Cover of The Dramatist Season in Review 2022-2023
DG Glossary: World Premiere

A “world premiere” is the first professional production (not a reading or a workshop) of a theatrical work.

Illustration of a yellow highlighter accenting the words World Premiere

An organization’s request for world premiere rights should only be considered if it is presenting (a) a full professional (e.g. Equity) production (including sets, costumes, lighting, etc.), (b) for at least 21 performances, (c) with an official press opening, (d) with tickets sold to the general public (including subscribers), and with no less than standard royalties paid to the author.

Theatres and producers will ask for the right to bill a production as a world premiere in order to help market the work. It also gives a theatre greater visibility and prestige in its community, enabling it to increase its subscriber base and enhancing their fundraising efforts.

This makes a “world premiere” a valuable commodity for the dramatist as well, but it is a commodity that can only be used once. In fact, some theatres may not even produce “second productions” of relatively new works, so it is an important subject of negotiation with a theatre. Dramatists, therefore, may want to withhold world premiere rights if the theatre’s production does not meet the definition stated above or if they have another production opportunity that might offer greater benefit.

If the play is an older work, the theatre will be able to search online and discover that it has already had a world premiere production, so it is not recommended for a writer to mislead a theatre about their work’s production status. However, in that case, a writer may still negotiate for the work to be billed as a “[City] Premiere” or “Regional Premiere.” Similarly, if the play has been significantly rewritten since its last production but still has the same title, this could be billed as the world premiere of the new adaptation of [title of play].

If you are a Guild member with questions about world premieres, visit our HelpDesk online: We will be happy to assist you. 

This glossary definition is intended for use by dramatists in their contractual relationships, so that theatres cannot assert rights (like future production rights or financial participation) unless their productions meet certain standards applicable when granting a theatre “world premiere” rights. However, dramatists are always free to characterize their own productions as they see fit, in their best judgment, for their own purposes.