Thursday, November 22, 2012

New Play Smell Part Three: Open Submisisons

So again we're rejoining our lovely Heroine Susie Q. Playwright on her next step in getting her play out in the world. In Part One we talked about the general opportunities out there for for playwrights. In Part Two we talked about the pros and cons of staged readings. Today Susie Q. is visiting the world of open submissions. Let's take a look.

What are Open Submissions

Say you run a theater company and want to produce the work of new playwrights from all across the country. How do you find them? Well nowadays theatre companies will put up an ad in the local paper,  on their own website, or on websites designed for that purpose that let every playwright know that they're looking for new works to produce. There are three main types of submissions out there.

  1. Submissions for the Season: You submit your play and if it's picked up they consider it for their new season.
  2. Submissions for a Special Event: You submit your play (usually a one-act or a ten minute play) and they include yours with a series or festival that they're including in their regular season. 
  3. Submissions for a Convention or a New Works Festival: You submit your play and it gets a reading or production at a regional convention or new works festival.
There are a lot of good things that regularly submitting to things like these can do for your career. 

  • A production: The more resume credits that you get under your belt the more desirable you look to other theatre companies. And the money from the royalties isn't bad either.
  • Exposure: It's a great way to build a relationship with a theatre company and get their audience to know who you are. Especially in the world of conventions and new play festivals that are attended by theatre professionals and producers all over the country. If they like your play enough maybe they'll want you to produce it when they get home. 
But there are some cons out there. There are several reasons why a certain submission opportunity may not be great for you. Here are some of the pet peeves that I have with open submissions that I've seen. When I see these warning signs I stay away. 
  • Submission disguised as commissions: You see these when the criteria they give you says, "Only plays dealing with life on the farm...or only serious adaptations of the work of Dr. Seuss will be accepted". They really want someone to just write a specific kind of play for them but they don't know that they can just commission one playwright to write it for them. 
  • More interested in the industry/mission than you: If they seem more interested in whether you have an agent or if you are of a certain race or nationality. There a million submission ads out there like this and that seem tailor made for people of different races, people that come from different cities, people born on the left side of a watermelon under a full moon. My personal belief is that unless your focus is on producing good plays by good playwrights you won't be that focused on making a good piece of art. Unless you're a shoe in for a certain demographic just give all of these a pass.
  • Submissions for Theatre Companies you've never heard of: They may be a wonderful company to submit to and be pillars of their community but if you don't know who they are and have never heard of them how do you know that they're going to give you a good deal. It's all about advancing your play one step up to being the best it can be. It's all about advancing you one step up to the next level in your professional life. If you don't know for sure that submitting your play to this company is going to get you there then maybe you should stay back and do your research. If they're any good they'll be offering it again the next year.

Final Thoughts

Sending that play in to be submitted can be the gateway to launching your career. Or it could be just a waste of time.  Here are just a few final tips to make your submission go even better.

  • You're goal is to get a production and expand the network. Keep these things in mind when you look for the best opportunity for you.
  • Research every opportunity before you submit: Ask yourself the questions: "Are these the people I want to produce my work? What other plays have the produced before? What other playwrights have had plays done there before? Where are those playwright's now?"
  • Mark all submission deadlines on a calendar for the following year: Plan on doing maybe ten. That way when you start to write a play or are in the revision process for a play that's soon to be finished you have an idea where you're going to submit it. Make the submission process a part of your writing routine.
  • Visit some of the places that you plan to submit to. Try to bump into them at receptions or conventions. Be courteous and introduce yourself and tell them about your work. Never talk about the fact that you might submit to them just let them know you exist. By the time they receive your submission they'll know who the flesh and blood person on the other end.
There a lot of things concerning submissions. As a playwright it's a lot of work and a lot of grey areas. Someday I hope to write more tips and tricks, or answer all of your questions. If you have any questions, or you think I'm really off base, leave me a comment below.

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