This Playwright Can’t Catch A Break

I’ve never written a play, but I imagine it’s like all creative writing.

You put your heart – you put you – into it.

Then you put it – you put you – out there for the world the judge.

Sometimes the world accepts and applauds your play…

And you.

But most times…

It doesn’t.

Like this fiasco:

When the world does accept and applaud your play, it’s a dream come true.

Your dream has become a reality, on a stage, with a director and a producer and actors and costumes and scenery.

And an audience.

And…

If that audience is applauding your play at the La Jolla Playhouse…

You’ve made it.

Backstory

La Jolla is seaside neighborhood within the city of San Diego, CA:

The population is around 47,000, and proudly claims actor Gregory Peck (1916-2003) as a native son.  In 1947 Peck, along with fellow actors Dorothy McGuire and Mel Ferrer, founded the La Jolla Playhouse.  Years later Peck’s son, Anthony, said,

Peck won the Best Actor Academy Award for his performance in the 1962 film, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

“I believe the idea of opening a playhouse in La Jolla was his way to give back to the community that had been his home, as well as offering Hollywood actors a nearby place to stay in tune with theater.”

Since its founding, La Jolla Playhouse has won many honors, and hosted many productions that originated there and went on to find success on Broadway.

To have a play accepted by the prestigious La Jolla Playhouse is a playwright’s dream come true.

And it could be the start of something even BIGGER:

One such playwright is Lauren Yee.

Her play, Mother Russia, was on that path.

According to this 2019 article:

Yee’s Mother Russia was scheduled for the 2020/2021 season at La Jolla Playhouse. 

Here’s the press release announcing it:

The press release includes this description of Mother Russia:

“Welcome to St. Petersburg in the 1990s – the Berlin Wall has fallen, the Soviet Union has dissolved and opportunity abounds.  But barely-competent government surveillance workers Euvgeny and Dmitri find themselves lost in their strange new world of glasnost, perestroika and McDonald’s.

“When they’re assigned to track Katya, a fallen pop-star with international allure, a love triangle, mistaken identities and some really shoddy espionage tactics are set in motion.  It’s possible they might just make it out of this mess and find happiness – if only they could make a decision.  A world-premiere comedy about the curse of freedom and having to choose between the Filet-o-Fish and the Big Mac.”

Now, this wasn’t Yee’s first play – as her website lets you know, right up front:

“I WRITE PLAYS.”

And Yee does write plays, a number of which have been produced all over the U.S., in Canada and London.  And an earlier play – Cambodian Rock Band – was produced at La Jolla Playhouse in 2019. 

Lauren Yee.

Her website lists the many awards she’s won and grants she’s received.  Yee earned a B.A. at Yale and an M.F.A. at UC San Diego, and her website says she’s…

“…a playwright, screenwriter, and TV writer born and raised in San Francisco.  She currently lives in New York City.”

So the production of Mother Russia by La Jolla Playhouse in their 2020/2021 season wasn’t Yee’s first rodeo.

But still – she had to be excited.

La Jolla today…Broadway tomorrow?

No.

Instead…

March 2020:

Pandemic today…nowhere tomorrow.

Mother Russia’s world premier was postponed by the pandemic.

For two years.

Yee – and the rest of the world – waited.

Waited for some semblance of normalcy to return.

Current Story

Finally, in November 2021, La Jolla Playhouse announced its 2022/2023 season:

Mother Russia was scheduled for September/October 2022.

At last!

And then came this, on April 20, 2022:

“La Jolla Playhouse announced Wednesday that it is postponing its planned world premiere production of Lauren Yee’s play Mother Russia in light of Russia’s ongoing war on Ukraine.  It moves from its fall 2022 slot to the 2023-24 season.”

Postponed – again!

“La Jolla Playhouse artistic director Christopher Ashley said the uncertainty of recent world events led to the theater’s decision to postpone.

“‘In consultation with the show’s creative team, the Playhouse has postponed the world premiere play Mother Russia in light of current events still unfolding,’ Ashley said in a statement.  ‘The production is currently planned for 2023, allowing the creative team additional time for reconsideration of certain script and production elements.  We remain excited to produce Lauren’s timely exploration of the ongoing political systems we find ourselves in.’”

Postponed by a pandemic. 

Postponed by a war.

What next?

You see why, in this post title, I suggest this playwright can’t catch a break.

But – perhaps I should have said the play can’t catch a break.

Especially since, in this 2021 story:

Yee was described as “on track to be the second most produced playwright in the country.”

In a profession where – according to one article – “playwrights on average earned $25,000 to $39,000 annually, and 62 percent earned under $40,000…”

Yee is an artist, but not a starving one.

So Yee doesn’t need my/our sympathy, but perhaps we can empathize with her frustration.

Or, perhaps Yee isn’t frustrated.  Perhaps she just shrugs and says,

I spent a fair amount of time on Yee’s website and couldn’t find a single mention of Mother Russia.

Maybe, out of fear of jinxing it, Yee has been waiting to list the play’s world premiere in 2020/2021, 2021/2022, 2022/2023, 2023/2024…

Waiting for a time when we’re not living in a…

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