Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Reading Script Submittals

I'm a reader.

Of play scripts (because I design theater sets).  Of non-fiction when I research or get curious.  Of on-line stuff.  Of newspapers and magazines.  And of novels - mostly genre ones - when seeking amusement, excitement, pleasure, or just a break from the day-to-day.  I read toothpaste boxes and wine labels.  If it has letters on it, I read it.  I like reading.

Last night was a script reading party for Kitchen Dog Theater where we made a dent in the boxes of submittals to our new play contest. It's exciting and intimidating to see the number of envelopes, the hope and hours of work they represent.  Everyone around the table last night wanted to find the prize, a great new play...

Dear Playwrights: can I make a few suggestions for making a good impression on readers - any readers, anywhere - who receive an envelope of your work?

1)  Make the cover letter short.  Pithy.  "Here it is, hope you like it."  Contact info.  Answer any questions - about previous productions, number of characters or whatever.   Don't get cute. Briefly mention awards, but be wary of bragging as too-florid praise can backfire.

2)  Make it businesslike.  Never, for instance, cross out something on the title page; reprint it.  Send a clean copy.

3)  Make it readable: white paper, black letters, readable font and line spacing.

4)  Make it sturdy.  There are supposed rules about the "professional" brads or whatever... as far as I'm concerned any sturdy binder, paper clip, or folder is fine, but loose pages or rubberbanded ones are hazards.

All that's mere format you say?  Exactly.  Don't put off your reader before they start.

As for the actual play...  There's only one rule:

Make it interesting.

Of all the scripts I read last night only one met that requirement.

I enjoyed that one!  I passed it on to the readers who will choose a winner.

The other scripts I read fizzled after a handful of pages, usually because nothing happened.

So, if you're submitting scripts to contests please remember that you, Dear Playwright, need to first get past me or someone like me, the grunt-readers who weed through those boxes of submittals to find the promising scripts.  You need to not bore us.

Now, if you want your script to be actually produced you'll also want to think about issues like not requiring too huge a cast or creating roles too difficult to cast - like an triple-threat actor/ singer/ dancer who also skateboards stunt-competitition level well.  Think about other difficulties like musicians, young children, or  trained animals.  Consider difficult, expensive set requirements.  Any of these requirements can be met (except maybe that skateboarder) if the play is good enough and there's enough funding.  Is there enough funding?  Is your play good enough?

But first you need your script to be read - eagerly! - by multiple readers.  For that it needs to be interesting.

Interesting is, of course, subjective.

My personal "interesting" meter looks for an intriguing situation with lively characters who have different voices and who DO and say things that keep me awake.  (I'm not talkin' sword fighting here, though that'd be fun - DOing can be opening a door or verbally sparring too.)  I prefer wit and humor.  And if at all possible make your drama touching or philosophical or beautiful or deeply true...

The meter hits 10!

(Note: the image is public domain from HERE.)

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