The Business Issue of The Dramatist


New York, NY (May 12, 2017) – The Dramatists Guild of America is pleased to announce the release of a set of “Best Practices for Contests and Festivals” to be considered when writers submit their work to festivals, conferences, or contests.

For years, writers have been contacting the Guild, concerned about variables in submission practices, fee structures, and other issues around submitting their work. In response, this document was created by a committee of dedicated DG member playwrights, composers and lyricists across the country, along with the Guild’s Business Affairs department. These Best Practice Guidelines are designed to help both Guild members and producers become more aware of industry standards and expectations.

The Best Practices Guidelines are intended to be a yardstick by which writers can compare opportunities, and a reference point for producers to consider when evaluating their own guidelines, and a standard to point to when writers engage with theatres that employ questionable practices. With transparency about what is right, fair, and ethical in dealing with producing entities, writers are then empowered to make informed and individual submission choices. The Guidelines are also intended to be used in tandem with the Guild’s existing Bill of Rights.

The Best Practices are presented as a set of bullet points, but are accompanied by a set of notes, providing context and explanations for each guideline. These documents will be available to the public on the Dramatists Guild’s new website and will be distributed to festivals, conferences and contests around the country. Dramatic writers are encouraged to look at the document, along with the preface explaining the ideas behind its creation, to determine if a particular submission opportunity will give them the experience they are seeking and protect their rights.

From The Dramatists Guild


If a theater festival, conference, or contest were the most perfect, playwright-centered, ethical opportunity, what would it look like? That question drove the creation of this document, a template for theater entities desiring to run programs with the Dramatists Guild Bill of Rights and #playwrightrespect informing its rules and policies, and a tool for playwrights [*] to make educated decisions about where to send their work.

Devising this list was the easy part; after all, we’ve all bristled at submission fees, no results notification, or directors who want to shut us out. So we had no problem agreeing, for example, that no submission fee is best practice, but, in declaring such, we had to acknowledge that some high-profile, career-building opportunities do charge them – and aren't likely to change. Of course playwrights want to be informed if they aren't selected, but, again, we know of top prizes that don't offer that courtesy. In fact, in seeking examples of totally compliant opportunities, we found that while a great number come close to checking all the boxes, few actually do.

Naturally, we wish they all did, but we're pragmatic. Even as we recognize good and great opportunities that aren't perfect, we present and encourage the Best Practices Guidelines as ideal industry standard. In publishing this, we hope theaters are motivated to amend their programs to hew as closely to this list as their own needs and practicalities allow.

For playwrights, the Best Practices Guidelines are a yardstick by which to compare opportunities, and a standard to point to when engaging with theaters employing questionable practices. While some Best Practices inherently carry more weight than others, nothing is a deal-breaker if a playwright doesn't want it to be. But with transparency about what is right, fair, and ethical--indeed, best--playwrights are empowered to make informed and individual submission choices.

[*] The word “playwright” can also refer to writers of musical theatre, depending on the submission requirements of the festival, conference, or contest.

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