Last October I wrote a post called Submission Mission Part One: Hey Playwrights! in which I laid out five things a playwright can do to make submission less painful for themselves, and today I'm going to come at it from the other side of the equation… Yeah, that's right, this is my wish list aimed at all the theaters, festivals, and producers who put out calls for playwrights. I may be shunned from the theater community at large for this post, but it's a risk I'm willing to take.
As usual when I'm giving feedback, please feel free to take from this what you find useful, and ignore the rest…
1. Tell Us What You Want, What You Really, Really Want
I have a lot of different material; Greek-myth adaptations, broad comedies, sci-fi and fantasy stories, TYA scripts, character driven plays with social commentary, one-acts, full-lengths, shorts, and more. I don't think one theater wants to read and/or produce all of my plays, but I do think that there are theaters who'd be interested in specific scripts of mine. So tell us what you want! And feel free to list a few things if you're interested in multiple types of plays, I really love submission calls that include a “wish list” of sorts from the artistic staff covering the work they'd like to discover.
2. Embrace Industry Standards!
There are a lot of hoops I'll jump through for any given submission… Snail mail? You got it. Blinded script? Yep. Artistic statements and samples? I got you covered. Got specific questions for me? Send them my way! But I will often pass on a submission when it's asking for things too far off the beaten path. Here are my biggest pet-peeves:
- Asking for samples that aren't 10 or 20 pages long. Why do you want a twelve page sample? Why are those extra two pages so important to you?
- Only accepting word docs. This one irks me so much that I will almost always pass on these calls. Not only is your work more easily altered in a word doc, it's formatting hell converting a PDF or final draft file into a word doc.
- When you give us too many choices, like: “Script can be blinded if the author wishes, but this isn't necessary.” Whenever there are options like that I always worry that the theater doesn't really know what they'd like or what type of submissions they need. Be bold! Tell us what and how you'd like it, we're happy to oblige.
3. For The Love Of God, If It's A No, Just Reject Me!
I don't mind rejections. Every submission I send out is a little bit of hope, and since I send out so many, I've always got a lot of hope out in the world at any given time. Hearing a final “no” is always welcome, because then I can reserve my energy hoping over things I'm still in the running for. I know this can be a pain, and I'm not even looking for anything personal, just a, “Hey, thank you for submitting, but we didn't select your work” is welcome.
And if you're still not convinced it's something you can pull off, an easy fix is to list a date on your submission page: “If you don't hear from us within a year (or however long), it's a pass.”
4. While We're On Rejections….
But, there is one little thing about those mass-rejection emails…. If you do it (which again, is preferred to radio-silence) please, please, please, please, please BCC the playwrights you're turning down. I always feel funny (in a not great way) about being cobbled onto a 200+ email with all the other rejected playwrights. Throw those emails into the BCC section, it makes your organization look SO much more professional, and it makes me want to engage with your theater again in the future.
5. Take Advantage Of New Tech
This one helps me, as it always streamlines my process sending work anywhere, but it also helps you as an organization. I highly recommend taking advantage of one of these new systems available for submission taking.
Places that charge:
- New Play Exchange, allows you to search their database of plays with as many specifics (cast size, themes, style, etc) as you can think of. You can also put out a call which will email all the playwrights on the site who qualify and give them the option to tag their play for your contest.
- Submittable, we've used this in the past for 31 Plays in 31 Days and it's pretty great. They don't have a database of plays to search through like the New Play Exchange, but it helps you stay organized and on top of all of your submissions and makes sending out rejections and confirmations a breeze. The cost is a sliding scale depending on the amount of submissions you take in.
- Google Forms also helps you gather information in an easy-to-read- form from all the playwrights sending scripts your way. There's no system for auto-confirmations or rejections like on Submittable, and there's no database like with the New Play Exchange, but it's free, and free can often not be beat.
And those are just the ones I know about, there are more out there, so if none of the above fit the bill, do some digging online.
So that about covers it for me, fingers crossed I won't be ostracized from theater for the rest of my life! And good luck to all the folks sending out and receiving submissions out there! After all, we need both sides of it to make this thing work.