but do this first!

A colleague who makes his living teaching and writing theater criticism, asked for input on what to tell budding playwrights wanting to have their works read in public or workshopped.

What follows is the first part of my extremely biased response.

Dear ____, (like I’d out my friend?)

Thanks for asking, glad to help.

What a very large question.

The short answer is, start regularly attending one of the local open readers’ groups.  I wouldn’t just show up without contacting the theater and introducing myself.  If invited in, attend *even when you don’t have work to be read*.

I can’t stress enough that theater is a team sport, not to mention that showing up just for your own stuff will get you ostracized from anything, pretty early on.

But! these kinds of groups are a great way to hear pieces of the work (usually 10-15 minutes’-worth) as you go along.  I know of only one playwright who doesn’t want to hear bits and pieces, and he’s pretty far along in his process, although other playwright-colleagues just as far along DO use writers’ groups to good advantage.

As to getting plays workshopped, unless you’re rich or attached to a theater that offers these activities (and those groups are usually very small and hard to get into), best of luck.  For stage readings, tho, check out your public library’s meeting rooms, or maybe your church or synagogue, or a local school.  If you have money, you can rent a theater space, there’s quite a lot of self-producing going on – encouraged – these days.

If you’re writing plays, then hopefully you know actors and directors who will pitch in.  If you don’t, then ask yourself why you’re writing a play rather than a short story or a poem or even a TV treatment or screenplay – each is a very different beast.  As Gary Garrison says (along with most of the successful theater practitioners I know), if it can be written in some other medium, it doesn’t belong on the stage.  And much of what I’m seeing/hearing these days, frankly, is made-for-TV.

But I digress.  Which means it’s a good time to stop.  In another post, I’ll give my rules for feedback sessions and suggestions about writing, rewriting – being a playwright.

Stay tuned!

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