Running New Play Competitions
THE PLAYWRITING SEMINARS > RUNNING COMPETITIONS >
-- Margaret Edson
So, you might think. If we've got reams of plays being written every year, let's not fool around. Let's Just Do It -- as the sneaker folks in Oregon say.
So you run your solicitation for scripts in the Dramatists Guild Newsletter, list your new play competition in the Dramatists Sourcebook, pass the word among your friends and the local coffee shops, and go off to your neighborhood copy shop with
And then just sit back and wait to be confronted by the overwhelming task of deciding which of a hundred wonderful plays you should choose.
Not so. Sad . . . but true. In fact, this business of hunting for new scripts is only your calling if you think looking for needles in haystacks is a great way to spend a vacation.
We've got two culprits you can blame for what
Out of every batch of 1,000 new scripts by previously unproduced writers, only 3% will be worth reading past page 2 of Act I. Of those 30 scripts, only 10% of those -- 3 out of that 1,000 -- will have what it takes to support all the rewriting needed to get them in shape for a full production.
The BBC Rule repeats itself with amazing -- and depressing -- consistency in the United States. And it's worth saying that it grew out of the BBC being under the gun to find enough scripts to fill 2,000 hours of radio drama a year. That's the equivalent of finding somewhere between 1,000 and 1,300 full-length plays to produce in your theatre. Every year.
But there's still that other
It's this second dark cloud hanging over the new play selection process that sends those of us who have labored as final judges of major competitions for that roll of Tums. After all, we're looking at what's supposed to be the best of the best. Perhaps 30 scripts that have survived at least two levels of screening. And have floated to the top of that sea of 1,000 or 1,500 submissions. Most of these usually make us cringe at the thought of putting them on stage. How is such an outcome possible? Or to put it another way, is the BBC Rule really a rule?
That's why competition judges nearly always wonder in the dead of night what wonderful script got knocked out at the beginning of the process by a reader who wasn't ready for the job.
One of the reasons for this self-doubt is that competition organizers often think that at least one thing they don't have to worry about
If you can't find a good local bookstore with a large selection of theatre and film titles, you can order recommended plays, screenplays, videos, and books through the Web without having to do title searches. Look for linked book covers or the amazon.com logo throughout The Playwriting Seminars. And the world's leading Internet bookstore can get them to you in a few days.