This summer saw our Dramatists Guild Ohio Zoom panel discussion, “What’s Next? Getting Your Play Produced.” Collaboratively presented with the Cincinnati Playwrights Initiative (CPI), the discussion welcomed over 70 participants and was co-hosted by me and CPI’s Susan Decatur.
Panelists included dramaturg Hannah Montgomery and playwrights MARK HARVEY LEVINE and me, who each gave a fifteen-minute presentation. Montgomery, Resident Dramaturg in the Literary Office of the Actors Theatre of Louisville, presented “The Submission Process 101: Tips and Tricks for Getting Your New Plays Read and Produced.” Montgomery began by explaining the general differences between kinds of submission processes including open submissions and unsolicited script submissions.
At Actors Theatre of Louisville, unsolicited script submissions include a ten-page writing sample and a synopsis. While Montgomery reads hundreds of unsolicited samples a year, she maintains that many of the full-length scripts that she requests for consideration come from unsolicited submissions. She shared tips for playwrights sending unsolicited submissions. Importantly, the synopsis should take the reader through all the significant plot points of a play. Unlike a PR blurb or the back cover of a novel, you want to give the reader the whole story. According to Montgomery, “If I read a synopsis, I should be able to give an accurate account of the script with all the key plot points, including spoilers.” The synopsis should also give sense of the tone and genre of the play. Is it melodrama or dark comedy? A playwright’s ten-page script sample should best showcase their writing and give the reader a taste of their voice. Finally, Montgomery advised to make sure that the playwright is familiar with the theatre to which they are submitting. Check their website for core values and previous productions to see if the play fits in with the kind of work they produce.
DG member Mark Harvey Levine, an Indianapolis playwright who focuses primarily on ten-minute plays, has received over 1,750 productions of his work. He drew on his submission experience for his panel presentation, “How, and Where, to Submit Your Play.” Levine suggested taking advantage of calls for submission that specify certain groups to which you may belong. Submission calls based on subject material, region, sexual-orientation or gender, or race, can work to your advantage in that they can narrow the scope of available applicants and give your script a better chance of consideration. “Don’t worry,” said Levine, “if this call isn’t for you—there will be one, we will all get a turn.” Among other advice that Levine offered is to use clear, recognizable formatting, include any writer’s note that may point out something not obvious to the reader about the script, and address cover letters as specifically as possible to the individual reader. Like Hannah, Mark suggested that the submission process allows for a theatre to get to know a playwright, and so you shouldn’t necessarily be discouraged if your work is rejected once—they may remember you in the future for new work.
Finally, I presented a panel entitled, “Knowing Your Audience: Rewrites for Production.” Among other considerations regarding the rewriting process and how it may—or may not—fit into an eventual production, I observed that length is an important consideration, noting that in a recent edition of Play Submissions Helper, “only 15% of calls for submission were for one-act plays, while 35 percent of calls were for ten-minute plays (the remainder being a mix of full-lengths and musicals).” For those looking more at the full-length professional market, I observed that of the top ten produced TCG new plays in America in 2019, the average running time was 94 minutes (and the average cast size was five).
The three presentations were followed by participant questions. For those interested, the video of the entire event is available on the DG website.
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