Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Contributed by Guest Blogger of the Week, Stacy Davidowitz.

(At least it made an impression, amiright?)

Last summer, I submitted a grant proposal to a children’s theatre foundation to bring a new musical to underprivileged kids in the outer boroughs of Manhattan. Nice, huh? I thought so.

Too bad for this: “Your proposal lacks weight, substance, and thought. Frankly, it’s disingenuous.”

WHAT?!? Was I just personally attacked for wanting kids to sing and dance and learn and be happy? Or did I accidentally submit the wrong proposal – the one that talks about my intention to maul kittens, steal Laffy Taffy from Kindergarteners, and burn trees? No. That doesn’t exist. Obviously.

This rejection letter was wack-a-doodle to begin with but especially crazy because it was for, um, CHILDREN. And if my proposal really was disingenuous, thoughtless, and skinny, why did it land me the second nicest rejection letter I’ve ever received? The one on my fridge next to the first nicest rejection letter I’ve ever received. In. Your. Face.

Laugh it off. Too ridiculous. Sticks and stones, sticks and stones.


The letters I received this week were rejections, sure. But they were personal, genuine, and specific to my work.

The children’s theatre one was for my musical HANK & GRETCHEN (side note: now premiering in June with a cast of 54 fifth graders). When a rejection letter says something like: “However, because I feel strongly about this piece that it would be a good fit for our students and students in other youth theatres, I would like to keep your play in our files for future options,” how can you not hang it on the fridge?

The first best rejection letter was particularly special because it was so unexpected. This submission was one of those out-of-my-reach, out-of-my-league ones. I knew I had to apply, but I also knew the response I wanted was going to be nearly impossible to attain. And I was right. I got the heart-burning rejection email. But to my surprise, three days later arrived snail mail from the literary manager that was so encouraging, so thoughtful, and so personal, it reaffirmed that I was doing something right. She didn’t have to send that in addition to the email. But she did. She really loved my work.

The very first submission of a play I did was for a playwriting festival in Boston while I was in undergrad. I wrote the short play as one of my weekly assignments for an Intro to Playwriting class. I didn’t realize it at the time, but in many ways that rejection letter put me where I am today. I still have that standard letter – it’s coldly polite – but scribbled on the side is a handwritten note from the Artistic Director personally letting me know how much she enjoyed the play. “Had we room for one more piece, you’d be in!” After that, I invited playwriting to be my crack.


So, to wrap it all up… Here’s the thing: Rejections may come in bulk, but it’s worth it for the chance you’ll win that award, earn a spot in that playwrights group, or get your play published or produced. Because, those good calls do come. They do! You just have to be patient, continue working, and submit like your addiction depends on it. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and soon enough you’ll get that chunky envelope, that enthusiastic email, or that unknown caller hitting you up with life-changing news. Hold tight.

People will invite you to pollute their brains.

After all, your words are really good.


  1. This reminds me of ART-New York's annual meeting last monday. The keynote speaker was Lynn Nottage. She told a funny story about an early rejection letter. She showed the letter, and her play, to a friend who said that he would put on the play if she wanted. He did, and that's how it all began for her. I much prefer that route to all the rejection, but I guess whatever motivates you.

  2. That's pretty great! And funny enough, my first production of a full-length play started similarly. After being rejected by the Fringe, the director attached to the project decided to go through with it anyway. Down Payment Productions produced PINK! in September of 2009 right after the Fringe and then it got nominated for 7 NYIT awards (won for Best Director), was optioned as an independent feature film, was a Lark Finalist, and is soon to be published by Broadway Play Publishing. Rejection sucks, but for every company or person who turns you down, there's always going to be those who will support you. You just have to find them!