Guiding Your Readers' Reading
''But usually, I'm the only audience in the room and I try to write just for me. As a result of some 19 years of teaching, of seeing a lot of plays in development, of being ill myself, and of witnessing death, I have far less patience. What I say has to be said -- I call it the now we're two hours closer to death principle. . . . So I'm a little more aware of sort of cutting to the chase at the top of the play. Each time I sit down to write now, I feel a greater urgency. . . . The second I stopped trying to please the dramaturgs of this country, the second I accepted that I wasn't going to get through the door -- and I still haven't gotten through the door of a lot of places -- the more I started writing for myself.'
-- Paula Vogel
After investing months in developing a new play competition, advertising for scripts, stacking them on every available flat surface, and committing readers, you're about to lose control of the process. Up to this point, you've been able to exercise nearly complete oversight of the first phases of the competition, but now it's your readers' turn. And you can't go around peering over their shoulders as they turn the pages of each of the 10 or 15 scripts you've given to each of them.
Most readers actually like having you sitting on their shoulders -- at least metaphorically. The best way to do this, other than sharing the chair with them, is with a simple form that keeps them thinking about what you and your theatre are really looking for.
This is especially true when you're not just looking for a play. Ideally, that play you're hunting for is just the vehicle for spotting something that's of much more value for your theatre: A Playwright.
These are the issues you'll want your readers to remember as they read, all of which have to do with the most important question: What's this playwright's next play going to be like?
And then there's the overriding question with new scripts. Remember that Old Bill Shakespeare will not be entering your competition. Every script your readers read will fall a bit short of perfect. That's a given. But the real question is . . .
- Does the playwright's "Voice" make you want to listen?
- Does the playwright's Theme make you want to know more?
- Does the playwright's work feel like a match for your audience?
The best way to get readers to look seriously at these two points requires only two steps . . .
- How short of Perfect is it?
- And . . . how fixable is it?
- Rank the script on a scale of 1-10
Pick a number, based on your emotional or gut reaction. Don't get into columns of positives and negatives. Just base your number on whatever your experience of plays has been.
- Now . . . Say why you gave it that number
Or to ask this another way, why didn't you give it a Zero or a 10?
Here's a simple one-page form your readers can use to help them with this process. [You can print this out with your browser's Print function.]
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