes sure that I am doing good work. That’s what I really think that competitiveness is all about and that’s why I think that you can celebrate your competitors because, if you’re celebrating you’re competitors, you’re celebrating their good work, right? And that’s what we should all be doing.

We should all be interested in doing our best possible work. I just want to do my best. I am interested in putting good plays out there, representing my company to the best of my ability, being prepared, doing my homework, and being a playwright at as high a level as I can achieve because, if I’m not competitive in that regard, if I’m not doing my best, then my work suffers, I put out crappy plays and the people who buy my plays go elsewhere. And that is why competition is a good thing. Having competition makes us better, makes us our best. We will always work a little harder when we know someone is doing the same thing as us because there is always an elsewhere. There is always somewhere else and it’s important never to forget that. Never think that your “where” is naturally going to be better than somebody else. You have to work at it. And if we’re all working at it, and if all of us in the community is striving to put good work out there, then that’s something to celebrate. I can celebrate your good work. I love celebrating good work and everybody doing good work, at the highest, the best level, oh, you really can’t ask for anything more than that. I don’t think you can.

And that’s where we’re going to end. Take care, my friends. Take care.

Music credit: “Ave” by Alex (feat. Morusque) is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

About the author

Lindsay Price