In looking through submission guidelines for theatres we constantly come across the STOP phrase: "All submissions should be plays that have not been produced in any other theatres."
Why is this so? It will certainly will be new to their theatre. Face it, theatres produce already produced plays all the time, look at "Doubt." Look at "You Can't Take it With You." Most theatre's seasons are built around old plays. And this proviso seems especially odd and constrictive for 10 minute or one-acts as no one ever really gets to see them anyway. They are like the "Short Subjects" films at the Academy Awards: very well done, but no one ever gets to see them either.
I would recommend what it should say is:
"1. Any play submitted must be a play which is unpublished.
2. Any play submitted must be the sole property of the playwright."
This eliminates any rights problems if a previous producing theatre had acquired any rights to the play through production. Most amateur productions do not acquire any rights.
This would allow good plays to continue to move through the pipeline of theatre and get known. Who cares if a play has been produced already if it has never been produced at their theatre? As long as the playwright owns all the rights to the play, what would it matter to them? Don't they want to see good plays submitted?
The way it is stated now if it has had a student production at your college while a student, which is happening more and more, it would not be eligible. Or if it had a small community production in East Jeans, Ohio? Even if it was professionally produced, what would it matter if it met both the above qualifications?
Any inventive ideas from ye gathered playwrights on this matter, so theatres will understand the Catch 22 it places on playwrights?
I had asked Gary Garrison this question through edd, as I could not attend the Salon on Feb 3. Edd, since we don't have a transcript, did he have any helpful advice you may remember?
Or we could ask it again to in March.
Happy Birthday to the memory of Abraham Lincoln - the Man from Illinois.
It irks me more than I can begin to express here. That is why I have reminded playwrights in the past on this forum to think twice before submitting your play--if your wish comes true you will be limited in options from thereon out. Make sure a production by that theater is worth it. Gary Garrison addressed this very issue during the Green Room Saloon. Perhaps he will address it in March. Wasn't it one of your questions that opened that issue? I think it was.
You're absolutely right on this one...how about this:
Since you have stated, in your call for scripts, your desire for previously unproduced scripts I am unable to send you This Play which was well received in New York, That Play which was loved by Boston audiences and Another Play that delighted audiences of all ages in Chicago. So, attached please find Ten Nonsensical Pages. It's been rejected by countless theatres and is unproduced.
I look forward to hearing from you. Best of luck with your bottom-of-the-barrel playwriting contest.
P.S. I just remembered, while in the shower, Gary said it had something to do with grant money. If they produce premieres under the guise of play development, it is easier for them to be awarded grants. Now I've got to go and dry off.
A lady recently posted on the NCPlaywrights a statement that she wanted to run a contest and wanted to know whether to specify a genre or not.
Many authors responded, all of whom probably had a play to submit. My response was to try something totally new... to advertise for plays that have won contests but have not received subsequent productions. These "winners" are obviously better than most plays that have been submitted but may still need tweaking.
I recommended she offer workshops to improve chosen plays with possible production as the reward for satisfactory improvement.
Now, you see, Sam, you are a man with a brain! That is a terrific idea. I am voting for you for president! Now, if we can only hear your thoughts on Social Security, healthcare and the economy!!
It would certainly mean the first round entries were vetted in some way, and that another theatre or festival had been willing to put their name on the quality of the work that had been submitted. May even cut down on the quantity of scripts submitted.
A theatre I know of once ran a limited submission contest for a very small geographical area. What they found was, all the plays were terrible! Just terrible!! Then the writers - all of maybe twelve of them - got mad. One guy actually said, "I'll sue!" Fortunately they had put the disclaimer about "an award may not be given if no play is found suitable for production." They never did THAT again! It makes for a very funny story even to this day, for the people who tell it, especially having known some of the personalities involved.
Or, one could run a contest where the writers had at least one production outside of a school-sponsored setting. I have seen some listings do something similar to that.
There are all types of ways to target your submissions. Personally, I think ten minute plays are the bane of theatre. Mind you, they are fun. And they can teach a writer a lot while doing them. As i said before, I look upon them somewhat as structuring sonnets. And, little things lead to bigger things. But I have actually heard some writers say the day before a submission deadline, "Oh, I'm going to whip something up for such and such ten minute contest by tomorrow and send it off." Hmmm..."whip" it up?
So, you can imagine the stuff that gets submitted. As moz, in the wonderfully informative interview posted in the Salon on this site said, due to sheer volume, "We finally made a rule, no plays can take place in a Starbucks," or something close to that. So, pity not ourselves, but what the readers have to plow through!
I just let them know that, even though my plays have been produced before, the play is my sole property.
Also, I have a file in my bookmarks for theatres that specify must be unproduced which is actually fairly rare compared to the literally thousands that will take anything. I have a couple of scripts that are unproduced that I am intending on sending to theatres to get onstage.
But yes, it makes no sense to demand that a play be unproduced unless they are seeking plays specifically for workshopping or development. First of all, if a show has had at least a staged reading in the past, a theatre should be happy that at least someone else out there thought enough of the script to produce it. Hell, the theatre can even research the play then and see for themselves what type of response it received.
As someone who looks at plays all the time for production consideration, I'd rather pick one that has at least some track record.
No, absolutely not! I thought it was a great suggestion.
And I WOULD vote for you for president! We need someone who can come up with new ideas! Or at least execute the old ones well. But I am among the "IRISH FOR O'BAMA" already. (You saw that phrase here first, by the way. I think I may have invented it.) So, I am committed this year.
I was going to post a separate topic, but then I came across this thread. I have been wondering at the usefulness of these one-minute and ten-minute competitions. Of course, it can be a fine writing exercise, but is it much use for the advancement of one's career? I guess it might provide another avenue of networking. What do you all think?
I've always said, and it has turned out to be true, little things grow into bigger things. Several of my short plays have grown into full-length plays. And one little sentence from a play grew into another full one-act.
Kind of like a career as an actor in baseball terminology: a lot of base hits, some doubles, a few triples, and once in awhile some really nice home-runs. Not bad.
So, the little things really do count.
When you make it with a ten minute play at a competition of 2,000 submissions, that is a big deal. now, your play may still be terrible, but someone took notice of it. People pay attention to that on a resume.
So every little bit adds up. So many people wait for the BIG THING and nothing ever happens.
I have the same experience in my short career - a 10 minute piece, which became a much better and more amusing [I hope] one-act play.
Inspiration, of course, can come from looking at a leaf. I am presently writing a dark comedy inspired by a late night cafe my mates and I used to frequent in the '60s after a night out. The owner was paranoid [& a bit like Seinfeld's Soup Nazi], but the food was great and cheap. And the script puts the microscope on modern day public as well as private paranoias.
As a Literary Manager I do have mention the difficulties faced by a theatre company when they are told just prior to tech that a snippet of a song (for example) cannot be used as permission couldn't be granted/was too pricey. We are protecting ourselves -although our wording is slightly different. We state "Any script submitted must be the sole work of the playwright(s) and must not include any material you do not have permission to use."