Free Playwriting Tips


Free Playwriting Tips
 

1. Getting Started
2. The Playwright's Checklist (a revision tool)
3. Building Characters
4. Where and When: the Setting
5. Play Structure the Easy Way
6. Writing Dialogue
7. The Art of Writing Stage Directions
8. Top 10 Writing Tips (includes a special note on Writing Software)
9. Extra Tips on Writing Monologues
10. Help with Rewriting (including the Writer's Web)
11. What to Do with Your "Finished" Play
12. UPDATED! Young Playwrights Contests
13. Submission Resources (learn where to submit)
14. Need Help Writing Cover Letters?
15. The Business of Playwriting (Your Rights, Protecting Your Work)
16. Young Playwrights Suggested Reading List
17. Final Thoughts on Playwriting and Being a Writer

Getting Started

START SMALL!

Don't try to write the next Angels in America or Rent for your first play. A big problem for many young (and not so young) writers is starting a play and not finishing it. My favorite way to begin is with a ten-minute play, which, at a page per minute, is ten pages long. It's got a beginning, middle and an end, only everything happens more quickly. And you'd be surprised at how many theatres look specifically for ten-minute pieces (I have several that get produced fairly regularly). Once you write a few ten-minute plays, you can write a one-act of more substantial length and eventually work your way up to a full-length. Don't rush!

HOW DO I START: WHERE IDEAS COME FROM

Anywhere. Everywhere. Still stumped? Here are just a few possibilities:

A line of dialogue. A title. A character, either fictitious or based on someone you met or observed or read about. A historical event. A setting. A theme/issue. Anything observed. An object. A photograph or an image. The newspaper. Your own life. Anything you care about. And that's the bottom line. You can't write about something which isn't in some way really, really, REALLY important to you.

Find an idea? Take this germ of an idea and ask yourself "what if?" What if there's a homeless teenager? What if he's looking for someone? What if he's looking for his mother? (That became Ben.) What if there's a "milk conspiracy?" (This is what we might call a "concept," and it became Milk and Cookies.)

This is the first step toward creating the world of your play.

Now what?

Who lives in this world? It's time to build some characters.



The Playwright's Checklist (a revision tool)

 A few questions to ask yourself about your play

I'm a big believer in asking the playwright questions about the play as a way of helping the playwright write the play he or she wants to write--not the play I want to write. Ask yourself these questions as you enter the revision process--answer them honestly--and help yourself to a better play.

Format

Is the speaker's name ever on one page, while the dialogue that goes with it is on another page? (If so, get them together.)

Are the margins for dialogue and stage directions consistent? Are the speakers' names and the scene/act headings the only things centered?

Is my title page businesslike, without being overly flashy? Does it have the necessary contact information (name, address, phone number, email address) unless the submission guidelines tell me to do otherwise?

Dialogue

Have I eliminated ninety-nine percent of filler words like "well," "uh," "OK," "all right," etc.? While they are meant to make dialogue sound "realistic," they don't really add anything.

Have I punctuated the dialogue accurately? Have I gotten someone else to read it out loud in front of me so that I can hear if the punctuation makes sense? It's super important to put periods, commas, dashes, semicolons and whatever else you're using where they belong. It's the only real opportunity you have to communicate the rhythm of the lines to the actors.

Have I run a spell check? Have I proofread by reading aloud to make sure nothing has slipped through? Often, you can misspell a word into another correct word that your spell check won't detect. Have I given the play to someone else who has a good editor's eye?

Do I avoid dialogue which is only there to "tell" about the characters? Can I replace it with an action of some kind? For example, instead of a character telling us he is afraid of spiders, he could jump onto the sofa and scream for help.

If there are long monologues, do they have a good reason for being there?

Stage Directions

Are the stage directions clear, concise and grammatical?

Do I use the stage directions to describe what happens but not to write a novel or long descriptions of characters' feelings?

Do I write the stage directions in the "active voice"?

Is it clear which character is supposed to do an action or perform a stage direction? Don't assume that it's obvious--usually, you should mention the character specifically.

Have I avoided line readings (e.g. "angrily") except in crucial cases?

Have I given a specific time and a specific place (e.g. a living room, not merely inside a house) at the beginning of the play?

Have I introduced each character with a one-line description (age, gender if it's not obvious, and a phrase of description)? This is crucial to help a potential director or producer determine who could be cast in the role, or simply to help a reader get a handle on your play.

Character

Is each character distinct and well-developed? Is each character's speech consistent with his background and education? Do the characters sound different from each other?

What if you removed a character from the play? What would be lost? (Edit Villarreal, one of my professors, suggested this exercise, and it's a great way to make sure that you don't have two characters who basically fulfill the same function.)

Is each character's behavior and actions believable? Try "trapping" your characters, so that they feel they have no choice but to do what they do.

Does each character have a unique position in the play? In other words, if two characters fulfill pretty much the same function in a play, how can you make them different?

Are the relationships between the characters clearly established?

Do the characters change? Static characters aren't as interesting to play.

Did you pick the characters' names for a reason? As a sidenote, be careful of naming characters too similarly (e.g. James and Jack).

Other Content Issues

Does the play have a clear conflict with a beginning, a middle and an end? Does the conflict build as the play goes on? Remember that two characters arguing isn't conflict. Conflict is driven by characters trying to get what they want.

Are the stakes high enough? It has to be crucial to each character that she gets what she wants.

Is there a ticking clock? Time pressure always creates additional tension.

Is what happens in the play a result of choices the characters make, or do outside events dictate what happens? Strive for the former.

If the play requires research, do you have your facts straight?

Is the tone of the play consistent? You don't want a play to be a farce for the first ten pages and a family drama for the last ten.

Do you give the audience new information, or do you merely tell us things we already know? Audiences get bored without new information, and remember that while news may be new to a character, be careful if it's not new to us.

Every play is its own world that you create. Are the rules of that world consistent?

Is your play's title both catchy and fitting?

Does the play begin at the right point? Sometimes a play begins too early when it should begin in the middle of action.

Does every scene have conflict? Characters who desperately want things don't ever stop trying to get what they want.



Building Characters

 You can't have a play without characters. You can put talking (or non-talking) dogs or rocks on stage, but guess what: they're still characters. That means you have to figure out who they are. Let me suggest three possible models:

Model One

The police file or bone structure model. Divide a character's attributes into three categories: physical, social and emotional. Physical includes things like height, weight, skin color, muscularity, etc. Social is education, class, job, hobbies, history, family, living situation, religion—all the things that have to do with a person and his place in society. Emotional includes mental health and disposition—all things psychological. Be as exhaustive as you can in creating the character to create a detailed person.

Remember, not all (maybe not even most) of this information will actually find its way into the play. So why bother to make it up? Isn't it a waste of time? The answer is no, because this information will show why a character behaves the way she does. For example, knowing that Ellen's best childhood friend was black may explain why Ellen sticks up for a black woman she doesn't know in a dispute at a restaurant. That Ellen's friend was black may never come up in the play, but you, the author, knows.

Model Two

Simply start writing. Create an age and gender, then let the character behave how he or she wants to behave. This is probably best for more experienced writers. E-mail me to ask me why.

Model Three

The compromise solution—between Models One and Two, but not necessarily in quality. Come up with the character's name and gender, then try to create a few defining points for each character. For example, Ben (the homeless teen in the play named for him) was put up for adoption when he was nearly four years old, used to wrestle before he dropped out of high school and was abused by his therapist. He is nearly sixteen years old. These pieces of information define, in broad strokes, who he is. The details can then come in the writing. I like this approach because it gives you a certain foundation, but it doesn't lock you in. This is how I work.

Model Three "A"

This is a slightly more structured variation on Model Three. For each character, come up with three words to describe him. For example, she is a mother, a teacher and a sky diver. Come up with three physical characteristics (e.g. athletic) and three emotional ones (e.g. uptight) to go along with them. Add in one problem. For example, he wants to buy a car. Find an obstacle. He has no money. Sprinkle one secret into the mix—he has been arrested for drunk driving and lost his license, perhaps—and you're ready to serve.

Character Tip: Find a Verb

Define each character with a verb, and let that verb help you shape their behavior. For example, a character who "hides" may be the one who leaves the room in the middle of a confrontation or who cannot be without his friend (behind whom he hides).



Where and When: the Setting

Now that you've created all these really great characters, you have to put them somewhere. Not all settings are created equal. The setting that works best for your play is the one that allows you to create the most conflict and tension when you put your characters in it. For example, an escaped prisoner hiding in a police station is a lot more exciting than one in a remote forest.

QUICK TIP: Noted playwright and screenwriter Bruce Graham told a group of us sitting around a conference table one morning in Philadelphia that he likes to walk around his settings. For example, when he was going to write about characters in a hotel, he checked into a hotel and really explored all the possibilities of that setting. So if you're going to write about characters at school, even though you may go there every day, pay a visit to your school as a playwright—you may see things differently than you do as a student.

The "when" of your setting is just as important as the "where." What year is it? What time of day is it? Again, select a time that works with your place to create the most conflict and tension. A student stealing the teacher's answer key long after everyone has gone home isn't as interesting as the same student stealing the key in the middle of the day, with the teacher due back at any moment. 



Play Structure the Easy Way

The legendary playwright and dramaturg Leon Katz once described the two essential elements of play structure as follows. He said that in the beginning, what's going on should make the audience say, "that's interesting" and want to stay with the play. By the end, that should turn to "wow."
While there are many ways (see below, where I talk about them) to structure your play, let's start with an oldie but a goodie:

Think of a play as having three parts. Let's call them—big surprise—the beginning, middle and end. And plays are all about conflict. So here's how it works:

Let's assume we have two characters, JACK and JILL. In the beginning of the play, we introduce the conflict. Jack wants Jill's pail of water. Jill says no. Conflict.

If Jack says, "OK. Fine. Have a nice day, Jill," the play is over. He can't do this. There must be some really good reason Jack can't walk away. Maybe he's dying of thirst. Jill has the only water for miles, and if Jack doesn't get water in the next ten minutes, he's going to die. There is now something at stake for Jack; if he doesn't get the water, there's a consequence: he'll die. And not only that, there's what we call "the ticking clock." The play has a sense of urgency. All this can happen in the beginning.

So as we move to the middle of the play, Jack changes tactics. Maybe he tries to bribe her with money or a goldfish or a new Porsche. Maybe he threatens to beat her up. But Jill needs the water too. She needs to wash her dog before it competes in a dog show, and her family needs the prize money or they'll starve to death. Whatever the reason, it has to be good. Remember, Jack is running out of time. Things are getting desperate.

That leaves the end. In the end of a play, four things can happen. One, Jack gets what he wants. He takes the pail from Jill and drains it on the spot. Two, Jill gets what she wants. Jack may drop dead, but the dog wins the show and Jill's family gets the prize money. Three, they both get what they want. Jack drinks enough to get to the next water hole, but Jill has some water left—the dog gets second place, which still nets them some prize money. Not as much as before, but enough to get by. Four, neither gets what they want. They fight over the pail, spill the water, and everybody's miserable.

That's it, folks. A beginning introduces the characters, the conflict, the stakes and a ticking clock. The middle builds the conflict and develops the characters as they change tactics. In the end, they either get it or they don't.

ADVANCED PLAY STRUCTURES NEW!

This is definitely a proceed at your own risk section, and I STRONGLY recommend that beginners skip this section. NOW!

GAPPED STRUCTURE

Your play consists of a series of scenes in which time has passed between each scene. For example, the first scene is in April, while the next one is in May. What keeps the audience interested in this type of play is not what happens during the scenes, but what happens between them. It's the job of the audience to discover during each scene what has happened since the previous scene ended. They are, in a sense, playing detective as they catch up to the new situation of the characters. Gapped plays are a form of landscape play, which, fittingly, is my next topic...

LANDSCAPE PLAYS

Landscape plays are quite simple to explain, though not quite that easy to write well. They begin with very little information about where we are or the given circumstances of the play. But as the play continues, it fills in more and more of the landscape. An example is Beckett's Endgame, in which only gradually does the picture become clear.

ANECDOTAL STRUCTURE

The play is made up of a series of characters seemingly going along on their own separate stories. But by the end of the play, the stories have all intersected into one. Imagine five different threads, each individual and perhaps not even appearing to be touching, but as you move closer to one end, the threads are getting closer and closer until they knot. For examples, see the work of Chekhov.

PROCESS PLAYS New

Process plays are structured around some event, some particular process. For example, two people have dinner. When dinner ends, so does the play. 



Writing Dialogue

 Want to write great dialogue? Before you can learn how to make characters talk in ways that people remember, you have to learn to listen.

Dialogue isn't like real speech. It's what I call heightened or edited speech. Take a few minutes, for example, to listen—without talking—to your friends at lunch. You'll find that they don't finish their sentences, use lots of "filler words" (examples are "well," "like," "um"), repeat themselves and probably talk about nothing ninety percent of the time.

On stage, we have a limited amount of time. We don't have time for every "well" or long conversations about the weather. We have to edit. Here are a few helpful hints:

Dialogue should advance the plot/conflict and develop the character speaking it (either through what the character says or how he/she says it).

Dialogue shouldn't tell us something that can be shown instead. For example, why have a character say "I'm afraid" if he can instead hide under a bed?

Dish out information to the audience on a need-to-know basis. In other words, don't have parts of your play that are only about giving us information (e.g. characters talking about themselves) and that don't advance the plot/conflict. You'll be sorry, and we'll be bored.

Be careful of long monologues. While monologues can be wonderful, if they're not done well, they can often the stop the forward movement of a play.

Read dialogue out loud to hear how it sounds. Punctuate it carefully, because it's your best opportunity to make clear your intentions to the director and the actors. Real people often use contractions when they speak.

Be consistent. A guy who can't put a grammatical sentence together one minute isn't likely to sound like an English professor the next minute. Make sure that the words a character uses are consistent with his education and background.

Remember, much of what makes a play memorable is its dialogue, so make every word count!


Having Trouble With Dialogue? Here's a Tip!

Try imagining a particular actor you know (or even a famous one) in the role. Often, when you can visualize your character very specifically, it's easier to make her talk. It doesn't matter that the actor will probably never do the role.



The Art of Writing Stage Directions

Plays are meant to be seen on stage, not on the page—right? Right, but before it makes it to the stage, the play must make it through a reader or a small army of readers. I've been one. And then, of course, assuming you survive the readers (and the literary manager and the artistic director), there is the director, the actors, the designers, etc. Each of them wants as clear a picture of your play on stage as possible. A few thoughts on how you can help them:

Keep your stage directions as compact as possible, with active verbs. In other words, instead of "Jennifer is sitting on the carpet" at the opening of a play, "Jennifer sits on a carpet." Note that I didn't write "Jennifer sits down."

Introduce each character with a one-liner which tells us his age and gives the reader (and potential producers) a handle on her: "Annie, mid-20s and a walking accident." Remember, if I'm a producer, I want to know who I can cast in the role; I want to know the character's age and type.

Avoid "overcreating" a character (even if you've come up with this information in your police file—see Building Characters above—keep it to yourself): "five-foot-three, with red hair and green eyes and heavyset." Unless it's crucial to the play, you're wasting time on something that's irrelevant. What if there's a really good actress who's five-foot-five or has brown hair? You'll come off as an amateur.

In this same vein, don't direct the play on the page. Avoid "line readings"—don't preface every line of dialogue with "sadly," "angrily," etc. I only use line readings like these if it's crucial, which means I might have a handful in a full-length play. Instead, put in a "pause" or a "beat" and leave it to the actors and director to figure it out. You might discover something interesting.

Stage directions are written to be read. Make them well-written and clear. There's nothing wrong with giving them a little spin, but don't write a novel. A teacher of mine, when talking about screenwriting, told me never to clump more than six lines of description together. In playwriting it's OK to break that law, but it's not a bad thing to keep the spirit of it in the back of your mind. 



Top 10 Writing Tips (includes a special note on Writing Software)

TIP 1: Proper Format

Presenting your script properly is crucial. As a reader, it's easy to get turned off to a script that isn't formatted correctly and which makes reading more difficult. Page margins are usually 1" on the top, bottom and on the right, but 1.5" on the left (because of hole punching/brads/binding). Manuscript format calls for the character name to be centered (or left indented at a consistent margin, either an extra 2.5" or 3") in CAPS, with dialogue on the next line running margin to margin. Stage directions go on their own line and in parentheses, indented an extra 2" on the left side (so basically 3.5" from the left edge of the paper). A common mistake is for writers to copy published script format by putting character names on the left, which is harder to read. Check some of my PDF script excerpts to see what proper format looks like, and if it's still unclear, email me.

SPECIAL SOFTWARE NOTE: If you can afford it, buy scriptwriting software. I recommend Final Draft. You can use it for writing both plays and screenplays, and because it does all the formatting work for you, it leaves you to be creative. Yes, it's possible to write using MS Word or another word processing program, but Final Draft makes your life so much easier and saves you lots of time.

If you're a full-time student (high school, college, etc), teacher or in the active military, you qualify for a special rate. Click here to order it from The Writers Store.

Want Final Draft but don't qualify for the academic/military rate? You can still get it at a discounted rate from the Writers Store by clicking here. You can even buy it and download it on the spot (if you have a fast connection), so that it's ready to use today!

TIP 2: Don't Rush It Out

Why not send your "finished" script to a major theatre right away? Two reasons. First, you are competing with playwrights who are much more experienced than you are. And unlike film, which has a reputation for coveting youth (more myth than reality—the reason you hear about a nineteen year old selling a script is because it's so rare that it's news when it happens), theatre doesn't have that reputation. Second, if you send out a script that's not ready, you potentially have a strike against you when it comes to getting that theatre to read your future work. They may remember you as the hack who sent them the lousy script. But have no fear—check out my “Step by Step Guide to What to Do With Your Finished Play” below.

TIP 3: Read Away Your Influences

If you read a couple of Beckett plays, I'd be willing to bet that the next few pieces you write will read like Beckett—until you get it out of your system (I admit I went through my own Beckett/Ionesco period). So after you read that Beckett play, go out and read Arthur Miller, then read Wilson (August, though Lanford would also be revelatory). Read Shakespeare. Tony Kushner. Edward Albee. Marsha Norman. David Mamet. Paula Vogel. Anton Chekhov. Swill all these different styles into the melting pot of your mind, and eventually, if you write enough, your own style will develop. Check out my Young Playwrights Reading List for a more organized list of reading suggestions.

TIP 4: Write What You Know—Or Not

Many young writers (and older writers) are told, "Write what you know." Good advice, I suppose, but I rarely follow it. What I don't know is so much more interesting. Ben is about a teenager living on the street in Harvard Square and looking for the woman he believes is his mother. Yes, I lived in Harvard Square in college and was a teenager at one time, but I've never been homeless, have two wonderful parents, etc.; Ben's life is not one I knew. So I read about it. I spent a term volunteering at a shelter for troubled teens. I kept my eyes open. But above all, I was truly, desperately interested in the world of my play and the people in it. It's that desperate interest that allows you to write what you don't know.

TIP 5: Just Get It On Paper!

A first draft isn't supposed to be perfect. Not even close. Don't worry—just keep going! Let the play go where it wants to go, because THE MOST IMPORTANT THING is finishing. The time to second-guess yourself is after you can safely type "Blackout. End of play."

TIP 6: Write Something Else

Finish a script? Start another one. Now. Writing a script is like giving birth, and the script is your baby. Our babies are always beautiful and perfect. In our eyes, they can do no wrong. But no first (or second or third or . . .) draft is ever perfect. By writing something new, you make the new play your baby, and the first play becomes the older sibling, perhaps even a teenager. Now you have some distance to look at it critically, because we all know that teenagers are never perfect.

Also, if you're sending out a script to contests or theatres, writing something new sure beats waiting for the mail to arrive every afternoon. And on that note, remember that responses to your submissions may range from weeks (this is extremely speedy) to months or even a year or two.

TIP 7: Give Every Character a Moment!

Actors want the chance to act. No one gets excited about playing the third tree on the left. So make sure to give every character at least one &#x201moment” where the actor can shine. It’s how you make actors want to do your play, even if their roles aren’t the largest.

TIP 8: Stuff That Doesn't Play

Some things just don't seem to work on stage. You may be the genius who can pull them off, but keep an eye on this space for a list of things you're probably better off avoiding. Here they are:

People talking about how they feel rather than showing how they feel. Phone calls on stage. Chase scenes, especially car chases. Animals. Elaborate special effects. Stage directions that dictate characters' facial expressions (e.g. a dirty look—half the time you can't even see it from the audience). Inside jokes. More to come…

TIP 9: Stuck? Try Improv

Not sure where to go in a scene, or is it just not working? Actors are often a great source of ideas. Get a few actor friends together, set up the scene for them, and let them play it out, with you recording (either audio or video) what happens. Try it as many times as you like, changing some element of the set-up each time, so that you get to see different choices played out in front of you. They might hit on something useful.

TIP 10: Know Your Audience

A play with lots of humor about your particular high school teachers will only work at your high school, because no other audience will understand the jokes. If you are writing a play for children, leave out the four-letter words. If it’s a touring show, don’t write sets that can’t be packed into a box at the end of the day. Writing for the high school market? Try to write more female roles than male roles, as schools usually have an abundance of women. Writing for professional theater? Keep your cast size down, because every actor who does a bit part still has to be paid. 



Extra Tips on Writing Monologues

A monologue is really any extended speech by one character (anywhere from maybe thirty seconds to a one-person show that’s more than ninety minutes in length). Monologues are usually part of a larger play, but sometimes they are written to stand alone. There may or may not be another character on stage. I tend to avoid long monologues in my plays, because if you’re not careful, monologues tend to slow plays down. But a good monologue is a wonderful thing, and actors always need them for auditions. So if you want to write a monologue, whether as part of a play or as a stand-alone, remember a few tips:

The character delivering the monologue must want something in the present. In other words, why is he telling us this? What does he want right now, and how is delivering the monologue helping him get it? Monologues whose only purpose is to describe something that happened don’t work.

Monologues, like dialogue, have two functions: to move the plot/story forward and to tell us more about the character. That doesn’t mean that the character literally should tell us about herself. We should learn more about her from what she says and from how she says it. 



Help with Rewriting (including the Writer's Web)

 WHY WE REWRITE

There are many reasons to rewrite. We can always write better dialogue, create more specific characters. In fact, if you hop on down (hit your page down key), the writer's "web" will give you a whole bunch of places to look.

But before you move on, keep one reason to rewrite in mind: plays change as we write them. The characters or story may have moved in unexpected directions. Your ideas may have changed as you wrote. You may have changed as a person.

Remember, particularly when you are younger, you are bombarded with new life experiences every minute. You may not be the same person in February as you were in January. Your interests or concerns may be different. So a big part of rewriting is going back to the beginning of the play and "making it one" with the end. We call it recentering, and it's a crucial part of rewriting.

You are now ready to rewrite.

Don't know how to start? Try the Web, a creation of my good friend and fellow playwright, Ed Shockley. Here's why it works: specifics and details draw an audience into the "web" of your play. So with each strand of your rewrite web, your job is to find the specifics that bring the world of your play alive.

THE WEB

Dialogue 

Props

Costume

Place

Storytelling

Disability

Time of Day

Character History/Relationship

Myth/Legend 

An Absent Character 

History

Set

Weather

Race

Theme/Thesis

Religion/Philosophy

Gender

Natural/Artificial Sound

Character

Names 

Subtext

Music

Plot

Story (what's going on in the world)               

Title 

   



















Practically speaking, what does all this mean? Let's say, for example, you want to work on the "Story" strand. The way I use story, it means what's going on in the world. So if you write a play about a guy buying a loaf of bread, how does the play change if it's in the middle of the Cuban Missile Crisis? How does it affect the actions of the characters and what they want? What happens if it's raining ("Weather)? Or they're stuck in a store that's snowed in for the night? Or the temperature is ninety degrees? What if one of the characters is deaf ("Disability")? See how adding a strand of specifics can really change your play.

Have an idea for a new web strand? E-mail me.

Need more rewriting help? Visit my troubleshooter's checklist to find out some specific questions you should be asking yourself about your play.



What to Do with Your "Finished" Play

The saying is that good plays aren't written, they're rewritten. At each stage of the process I outline below, expect to rewrite. Does that mean you have to write your play from scratch each time? Of course not. But it does mean that you should be prepared to make significant changes and keep an open mind.

1. Once you've finished your first draft, go back and proofread it, because at every step of the way, your script needs to be as typographically and grammatically clean as possible. Run a spell check, but then proof "by hand." Why proof manually? Because spell check doesn't catch every error, particularly if you misspell a word into another word (for example, your vs. you're, it's and its). When you finish, print a new copy.

QUICK TIP: Save each draft as a different draft number, and remember to back up your play somewhere other than your hard drive—in case of a crash. Also, if you have the choice, don't keep everything at one location—e.g. have a parent keep one set of disks at work, in case of fire, burglary, etc. at home.

2. Reread your first draft. Use the writer's web and the troubleshooter's checklist to rewrite and shape your script. Often, each "sweep" through the script will be to address one particular element of the web (e.g. looking at the way a specific character speaks).

3. When you feel that you've done all you can do on your own, give the script to someone you trust. But if you don't have anyone in whose judgment you feel absolutely confident, I'd skip this step, because bad feedback is worse than no feedback.

QUICK TIP: There is no law that says you must act on every comment. If I agree with someone's criticism, I rewrite. Otherwise, I disregard it.

4. The next step is a sit-down (sometimes called a “table reading”) reading. Get a group of actors (or even a group of your friends) together. If you’d like, gather a few people whose feedback you trust as the “audience.” This reading is for you to hear the script out loud, and perhaps to get some feedback. For all readings, it's best to give the actors the script ahead of time so they can practice and not trip over the words.

SUPER SUPER IMPORTANT!!!

YOU ARE NOT YOUR PLAY. YOUR PLAY IS NOT YOU.


Never take criticism of your play as a criticism of you as a person.

5. Have a directed, rehearsed reading. To do this, you need to find a director and actors. They should have several rehearsals (the reading will be script in hand), and there will probably be some minimal staging (movement). You may wish to invite an audience, or sometimes it's better to work through the script simply with the actors and the director. If you do invite an audience, invite an audience that you think will be constructive. After the reading, have a discussion. Either you or your director should moderate, and it's a good idea to come up with a list of questions which you would like answered. Some stock questions are "what worked?" "what didn't you understand?" and "what would you like to see more or less of?"

QUICK TIP: I strongly recommend that you follow the "silent author" rule. When there's a discussion of my work, I write down every comment made, but I NEVER defend my work or enter the discussion in any way, except to ask questions if I don't understand a comment. If I don't agree with a comment or a suggestion, I ignore it.

6. Have a staged reading in a public setting with a more general audience. Have a directed post-show discussion to get feedback if you like.

7. If you have the opportunity, have a more fully realized production (using props and costumes, minimal set) at your school or in a similarly safe place. At productions of my work, I watch the audience—seeing how they react during the performance gives me clues as to what is working and what isn’t.

At any step of this process, you can always back-track if you're not satisfied that your script is ready to move up the ladder. When you feel that your script is ready (don't rush!), it's time to look at young playwrights contests and other opportunities for young writers. Good luck!

I CAN'T SAY IT ENOUGH!

Sloppy scripts—with misspelled words, poorly punctuated sentences, handwritten changes—are the mark of sloppy writing. Many readers are instructed to put them down, and this can kill your relationship with a theatre. Your script is your face. Don't show it until it's clean!! 



UPDATED! Young Playwrights Contests

Here you'll find a listing of CONTESTS AND SUBMISSION OPPORTUNITIES for high school, middle school, elementary school and college age playwrights in the United States and abroad. They have different age and geographical restrictions, so It's up to you to research each one and see whether you qualify. None of these listings constitute an endorsement unless I explicitly say so.

NOTE ABOUT ENTRY FEES: I am against entry/reading fees in general, but I am particularly against them for young writers. Postage, copying and envelopes cost enough without adding a fee to them, and entry fees discriminate against talented young writers who may not be able to afford this extra expense. None of the contests below charge fees--if you find that one of them does, please let me know.



Competitions for High School and Younger Students in the United States

YouthPLAYS New Voices One-Act Playwriting Competition (May 1)
Why is this one first? Because I help run it! Open to anyone 19 years old or younger.

Alabama Shakespeare Festival (March 13)
Open to Alabama high school students in grades 9-12.

All Children’s Theatre Youth Playwriting Competition (December 8)
Open to Rhode Island high school students.

Arena Stage Student Ten-Minute Competition (deadline TBA)
Open to students from the District of Columbia , the City of Alexandria , or one of the following counties: Loudoun, Prince Georges, Prince William, Montgomery , Fairfax or Arlington . Students must be in grades 6-12.

Arlington Children's Theater Young Playwrights (September 1)
Open to all. 18 years old or younger.

Baker's Plays (January 30)
Open to all high school students.

Blank Theatre Young Playwrights Festival (March 15)
Open to anyone 19 years old or younger.

Blueberry Pond Theatre Ensemble (
February 25)

Open to middle and high school students from the Lower Hudson Valley.

California Young Playwrights Project (June 1)
Open to residents of California under the age of 19.

CenterStage Young Playwrights Festival (February 17)
Open to students in Maryland.

City Theatre Company Young Playwright's Contest (April 15)
Open to students in Western Pennsylvania in grades 7-12.

Curious Theatre Company (see website for details)
Their New Voices program is open to young playwrights ages 15-21 and offers play development (culminating in public staged readings) and instruction with seasoned professional playwrights, with all participants receiving full scholarships. The company is based in Denver , though not all past participants have been from Colorado .

Delaware Theatre Company, Delaware Young Playwrights Festival (deadline TBA)
Open to Delaware students. Check website for more information.

Dobama Theatre's Marilyn Bianchi Kids' Playwriting Festival (see website for deadlines)
Open to Cuyahoga County (OH) students in grades 1-12. Deadlines are staggered according to student grade level during February and March.

Florida Stage (December 16)
Open to any Palm Beach County student in grades K-12.

Geva Theatre (winter deadline)
Open to Rochester-area writers, ages 13-18. For more information, send an email to gevatalk@gevatheatre.org .

Gorilla Theatre, Young Dramatists Project (February 18)
Open to middle or high school students in Hillsborough or Pinellas County (FL).

Innovative Stages’ Young Playwrights Competition (March 15)
Open to residents of Westchester County (NY), grades 9-12.

Lebanon Community Theater's Playwriting Contest (April 30)
Open to playwrights of all ages and experience. All plays must be written only for this contest and must not exceed 20 minutes of production time. Check website for more information.

Metro Milwaukee Young Playwrights Competition (June 1)
Open to high school students in the greater Milwaukee (WI) area.

The Midwest High School Playwriting Competition ( March 25)
Open to high school students in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Students who are new to playwriting are especially encouraged to write a play and submit it to the competition.

New South Young Playwrights Festival Contest (deadline TBA)
Sponsored by Horizon Theatre Company, this festival for southern young writers has divisions for middle school and high school (as well as college) playwrights. Check their website for details.

Pegasus Players (deadline TBA)
This is open to Chicago residents, but while the contest still exists, there’s little info online, so you’ll have to contact the theatre for details.

Philadelphia Young Playwrights (May 16)
Open to high school students in the Philadelphia area.

Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey, New Jersey Young Playwrights Contest (January 26 for high school; February 16 for junior high and elementary)
Open to New Jersey students in grades 4-12.

Princeton University Ten-Minute Play Contest (March 1)
Open to any student in grade 11 during the current academic year.

San Francisco Young Playwrights Festival (December 16)
Open to high school students in San Francisco.

Scholastic Writing Awards (deadlines vary according to region)
Open to students enrolled in grades 7-12 .

Shenandoah Valley Regional Playwright’s Festival (January 13)
Open to students under the age of 19 on the submission deadline, residing in Virginia or West Virginia (see entry instructions for specific counties of residence).

Syracuse Stage (February 14)
Open to Central New York students.

TADA! (January 4)
Open to all. To enter the “young writers” category, entrants must be 19 or under, though there is also a category for writers over 19. Separate instructions for musicals.

Thespian Playworks (February 17)
Open to any active member of the Thespian Society who is a high school student during the current school year.

Vermont Young Playwright's Project (deadline TBA)
Open to middle and high school students from Vermont. Scripts selected through school workshops. Contact them for more information.

VSA Playwright Discovery Program (mid-April)
Open to entrants 21 and under. Plays must deal with some aspect of disability.

Waterfront Ensemble/ New Jersey Dramatists (February 1)
Open to all students from New Jersey. Plays and monologues should be no more than 20 minutes in length.

Write A Play! NYC School Playwriting Contest (April 1)
Open to all New York City students.

Young Playwrights Festival National Playwriting Contest (December 1)
Open to all entrants ages 18 or younger.


Competitions for College Students in the United States

Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (see website for deadlines)
You need to be an undergraduate or graduate student produced by a college that participates in ACTF—check the website for information on participation and the many awards ACTF sponsors.

Marc A. Klein Playwriting Award (December 1)
Department of Theater Arts, Case Western Reserve University, 10900 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44106-7077, c/o John Orlock, Chair. Open to American college students.

New South Young Playwrights Festival Contest (deadline TBA)
Sponsored by Horizon Theatre Company, this festival is open to southern college writers. Check their website or contact them for details.

Wichita State University (February 15)
Open to all undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at any college or university.


Competitions Outside the United States

Interplay Europe (festival takes place in June in even-numbered years)
A biennial festival in Europe for playwrights aged 18-26, held in opposite years from World Interplay. Email them for submission info.

Magnus Theatre (deadline TBA)
Open to residents of Northern Ontario ( Canada), ages 12-19. Contact them for submission details.

New Zealand Young Playwrights' Competition (December 6)
Open to New Zealand residents ages 16-22.

Sydney Theatre Company's Young Playwrights' Award (August 5)
Open to Australian residents of NSW or the ACT 19 years or under.

Under 20 for Under 20’s Competition/Tarragon Theatre (January 17)
Open to Ontario ( Canada) residents under the age of 20 as of the contest deadline.


Open to All

Fledgling Films (ongoing for production in July) solicits teen and pre-teen written plays, screenplays, and short stories to be produced as short films at the Fledgling Films Summer Institute. Accepts national and international submissions, with a strong preference toward works written primarily in English. Writers receive small honorarium, an invitation to be involved in the filming process and a copy of the finished film. Ideal script is 10-30 pages. Submit to: Fledgling Films, 949 Somers Road, Barnet, Vermont 05821, USA. Send SASE for return of materials. E-mail kcp@pshift.com for more information.

International Student Playscript Competition (November 30)
Must be a current student or recent graduate. See website for details.

World Interplay (mid-May in odd-numbered years)
A biennial festival in Townsville , Australia which includes playwrights ages 18-26 from all over the world. They also work with Australian playwrights aged 11-17. Contact them through their website for more information.

Remember, deadlines can change from year to year, and contests sometimes get discontinued—so confirm the information on each specific competition before submitting. Let me know if you find any links that are no longer active. 



Submission Resources (learn where to submit)

So you've written a great play. It won't matter if you don't know who to send it to. A pair of non-web sources are very useful to the aspiring playwright of any age. I got all the young playwrights competition info from looking in The Dramatists Sourcebook (comes out in the fall every other year, published by TCG). It's available at any decent-sized bookstore, or online. You can also join the Dramatists Guild of America (even if you don't live in the United States!), the national association of playwrights, lyricists and composers. Not only do you get the nifty annual resource directory, but you get The Dramatist, a bimonthly magazine, and access to business advice, standard contracts, etc. There’s a student membership.

On the web, check out CurtainRising.com. It has an index of links to many, many theatres and other resources. Another great place to look is Paul Thain's site, Playwrights on the Web.

Use these resources to learn what kind of work a theatre is doing, and to see if they are producing the sort of plays you’re writing. If you’ve just written a one-act play and the theatre only wants full-length plays, it’s a waste of their time and yours (not to mention your money) to send them your one-act.

Need help writing cover letters? Click here



Need Help Writing Cover Letters?

How to write letters that work

You will usually introduce yourself to a potential producer through a query or cover letter. This letter is your opportunity to show the potential producer that you can write—and the first place they will judge your writing. It’s crucial that your letter is well-written, grammatical and free of typographical errors. On this page, I’ll show you sample letters that can help you present yourself professionally.

A query letter is often accompanied by a synopsis (short summary) of your play and a dialogue sample (perhaps ten pages), depending on the theater’s particular guidelines. Make sure you find out a theater’s submission guidelines before sending anything! (Reference books like The Dramatists Sourcebook are ideal for this.)



SAMPLE QUERY LETTER


555 Writer’s Alley
New York, NY 10003
August 12, 2001

John Smith
Artistic Director
Pilgrim Theater Company
525 Puritan Way
Plymouth, MA 02156

Dear Mr. Smith:

Enclosed for your consideration please find a synopsis and sample pages from Milk and Cookies. Milk and Cookies is about Margaret Nancy Reagan Ballmoth, who becomes a fugitive when her children poison the cookies they give the teller at a bank's drive-through window. She meets up with Bruce, a man on the run from "milk," which he believes to be the industrial in the military-industrial complex. It has a cast of four and has minimal set and technical requirements. Enjoy.

Thus far, Milk and Cookies has had two developmental readings through City Theater Company of Wilmington (DE), which has produced a number of my plays. Other recent productions of my work have gone up off-off-Broadway, in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Virginia, Florida and even near London. A pair of productions of my free adaptation of War of the Buttons are scheduled for early 1999. Additionally, I have been a finalist for the Actors Theatre of Louisville Heideman Award and a script reader for several major regional theaters. I currently run the theater program at The Haverford School, and I am a member of the Dramatists Guild and the Philadelphia Dramatists Center. Enclosed for your convenience is a resume.

Enclosed is a stamped postcard to facilitate a reply at your earliest convenience, and you can also reach me by phone at 555-555-5555 or via email at youraddress@isp.com. Thank you for your attention, and I look forward to sending you the full script.

Best,

Jon Dorf

Always include either a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) or a self-addressed stamped postcard (SAE) with your query letter, or you will probably never get a response. Sometimes you don’t get a response anyway; that’s just the way it goes. Response time on a query varies from almost immediate to several months or even over a year. Don’t expect to get the sample pages back. I personally prefer a postcard. I give them three boxes to check: “Send me the script,” “Send me the script, but wait until _____,” or “Other.” I ask, if they are not requesting the script, to tell me why. Sometimes they will, and it can be very useful in future submissions to that company.

Some theaters prefer that you send the entire script. Still, you need a good cover letter that tells them why they want to read your script—otherwise, they may not read it.

SAMPLE UNSOLICITED SCRIPT LETTER


555 Writer’s Alley
New York, NY 10003
August 12, 1999

John Smith
Artistic Director
Pilgrim Theater Company
525 Puritan Way
Plymouth, MA 02156


Dear Mr. Smith:


Enclosed for your consideration please find Milk and Cookies and Neverland. Milk and Cookies is about Margaret Nancy Reagan Ballmoth, who becomes a fugitive when her children poison the cookies they give the teller at a bank's drive-through window. She meets up with Bruce, a man on the run from "milk," which he believes to be the industrial in the military-industrial complex. Together they set off for Montana to find the mythical Rufus, a freelance version of the witness protection program. The play has a cast of four and has minimal set and technical requirements.

In Neverland, Wendy follows Peter through his life, reinventing herself and reappearing in his world each time he moves on. It requires a cast of three, with minimal set and technical requirements.

Thus far, Milk and Cookies has had two developmental readings through City Theater Company of Wilmington (DE), which has produced a number of my plays, while Neverland had a developmental reading at the Philadelphia Dramatists Center. Recent productions of my work have gone up off-off-Broadway, in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Virginia, Florida and even near London. Most recently, my free adaptation of War of the Buttons was produced near Philadelphia. Additionally, I have been a finalist for the Actors Theatre of Louisville Heideman Award and a script reader for several major regional theaters. I currently run the theater program at The Haverford School, and I am a member of the Dramatists Guild and the Philadelphia Dramatists Center. Enclosed for your convenience is a resume.

Enclosed is a SASE to facilitate a reply at your earliest convenience (recycle the scripts if they're not for you), and you can also reach me at 555-555-5555. Thank you for your interest in my work, and I look forward to getting your thoughts on the plays.

Regards,

Jon Dorf

IMPORTANT: Never write how great you think your play is! Keep it factual. Your well-written letter says more about your writing than bragging.

They want to read your script. Now what? Try this letter on for size.

SAMPLE SOLICITED SCRIPT LETTER


555 Writer’s Alley
New York, NY 10003
August 12, 1999

John Smith
Artistic Director
Pilgrim Theater Company
525 Puritan Way
Plymouth, MA 02156

Dear Mr. Smith:

Thank you for requesting Milk and Cookies, which I enclose. Enjoy.

Enclosed is a SASE to facilitate a reply at your earliest convenience (recycle the script if it's not for you), and you can also reach me at 555-555-5555. Thanks so much for your interest in my work, and I look forward to getting your thoughts on the play.

Best,

Jon Dorf

Sometimes, I like to mention any news about my writing (e.g. a recent award) or current projects I’m working on. If you choose to do that, the ideal place is between the opening and closing paragraphs.

With script submissions, I enclose a business-size SASE. It’s not cost-effective to spend three dollars on postage to get back a potentially dog-eared, coffee-stained script—I’ll probably have rewritten it in the year it might take to get a response. Yes, responses to a full script usually take anywhere from a month or two to a year or two. Be patient. 



The Business of Playwriting (Your Rights, Protecting Your Work)

Being a playwright isn't just about writing good plays. When you write a play that someone wants to produce, a whole new learning experience begins. You have certain rights, and it's important that you know what they are. Even when there is no money involved, insist on a contract to make sure your relationship with the producer is clear.

First off, you may be wondering . . .


Should I copyright my play? Plays are copyrighted the moment you write them, whether or not you register them. But registering your play with the Library of Congress (US authors) gives you official protection (you can't sue someone for copyright infringement without your work being registered first). Realistically, almost no one steals plays because, unlike screenplays, there's very little to be gained financially. Click here to visit the US Copyright Office site and download Form PA, the form to register plays, musicals, screenplays, etc. In the end, is it a good idea to have your work registered officially before its first production? Probably. Just in case.

Remember, no one can produce your play without obtaining permission first. There is no waiver of this rule for school productions, productions that don't charge admission, forensics or similar non-commercial ventures. But be warned: not everyone is properly educated about copyrights, permissions and royalties, so you need to be vigilant. That's why, when you do get a production, you need a contract.

Here are a few of the basics, all of which you'd find in a standard Dramatists Guild of America contract, that should appear in any agreement you sign:

You own your play. Unlike screenplays, which are usually bought outright by the production company, plays are owned by the playwright. A production doesn't change the fact that the play you wrote continues to be your property.

No one can change a word of what you have written without your permission. Period. No cuts, no additions, no changes unless you say OK. This applies to dialogue or stage directions. I once pulled a reading of a play of mine at a college when I wasn't convinced the director was going to adhere to this. Now before you go ballistic on a director for ignoring a "pause," you as the writer are responsible for having a little common sense. To me, changing a stage direction is when you write that "Ben exits" and the director keeps him on stage.

If you allow a change based on someone else's suggestion, the change becomes YOUR property. No one should get partial ownership of your play just because they suggested you "try it this way." But make sure you get this in writing. Rent went into several years of legal battles because of just such a conflict.

You are allowed to attend all rehearsals and performances (complimentary). You may not want to or be able to, but you are entitled to. Of course, you must conduct yourself professionally at all times. This means not trying to direct the play in rehearsal. Have a question or problem? Take the director aside during a break in rehearsal (unless you and the director have agreed upon this in advance, you should NEVER communicate directly with the actors or crew other than to exchange pleasantries, nor should you start arguing with the director in front of the actors or crew). If you feel that the director isn't listening, talk to the producer or whomever is ultimately in charge.

You should receive a copy of the program and any other publicity materials issued by the producing group, as well as any reviews and newspaper coverage, should they exist (it's unlikely that a young playwrights production will be reviewed, but just in case...)

10 Things You Can Do to Help Yourself
Be Successful as a Playwright


1. Learn how to use the internet. Create a website for yourself to publicize your work. Learn what sites will let you post information about your plays, what sites will link to your site, and where to look for playwriting opportunities (i.e. contests, script calls, etc).

2. Be a theatregoer. You don't need to go to Broadway. Seeing anything is a learning experience (I draw the line at junior high and elementary school plays). Take advantage of local college productions and smaller professional companies (many of which have discounted student tickets), and be on the lookout for new play readings (many of which are free) at local playwrights organizations and at theatre companies.

3. Read plays. To be a good playwright, you need to read good playwrights. Expose yourself to writers with different styles. To find out some plays I think you should read, visit the Young Playwrights Selected Reading List.

4. Keep a little notebook or tape recorder around, and if you come across an interesting character or "life moment," make a note of it.

5. Join the Dramatists Guild of America or your equivalent national organization. Learn how to protect your rights, and don't let people walk all over you just to get a production.

6. Create a regular writing time for yourself. Even if you're not writing a play, keep the muscle in shape by writing something creative.

7. Meet local theatre people. Find out what companies are in your area and develop relationships with them. Most readings and productions come from relationships developed over time.

More Tips to Come! 



Young Playwrights Suggested Reading List

A list for playwrights and actors, young and old

If you are going to be a serious playwright or actor (or director, designer, etc), you need to be a serious play reader—even if you can’t afford to be a theatergoer, everyone can afford the library.

I’ve made a list (which will grow) of plays I think you ought to read. The list includes plays of different periods and writers who have different backgrounds and writing styles. It’s not complete, and it’s just my opinion. I’ve tried to select, for each major dramatist, one or two representative plays. Some are difficult reading, and some (particularly the contemporary material) may have adult content—nothing you won’t find in a newspaper. All can be handled, at least on some level, by a high school student with a little determination.

The list

CLASSICAL
Oedipus Rex by Sophocles.
The Bacchae by Euripides.
Eumenides (or any part of the Oresteia) by Aeschylus.
Lysistrata by Aristophanes.
Medea
by Seneca

THE ELIZABETHANS AND MORE
A Midsummer Night's Dream, Romeo and Juliet and Richard III by William Shakespeare. Pretty much anything by Shakespeare is a good idea, and certainly Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth and Othello are worthy additions to this list (just a bit more difficult).

The Miser or Tartuffe by Moliere.
Volpone by Ben Jonson.
Edward the Second and Doctor Faustus by Marlowe.
Fuente Ovejuna by Lope de Vega
Life is a Dream by Calderon
She Stoops to Conquer
by Oliver Goldsmith (mostly because you ought to read something Restoration).

THE “MODERN” DRAMATISTS
Miss Julie by August Strindberg.
Ghosts and Hedda Gabler
by Henrik Ibsen.
The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov.
Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw.

A SYMBOLIST
Ubu Roi by Alfred Jarry.

TWENTIETH CENTURY AMERICAN CLASSICS
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller.
A Streetcar Named Desire and The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams.
Long Day's Journey into Night and The Iceman Cometh by Eugene O’Neill.
Our Town by Thornton Wilder

TWENTIETH CENTURY EUROPEAN CLASSICS
The Visit of the Old Lady by Duerrenmatt.
Woyczek
by Buchner.
Mother Courage by Bertolt Brecht.

THE ABSURD AND THE “POSTMODERN”
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and The Zoo Story by Edward Albee. Have more time? Read Three Tall Women or A Delicate Balance.

The Homecoming by Harold Pinter.
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett.
The Bald Soprano by Eugene Ionesco.
Six Characters in Search of an Author by Luigi Pirandello.
The Balcony by Jean Genet.

A GRAB BAG OF PLAYS FROM THE 1960'S AND LATER THAT I RECOMMEND
Angels in America by Tony Kushner.
American Buffalo by David Mamet.
Fences or Joe Turner’s Come and Gone by August Wilson.
Buried Child and Curse of the Starving Class by Sam Shepard.
Dutchman by Leroi Jones (Amiri Baraka).
Fires in the Mirror by Anna Deavere-Smith.
Marisol by Jose Rivera.
Lonely Planet by Steven Dietz.
Cloud Nine by Caryl Churchhill.
Master Harold and the Boys by Athol Fugard.
Arcadia by Tom Stoppard.

OTHER TOP CONTEMPORARY PLAYWRIGHTS (a major work in parentheses)

Suzan Lori-Parks (In the Blood), Maria Irene Fornes, Paula Vogel (How I Learned to Drive), Lee Blessing, Arthur Kopit (Oh Dad, Poor Dad…), Nicky Silver, Howard Korder (Search and Destroy), Alan Ayckbourn, Christopher Durang (Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You), Lanford Wilson (Burn This), David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly), Marsha Norman (‘Night, Mother), David Rabe (The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel), John Guare (Six Degrees of Separation), Brian Friel, Joe Orton (What the Butler Saw), George Wolfe (The Colored Museum), John Patrick Shanley (Doubt); Horton Foote (Young Man from Atlanta), William Inge (Bus Stop), Peter Shaffer (Equus), Adrienne Kennedy, Israel Horovitz

IF YOU’VE GOT A BIT MORE TIME
These aren’t the plays I’d choose to read first, but they’re very good, so if you get through the rest of the list, take a look.

Waiting for Lefty by Clifford Odets.
Duchess of Malfi by Webster.
The Sisters Rosenzweig by Wendy Wasserstein.
A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry.
No Exit by Jean Paul Sartre.
Look Back in Anger by John Osborne.
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. 



Final Thoughts on Playwriting and Being a Writer

PENULTIMATE NOTE ABOUT BEING A WRITER

I make it a point to do at least one thing each day to further my career. Writing is hard, often frustrating work. It's important to keep moving forward, both in terms of your craft and the business end of your career (when you're ready). The one thing you do could be to write or outline a play, to send out a submission, to read a play or even just to think about one of your plays. But do something. If you want to be a writer, get out there and be one. Good luck.

THE ABSOLUTE LAST WORD, BUT MAYBE THE MOST IMPORTANT THING

Write plays that shake—plays that shake with your energy and passion, plays that shake us up. As a playwright, you have tremendous power to affect people in a live theater. Don't waste it writing plays that are intellectual exercises in disguise, or plays that are wannabe sitcoms. Plays are meant to rock the world—sometimes just a tiny corner of it—so get to it. 



 
Co-Chair of the Alliance of Los Angeles
Playwrights
, member of The Dramatists Guild of America, and life member of the Philadelphia Dramatists Center.

Final Draft Resident Playwriting Expert and author of Playwriting101.com.

Resident Playwriting Expert of The Writers Store.





Recent News
Take My Online Playwriting Course!
Want to study playwriting from the comfort of your home, workplace or anywhere at all?  In Introduction to Playwriting, you'll get all of the basics of playwriting and be well on your way to writing a new play, but you don't even have to get out of bed if you don't want to!  Look for a new session this summer.  Get more information and enroll here:
www.screenwritersuniversity.com
New Play Now Available!
Read a sample of my latest play, the short comedy The Midnight Club, my teen monster-themed homage to the classic John Hughes 80s film. It's in the process of being published by Playscripts as part of a new collection, but for now, you can read the sample and contact them to get a reading copy!
Playwriting Webinars!
Now available for purchase, two great webinars from yours truly! Each is nearly 90 minutes and packed with info (with a PowerPoint too!):
Playwriting 101:  Everything You Need to Know to Write a Play
Writing Plays for Young People: How to Write for the Biggest Market Nobody Knows About

Upcoming Productions
Harry's Hotter at Twilight (one-act version)
Randall G. Lynch (Farmington, AR), May 2017
 
Vital Organs
Mount St Bernard College (Herberton, QLD, Australia), June 2017
 
4 A.M.
North Mecklenburg High School (Huntersville, NC), June 2017
 
Harry's Hotter at Twilight (one-act version)
The Valley School of Southern Oregon (Medford, OR), June 2017
 
Dear Chuck (one-act version)
Emily Carr Secondary School (Woodbridge, ON, Canada), June 2017
 
Dear Chuck (one-act version)
Marana Unified School District #006 (Marana, AZ), June 2017
 
Dear Chuck (one-act version)
Dallas ISD (Dallas, TX), July 2017
 
Dear Chuck (one-act version)
Buckingham High School (Buckingham, VA), October 2017
 
After Math
Philip Barbour High School (Philippi, WV), December 2017
 
Dear Chuck (one-act version)
Hillard City School District (Columbus, OH), January 2018
 
 
Me, My Selfie and I: Through scenes and monologues, an exploration of the selfie: the good, the bad and the ugly.

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Starting out as a writer? Get help by clicking here. You'll find playwriting instructional tips, links to young playwrights contests, sample query and cover letters and even a suggested reading list!
 
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Click here for information.