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The Playwrights Forum > General > Question & Answer > Are theaters who produce 10-minute play festivals only looking for comedic scripts?

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Are theaters who produce 10-minute play festivals only looking for comedic scripts?  Rate Topic 
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 Posted: Sat Aug 5th, 2017 09:02 pm
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noviceplaywright
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Mana: 
Almost all of the 10-minute play festival notices I've come across, seem to only be interested in comedic scripts from playwrights. Some even claim they are looking for diversity.

(It seems to be the opposite for full-length plays, but I haven't written a full-length play, yet; I'd like to gain experience writing small ones, first.)

As a new, unproduced playwright, I find it discouraging and puzzling because I thought theater was supposed to be not only about fun escapism for audiences, but also about teaching them about others' diverse experiences, some of which aren't fun and happy.

I understand that theaters probably produce comedic plays more than serious ones because that's what sells tickets and what audiences want, but I wish theaters would understand that not all playwrights are able to write comedic plays, due to our diverse childhood/upbringing, where we went through serious life circumstances that forced us to grow up earlier than our peers and were expected to be serious and act like adults and not children.

I've tried writing comedic scenes or dialogue in my short plays, similar to what I've heard from others' produced plays, but it feels wrong for me, like I'm trying to pander to the audience for laughs, and I end up removing those things.

I'm just not naturally a comedic person. I've always been more interested in serious, social issues because those topics and the people who go through them, seem to be ignored/aren't discussed in society and don't have a voice.

It's puzzling and disheartening to write a short play about a current, serious issue that's in the news, that I haven't seen a play written about, yet to have no theaters interested in it (they choose to produce another play about a heterosexual couple, either dating or divorcing.)

If theaters aren't interested in serious, social, short plays, I'd like to know so that I could stop wasting my time or fooling myself into believing or hoping that, one day, a theater might produce my plays. I'm left wondering what other, unspoken biases that might theaters have, like, do they only want to produce playwrights who've earned a degree? Some of us without degrees are serious about playwriting.

No, I can't produce my plays, myself; some of us are second-generation Americans who don't have money. No, I don't have any local friends or know any theater people.

The local theaters only produce comedic plays about Southerners/musicals; my plays are about LGBTQIA+ issues, which wouldn't be extremely popular with local audiences. (which is why I'm frustrated by theaters in other parts of the country who ask for submissions only from their local regional playwrights; some of us playwrights in the south or the Midwest don't have a lot of theaters or opportunities that Northeastern (i.e. NYC playwrights or California playwrights have.)

Last edited on Sat Aug 5th, 2017 09:12 pm by noviceplaywright

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 Posted: Wed Aug 9th, 2017 05:02 pm
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justpenguin
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Mana: 
@noviceplaywright sorry for offtop, but I can't reply to your PM you sent me. You have disabled private messages. You should check your profile preferences. I just want to say thank you for your support :)

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 Posted: Wed Aug 9th, 2017 07:33 pm
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noviceplaywright
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Mana: 
It's fixed.

You're welcome. I'm sorry I couldn't be more helpful, but I like the idea of your play. For me, it sounds creative and socially important for today's culture, more than other plays I've read or seen produced.

If it's a full-length, I'm especially impressed. I'd like to write one myself, but it's challenging for me to plan and figure it out, as I'm a perfectionist who doesn't want to bore the audience with filler dialogue/scenes.

Last edited on Wed Aug 9th, 2017 07:35 pm by noviceplaywright

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 Posted: Sun Aug 13th, 2017 06:52 pm
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noviceplaywright
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Mana: 
It's good to know I'm not the only person who feels this way.

https://www.reddit.com/r/Theatre/comments/6khjqv/torontos_soulpepper_builds_a_bridge_to_new_york/

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 Posted: Wed Aug 30th, 2017 03:11 am
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in media res
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Mana: 
Not from my experience.

If you start sulking...you are dead meat as a writer or actor or anyone in the theatre. Disappointment is "Built in" to the professions!!!!

I have been fortunate to make my living as an actor for many years. Some money as a playwright. But playwriting does not pay for my health insurance and contribute to my Pension Plans!!!!

So...to answer your question!!! It may SEEM to be easier for a writer to seemingly WRITE a play that is COMIC.

I have had my plays win that were quite serious. And some that were comedies...or so-called comedies! I have judged numerous play festivals that had plays that were so serious the audience was almost drowned in tears by the end of the play. It is amazing what can be done in ten to fifteen minutes.

And at the festivals, I have seen all combinations of good writing. One play I saw a year and a half ago where I also had a play produced, had the audience in deep, deep silent tears. The tension was so soft that it crept up on you like a silent burglar and wrung the tears out of your heart. It was one of the most soulful plays I have ever seen in my life. The playwright and I have become friends.

I suggest to you that you write what you want in your heart and mind and soul and submit; and stop the second guessing, which will inhibit your imagination and creativity. If you do not get chosen...BIG DEAL! Get over it. Work on it some more, and submit it to another theatre and definitley keep writing others.

But do follow Dramatic Structure. I have judged/read for numerous play festivals and in a great/too many number of plays, all I have seen is "Narrative" and no Drama. No conflict, internal nor external. Most submissions I have read...can I say it? Are CRAP.

I hope that encourages you!!! Remember "Good Writing does not necessarliy make a Good Play." I was taught this years ago by a great writing teacher in Los Angeles. But "Good DRAMATIC writing CAN make good play. It is important to be able to KNOW the difference.

It also does help if you follow the guidelines for the particular theatre you are submitting to.

And have I submitted to theatres where I felt they don't know their ass from a hole in the ground when I have seen what was chosen? YEP!!! That doesn't mean you quit writing and quit submitting. I also have found I have had much greater success when I submit to "Blind Submission" Theatres.

I have read for theatres where one is supposed to disqualify oneself if you know the playwright. I have always informed the theatre. Trust me...doesn't always happen.

Whatever. I hope this encourages you and everyone.

But you must learn to become your own best critic! And if you can get some actors to read - no, PERFORM - your script out loud for you before submitting, it might help you to find some glitches.

Best of luck. I hope some of this helps.

IMR

P.S. There is no such thing as "Filler Dialogue."

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 Posted: Wed Aug 30th, 2017 02:12 pm
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Doug B
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Mana: 
Maybe the reason that theaters are looking for comedies is that they are hard to make work in ten minutes.

Our theater has produced a ten minute Playfest for 12 years. Good comedies are far harder to find then good dramas. We average 15 to 18 submissions a year of which 5 or 6 might be comedies. And most of those are skits not plays.

Our goal is to have half comedies and half dramas. This year we had four good comedies. Last year only two. We try to have at least two first time writers. This year we had our first ever ten minute opera. We only accept submissions for our Playfest from full time residents of our island.

We have a monthly playwrights meeting to keep the interest up, help each other with works in progress and hopefully teach them something. We just had our monthly meeting last night with 10 aspiring playwrights there. Almost everyone is working on dramas.

Just my two cents worth.

Doug B

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 Posted: Wed Aug 30th, 2017 05:54 pm
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Edd
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Mana: 
Comedy is NOT as easy as some may think, take it from one who knows. Everybody has his or her own sense of comedy—what is funny or what is not funny. The writer must strike a universal cord; or at least get close to it—to the absurdities of us. If you want to get a "serious" idea across the apron, comedy is better suited. Stepping on a banana peel may be funny to some, but like Trump, it only appeals to a few of the lowest denominator. I once made the mistake of taking a request to critique a "playwright's existential comedy." It was pure Monty Python, done badly. Nonsense is not existential nor is it necessarily funny. Luckily, he doesn't know where I live. Drama is easy in the sense that we have our own history with which to work. Comedy is simply, and always, a matter of taste. I would, every time, listen to what in media res and Doug B have to say. Don't listen to me. The universe knows I never do.

P.S. Novice playwright, I am as queer as a goose, yet much of my work concerning the LGBT community is told with comedy. I want to expand my audience, get them to enjoy and find things they share in common with us, and have a good laugh at the same time. I love straight folks. We wouldn't be here without them. I want their money, too. Forgive me, but gay drama in the hands of a novice will most always be singing to the choir. And the choir gets tired of doling out the price of a ticket to hear what they already know.

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 Posted: Thu Aug 31st, 2017 03:28 pm
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Doug B
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Mana: 
I read a hundred plays a year trying to find 4 or 5 that we will produce. I have a reasonable list of drama's that we can do given the right director and actors. I am always struggling to find enough comedies.

Several years ago, a very smart person told me that the difference between comedies and dramas is a matter of degree: All good drama's have some humor and all good comedies have some drama. If I can make people laugh and cry in the same play, I'm doing something right.

Next week we open "The Other Place" by Sharr White, a heavy drama about a woman's descent into dementia. It would be a long night of theater if we weren't able to find some lightness.

We've done "Noises Off" and "Lend me A Tenor" and most of the other well known comedies (farces). My favorite play was (is) "The Dixie Swim Club" by Jones, Wooten and Hope. It is a funny, funny, pee in your pants comedy but the characters face real problems: alcoholism, dementia and aging.

When I read a play, I'm looking at two thing: The story and the characters. Another very wise person told me a long time ago: If you do a play that says George Bush is doing a good to an audience who thinks George Bush IS doing a good job, what have you accomplished? (I told you it was a long time ago). My first criteria is: Is the message of this play something that our audiences need to hear?

I'm going to spend six months with the characters. Do I like them enough to spend that much time with them? Are they real or just talking shells? Are they compelling? Interesting? Will the audience identify/care about them?

Then I look at whether the means of telling the story is appropriate: Comedy or drama.

I don't like stupid comedies. I know they can be funny and I have directed more of them than I care to count. Audiences like them but they aren't a lot of fun for me to direct.

One final comment: Yes, I read over a hundred plays a year but I finish far fewer. My system is to print out the first 25 pages, stick them in my bag and read them when I have a down minute or two (and before I go to sleep at night). If I'm still interested at the end of the 25 pages, I print the next 25 pages and so on until I get tired of the play or finish the play. If I finish it, it goes into one of three piles: 1) This is a play I want to spend more time on (about 10%); 2) Not for me but I'll pass it on to (person who does this kind of play well - for example I know a Director who loves plays about the military and does them well) (about 5%) and 3) Plays that are good but not good enough.

A lot of Directors look through the three stacks or ask me if I know a play that . . . . Sometimes I will sit on a play for years waiting for the right time to do it. I sat on "God Damn Tom" by Wayne Rawley for almost 10 years before the right time to produce it came. Right now I'm sitting on "Bakersfield Mist" by Stephen Sachs waiting for the right time to do it.

Enough for today. Hope I haven't bored you.

Doug B

Last edited on Thu Aug 31st, 2017 03:31 pm by Doug B

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