Revenge of the Phantom

I must admit, Constant Reader, that I felt a little bit of trepidation in posting last week’s missive, in which I complained of theater companies forcing playwrights to jump endless hurdles rather than take the time to read their plays. I try not to complain too much on this blog (real life is a whole other story), since anything I post here could conceivably have professional repercussions. Would some theater somewhere be less inclined to produce my work, should they happen upon my little jeremiad? The way the universe works, I worried that some assistant literary manager somewhere might remember those words and someday take their petty little revenge upon me.

Well, I needn’t have worried. Because petty revenge was taken by the universe itself.

A few weeks ago, I submitted one of my scripts to a theater in Nevada. Having jumped the necessary hurdles, I proceeded to forget all about the submission, focusing instead on future projects I’m frantically trying to get underway. The other day, however, I was checking my emails on my smartphone, when I noticed a message from the same email address to which I’d submitted the play. I had a response! Far sooner than I would have expected, I had a tangible response to all my hard work.

I saw that response for all of ten seconds. Then my phone refreshed, and the email vanished without a trace.

I checked all of my folders – had the email been classified as spam by mistake? Had some errant finger swipe of mine deleted the email, sending it off to the trash folder? No sign of the message in either place. I subsequently checked my email from my work computer, and from my laptop at home. It didn’t matter – whatever the email had been, it had vanished into cyberspace, with only the most fleeting of memories to suggest it had ever existed.

What could it have said? Most likely, given the timing, it would have been an acknowledgment that they had received the script. This is a customary message to receive, after all, and while you’d like to think theatre companies would send you such a message as soon as they get the script, a delay of a few days or weeks isn’t uncommon. But what if there was more to it than that? What if they’d actually accepted the thing? Conversely, what if there was some other component to the submission that I’d neglected to include, that they were emailing me to request? After all my complaints about the hurdles we playwrights have to clear, had I managed to completely ignore one? And was my own so-called smartphone conspiring to make me miss it again?

And had the email even existed at all? I only saw it for a few seconds; I only have that memory as evidence it was ever there (and you only have my word for it, Gentle Reader). Had this incident taken place today, I could have chalked it up as an April Fools prank – and you might suspect that such a prank is what I’m pulling now, with the one caveat being that this isn’t particularly funny.

And so, with that recognition, I resolve to stop brooding over the phantom email. Because petty revenge only works if you actually stop to think about it.

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