About mid-January I received a call from a friend. The reason for the call came as a huge surprise. The friend wanted to know if I would accept a year of patronage–that is, a monthly gift toward supporting my work as a playwright and theatre artist. The proposition took my breath. Here’s why:
I’ve achieved a great deal over the years as a theatre artist, pulling myself up by my own proverbial bootstraps, not looking to anyone to hand me an opportunity but creating my own–especially after discovering I had a talent for playwriting. I embraced the spirit of entrepreneurship in my twenties with the creation of a company with my sister Yvonne, Twinbiz. But with the dawning of 2018 came intensified feelings of uncertainty about my future.
I found myself wondering how I could have allowed myself to reach middle-age and still not be on a clear path to fulfilling the purpose of my life. I found myself longing for the kind of validation that comes with doing work which serves my fellow man and leads not only to spiritual fulfillment, but greater economic security. I so much wanted the theatre to be that work. But on the other side of fifty, and faced with the very real practical concerns that come getting older, I wondered if I had made the right choice. So, when the phone rang, it was as though a higher power was working through the caller to give me a clear indication that I had, in fact, chosen the right path. Let us name the friend, “The Patron”.
I have known The Patron for many years. In the past, she gave me a one-time gift to support my work as an artist. Fast forward to the launch of my book, What a Piece of Work Is Man! Full-Length Plays for Leading Women, at the Drama Book Shop in New York City this past September . Not only did she come, but she bought fifteen books! She gifted them back to me, saying that she wanted me to send them to agents, regional theatres, producers, directors–whomever I felt could help advance my career.
Amazing, right? But wait, it gets better…
She said, “I would like to write a check to you every month for a year to be used towards supporting your work as an artist.” After disclosing the sum she said, “I wish it could be more but this falls within the scope of what I feel I can afford. I am not rich, but I can do this. However it turns out, I consider you to be a safe bet.” She went on to explain how she had benefited from a fellowship she had received as a student and that it was so freeing; all she had to do was focus on her work. She said, “I truly believe that this is your time. Will you accept?”
I was stunned by her generosity. A year of focused effort on my work as a theatre artist? It took me a minute to adjust to this new reality. After having doors closed in my face, a new door was opening to me–a door in the shape of a heart. All I had to do was walk through it. The Patron assured me, “I believe this to be a very good use of my money. Being able to support you gives my life even more meaning; it makes me feel good.”
I realize I am standing on the shoulders of the “street cred” I have earned as a producing artist, and the accolades and awards that come with that. This gift of patronage, assisted perhaps by additional income from part-time work, would go a long way to helping me to build on that success.
And so, I accepted–I walked through the open door!
Dear reader, you and I are on this journey together! I welcome your comments, questions, encouragement and feedback as I navigate this year of patronage.
NEXT UP: A “To Do” list of actions I’ve long wanted to take to help advance my career as a playwright given the time, creative head space and financial wiggle-room to do so.