Playwrights, Scripts, and Hiccups, Oh My!

WoW!  We received almost 100 play submissions for this year’s Female Playwrights ONSTAGE Project, and I couldn’t be happier.  What a wonderful response!

Each participating playwright has been sent a batch of between 10-12 plays to read and evaluate using our online review process, and as soon as the totals are in, we’ll be able to announce our semi-finalists!

While we’re working to tally everything, I thought it would be a good idea to share a few bits of advice to playwrights based on what we’ve seen in from this year’s submissions:

  • Follow Submission Guidelines –  Several playwrights sent in scripts that neither matched the festival theme, nor followed the basic guidelines (must be 10 minutes or less, be sent in PDF Formats, must not have author’s name anywhere on script…)  Sometimes minor submission errors can be corrected (it is pretty easy to open a Word doc and save to PDF – as long as the person on the receiving end has Word) but oftentimes not.
    • So how many pages is “10 minutes or less”?  A good rule of thumb is 1 page = 1 minute.  For our ONSTAGE Project, a 12 page play isn’t going to be dismissed outright – two more minutes isn’t the end of the world! But a 26 page play certainly isn’t producible for our festival… so why submit it?  I’m still scratching my head over this one.
    • If a company is using a theme, follow it.  It is very tempting to try and justify ways in which a play you’ve already written matches a theme, but when you really have to reach for it, it’s probably not the best fit.    Example:  If the theme is “Social Justice” it’s probably best not to submit a play starring two old dudes fishing and talking about the weather…  Instead of submitting a play that’s a total stretch, consider writing a new piece (if you really want to participate in the event) or really revamping that fishing piece… like, really.
  • Take your time.  Reading through a festival or company’s submission guidelines slowly and clearly, and then using a checklist to make sure you’ve followed directions only sets you up for more success!   Logging in 96 plays and getting them all set up for our online system is time consuming – although I love playwrights and want everyone to have the best chances at getting into the festival, it would be unreasonable for me to try to correct technical mistakes for everyone who made them.  I did contact playwrights who sent scripts I couldn’t open, but not everyone used their correct emails either!  Eek!  So, now you’ve sent me a play in a format I can’t open and used an email you either don’t use/check very often while also including an incorrect email address in the body of the submission email?  There’s very little I can do to help you out now 🙁  So take your time!

Playwrights will have the opportunity to request a copy of evaluator feedback from LBDI, but the most common criticism we’ve seen thus far has been about formatting… which is a super contentious area, because playwriting, unlike screenwriting, doesn’t have one standard, set-in-stone, format.  However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to make your play as readable as possible!  So:

  • Make sure you use consistent font – if you’re going to work with Times New Roman, then use Times New Roman all the way through!  Don’t change to something else halfway through the play, don’t alternate fonts for different characters and/or stage directions.  And don’t EVER use Comic Sans
  • Use 12 pt. font.  This is especially important for gauging performance times.
  • Space the elements of your script (characters/vs/dialogue/vs/stage directions/etc.) so that they can be easily differentiated and read.
  • Do NOT use multi-colored fonts.

The Dramatists Guild has very easy-to-follow formatting guidelines available to playwrights, so definitely check them out if you haven’t already.

And that’s about it from us at LBDI.  On the whole, I’ve got to stress, we are very happy with our playwrights and super excited about presenting our semi-finalists in the coming months!  We’ll be writing about our partner producers soon, as well as the review process, so keep coming back and stay connected with us through our Facebook and Twitter feeds!

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