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July 24, 2011

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Ken

Thanks for the post. I think I get it now. I think I finally, finally, get it. I wish someone at NYU had told me the deal when I graduated all those years ago, so I wouldn't have wasted so many years mailing out plays to theaters with unsolicited submission policies across the country who actually had no intention of doing any unsolicited plays. I wasted so much time sitting back in my apartment waiting for acceptance letters to come. I swear to you I thought that was what a playwright did. This was years before 13P, or any other organization where playwrights took a proactive stand toward getting their plays done. What you did was mail your play away and hope. I hate myself for wasting so many of my prime writing years. I'm trying to rectify that now.

isaac

Hey Ken,

I don't mean to cause despair! And I should note there are some places-- most notably The Lark-- that genuinely engage with open submissions. But the places that actually deal with open submissions tend to be playwright service organizations and/or grant-giving bodies. I would not advise a playwright today to send scripts to a theater with an open submission policy.

Ken

So true, Isaac! And I have been submitting to almost all those service organizations. In fact, the Lark has been very kind to me. I was a finalist for their Playwright's Week a few years ago (in the final group of 20 out of 400 submissions), and while I did not get chosen they did share with me most of the feedback generated from the readers who looked at my play. It was extremely helpful. Didn't mean to suggest I was on the ledge, ready to jump. Life is good, I'm still in the game. Just working smarter these days.

David Dower

Thanks, Isaac, for engaging on this. To your question, I did a little survey of the PlayPenn audience and asked how many in the room had been "readers" for a theater at some point. I was shocked to see almost half the hands go up. I asked a follow up- how many had ever had a play move from their recommendation all the way to production at that theatwr. Two people raised their hands. One was Ed Sobel, who has been diligently reading for more than a decade on staff of theaters. He said he could think of one play in all that time that came over the transom and onto the season.

Yet it's complicated because that opportunity was probably huge for that writer. I know of one other play, by someone who is one of our resident writers now, that went that route. And it totally broke her out of the region she was in and out of the self-producing world in which she was working. I can't guess what might have happened if there'd not been an open transom there. But I do know that, if we close our transom, we're going to have to step out of our offices more to know what is afoot in the world. And being buried under an unmanageable pile of scripts is one of the reasons/rationales for why we don't. I want to be in the world of people similarly in the world. That's my approach until someone comes up with a better, more effective strategy.

Jeremy M. Barker

This actually reminds me of something a relatively well known book acquisition editor told me: he blamed part of the craziness of bidding wars and out of control advances on email. His argument was that before email, the cost of submitting manuscripts was such that it focused the author to target and sell to the write few publishes. Email permitted for across the board submission. I wonder if something similar has happened with open submission processes for plays. Not to get all nostalgic about the fictional good old days, but maybe once upon a time the volume was such that it wasn't unreasonable to expect people to read them. And of course it was also a bit more expensive to send staffs flying all over the country to cover new play fests...

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Thanks Isaac, what I am thinking is spoke from your words!!I am pretty happy to take participation in this blog.

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Isaac, your blog post simply superb!! I have also red open submission policies your other post, I like it a lot!!

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