Submitting Your Work
The Rules: Understand that large cast shows are very expensive, often prohibitively so, for professional theaters to produce. Schools, on the other hand, often need large cast shows to involve lots of students. Shows with lots of female roles will be particularly welcome at the typical high school.
The Rules: Before submitting your script to a theater company, be aware of a few facts:
- All literary offices are inundated with scripts and understaffed.
- Different theaters want you to approach them - or not approach them - in different ways.
- Not every theater will be the right place to send your newly-minted masterpiece.
- If a theater wants a certain type of play (for example, they only produce one-acts), that's what they want. Don't send them anything else.
- Response times vary from a few weeks to more than a year. Be patient and move on to writing something else rather than sitting on your hands.
- Most scripts have to be rejected - often for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of your play - because theaters receive many more scripts than they can produce. It's not personal.
Submissions to theaters follow one of the following five paths:
Don't call them. They'll call you.
You don't send it - your agent does. Don't have an agent? Some theaters that request Agent Submissions only may respond to a well-written query or to a writer with a professional recommendation, but there's no guarantee.
Have a theater professional - typically an artistic director or a literary manager or someone familiar to the company - draft a brief letter recommending the script. Send that with the script and your cover letter.
Send a one-page letter briefly telling them about the play, its history (productions, readings, workshops), any unusual technical requirements, and a little bit about your experience. You may be asked to submit a one page synopsis and/or sample pages. When in doubt, submit a ten-page - no more - dialogue sample. Always include a stamped postcard for their reply so that they can just check, "Yes, please send a copy of Milk and Cookies," or "Yes, please send a copy of Milk and Cookies after (date)," or "Other." Don't give them a "no thank you" box to check; if their response is no, at least make them write it. Give them space next to the "Other" box to explain why. Sometimes they'll take the time to tell you. Why a stamped postcard and not an envelope? Since you want them to request the script, make it easy for them: with a postcard, all they have to do is check the box and drop it in the mail.
Just send them the script with a brief cover letter (see Query). Some theaters that take unsolicited scripts don't want to be queried, others leave it as an option. Always include a stamped, self-addressed envelope (SASE) for the theater's reply. I enclose a letter-sized envelope and tell the theater to recycle the script if they pass on it, for three reasons: 1) chances are that the draft the theater has will no longer be current by the time they send it back, 2) who knows what condition it will be in - you can't exactly resubmit a stained, dog-eared script. And 3) it doesn't cost much to simply print or photocopy another copy.
If a theater accepts query letters and unsolicited scripts, the query letter is a good money-saver if you're not sure that a theater is really right for your work.
The Rules: Never send out the only copy of your script. And make back-ups of your computer files regularly.
How do you find out what theaters want? A good starting place is The Dramatists Guild of America Resource Directory. The Dramatists Guild is the organization of professional playwrights, lyricists and composers. Any serious writer should join, because not only do members receive the Resource Directory and other publications, but they also get access to a treasure-trove of services for playwrights, ranging from free legal advice on playwriting matters to discounted theater tickets to help ironing out disputes with theaters.
The Rules: Proofread your script for typographical and other errors, and remember that a spell-check program doesn't catch everything. Another set of eyes or reading the script aloud really helps.