You all are catching me at a crazy time. I’m in the middle of a big script send out to places far and wide. My brain is thinking about Character Breakdowns and Playwright Biographies. Am I just a playwright character? Or am I a character playwright? Who am I? What am I doing?
I also want to give a shout out to the National Playwrights Conference which used their Facebook page as a force of good to explain what a Statement of Objectives was. Yay Eugene O’Neill!!! And I’m not kissing ass to get my play selected. Okay I am, but whatever.
I have also been on the other side of the submission process and read submissions for theatre companies and contests.
I am currently on a submission reading hiatus, so I know for a fact that I am not reading plays by anyone who might be reading this.
I recently was asked by a new playwright acquaintance about submissions. What makes a good play? Or more importantly, how can one’s play stand out and shine in the early rounds of judging?
There’s no definite answer because every reader comes from a different place. However, there are a few simple things that all writers can do.
Layout. Especially dialogue. I don’t care if you put the character name over the dialogue or on the same line as the dialogue. Please, just do it one way or another, and keep it consistent.
Also, make sure the character’s name is spelled the same throughout the script. Yes, I have read scripts where character names change halfway through.
Sometimes characters speak over each other. Yes, I know it happens in life. I don’t want some weird formatting. Just write (speaking over her) in the character direction.
I don’t want to see a lot of character direction. I don’t want to know when a character turns her head or even crosses the room. Please, just the essentials for staging. Think of it as the important stuff.
Third, please, please, please could I have a list of characters at the beginning of the play. I don’t need a lot of detail. Sometimes I forget who’s the mother and who’s the sister especially in big epic family melodramas.
Should you have it single sided or double sided on paper? I don’t really care. But please, make sure you have all your pages. For computer submissions, I prefer the script be in pdf instead of a word processing program so I don’t mess up your lovely formatting.
How should the paper script be bound? Brass binders are fine for me because I can take them out when I hold the manuscript.
Finally, please please please don’t write plays that are dumbass. How do you know if your play is dumbass? Well, you really don’t. That’s the fun of it.
Another comic thought. I have no power to get your play produced. However, I can recommend it or not recommend it.
I will read your script intelligently and perceptively. I will try to imagine the characters as flesh and blood people on a stage. I will delight when I am surprised and laugh when it is funny. When I’m reading your script, the stage in my head is yours. Now, show me something