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The Playwrights Forum > General > Question & Answer > no previous productions!?

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 Posted: Sat Aug 16th, 2008 11:06 pm
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rose
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Mana: 
Ok, I'm pretty much a newbie when it comes to playwriting, but I do understand some stuff- such as small town theatres wanting to do recognized works, so they can see Aunt Martha play "Mame".

It can be hard getting a new play produced, but I've been lucky a few times so I slog on ... What I don't understand is why some theatres will not accept new plays that have had a previous production. If their playhouse is 3,000 miles away from the original production, why does it matter so much to them?

I recently sent out some work, and several companies said "no previous productions on the west coast" or the like, which I think is reasonable. I could also understand a little more if we were talking about full-length pieces, but these are one-acts, ten minute, etc.

I'm glad this isn't the case with every theatre- can you imagine it? You write the play, it's produced once, and you're done! I tried explaining it to my photographer husband - what would it be like if you took the perfect image and then after one gallery show where people had viewed it, the piece had to be retired! Wouldn't that be absurd?

Rose

"A woman is like a tea bag. You never know how strong she is until she gets into hot water." E.R.

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 Posted: Thu Oct 9th, 2008 01:28 am
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uglyones
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Mana: 
You've expressed the sentiments of a large number of us "newbies." I guess it's a notch in their gun if they can advertise it as a "world premiere." But a 40 seat black box? Some get carried away with their own self assessment. They're turning their backs on  a lot of good work by such a maneuver. And how many of the audience members really give a fig whether it's a world premiere or not. Frankly, I prefer to see a tested play, that has a few clippings to its credit. 

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 Posted: Thu Oct 9th, 2008 01:56 am
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HarveyRabbit
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Mana: 
I agree with all of the above. It’s silly to require a play to be a “premiere” when the likelihood of any potential audience member having seen it before to be infinitesimal. I guess it’s the prestige thing, or maybe it’s sometimes a grant thing. 

Which brings me to an issue that irks me equally, if not more so. How many times do you see submission calls from theatres asking for new, previously unproduced or published plays from “emerging” playwrights, that, upon a visit to their website and perusing their production history, you discover have never staged a single play that wasn’t already a known quantity or written by a playwright that had already made something of a name for him/herself?

I’m convinced that this practice is simple a way of fulfilling grant requirements and has absolutely nothing to do with discovering new works from new writers. 

I would like to see (and maybe I will one day create) a website that exposes these fraudsters for the system-abusing, time-wasting (for people such as myself), scammers that they are.

In the meantime, remember to always do your homework when submitting to any theatre. A careful examination of their website can tell you just about all you need to know when it comes to deciding whether to submit to them or not.

H.

Last edited on Thu Oct 9th, 2008 02:01 am by HarveyRabbit

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 Posted: Thu Oct 9th, 2008 03:28 am
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shirleyk
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Mana: 
I'm not happy about this either. On the other hand, it does motivate me to write new plays so I guess it's not all bad.

For me there are worse things than seeing enough of my plays produced that I have no choice but to keep coming up with new work.

Shirley

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 Posted: Thu Oct 9th, 2008 04:13 am
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Paddy
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Mana: 
Money.  Grants.  In Canada....theatres are offered financial incentive to produce new works...specifically, new Canadian works.

It's money.

...that clinking clanking sound.

Paddy

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 Posted: Thu Oct 9th, 2008 02:37 pm
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in media res
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Mana: 
A LITTLE REAL WORLD: You have to know the crowd you are trying to run with.

This question keeps coming up and it is the bane of all playwrights, especially new ones. That is because they have a conscience.

In Walt Disney's Pinnochio Jiminy Cricket, upon seeing Pinnochio running off with the sly fox and his pal to be an actor says, "What does an actor want with a conscience anyway?"

Playwright Ira Levin's lead character in "Deathtrap" is a playwright, Sydney Bruhl. No one is producing his new play. He is also plotting to kill his wife. It is suggested to him that he produce his own play. Bruhl responds
(I paraphrase;) "I may be scoundrel enough to kill my own wife, but I could never sink so low as to be a Broadway producer."

I never worry about silly rules in submissions. If the play fits, I submit it. HOWEVER...AND THIS IS IMPORTANT: if it has been produced and you have signed away some rights by its production, THEN YOU MAY NOT SUBMIT and you could open yourself up for some legal trouble if money is not transferred properly.

If you get hung up by "the rules" nothing would ever get done in this world. I am not talking about breaking the law, I am talking about submitting a play to a theatre. An actor once asked Alfred Hitchock about her detailed motivation. Hitchcock replied, "Darling, we're only making a movie."

If you want, change the title, change a word or two and put it in the mail and say "Big Deal." Or submit it under a psuedonym. What are they going to do?

And what about the theatres who are looking for new plays or playwrights and they always choose a play from the usual stable of their own theatre? Is that not deception right there? This is especially true if there is a fee attached. You wittingly or unwittingly subsidize their productions for them. That is why this site is a NO FEE site.

F. Scott Fitzgerald said one of the most important attributes a writer needs is "cunning."

Paddy is right, the stipulation is a cover for the grant proposals. But, have you ever heard of a playwright going to jail because he/she submitted a previously produced play? GIMME A BREAK!

So, knock yourselves upside the head, shake all that theatre neurosis out of your ears, and submit your plays. They don't get done by sitting in your drawer or sleeping in your computer.

Harvey Rabbit wrote and this is true: "In the meantime, remember to always do your homework when submitting to any theatre. A careful examination of their website can tell you just about all you need to know when it comes to deciding whether to submit to them or not."

If you look on their previously produced seasons list and you see they do wholesome little shows and children's theatre, you do not submit the psychopath play! Even if it says "All topics allowed." Well, you see, if they get a goodly number of submissions, they can show it is a popular or "vital to our community" program and they get to apply for more grant money. Nothing wrong with this. That is the system that is out there. I am just encouraging you to truly know the box and for you to think outside of it.

So, if you see a place where you can target your submission properly, JUST DO IT.

And sleep comfortably.

best,

in media res

P. S. There are some great theatres out there run by great people. But never think they just aren't looking out for what they believe is in their own self-interest for their theatre. Not that that is a bad thing. That is exactly what they should be doing. So, you look out for and take care of your own self-interest as well!

Last edited on Thu Oct 9th, 2008 05:17 pm by in media res

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 Posted: Thu Oct 9th, 2008 10:55 pm
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Playsmith
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Mana: 
Thank you  in media res,
I'll be sending out a rewritten play with a new title this week.  I'll post the feedback I get here.
Michael
Playwright coming out of lurking mode.

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