In a previous post, I wrote about a colleague seeking advice for playwrighting opportunities – not writing opps, but readings, workshops, and the like.
Following-on, here are my rules for running talkback/feedback sessions after public readings. This post can stand alone, but makes even more sense if you read the preceding one, and is even more valuable if you read the next one.
If you do set up/receive a reading, try VERY hard to get working playwrights and directors to attend, and stick to a rigorous feedback paradigm – hearing what an audience “liked” and “didn’t like” is ultimately useless.
Get whoever runs the talkback – and do NOT do this yourself – to explain to your audiences that their exposition on how the play should have been written or what it should have been about or how it should have been structured or how much they loved it and it should be produced right now are all, also, ultimately useless.
My rules are
- accept what the playwright is trying to do, the world that the playwright is trying to blueprint
- reflect what you’ve seen so that the playwright can know what elements got into the current blueprint (and which remain in their head)
- point out things that took your attention away from the flow of the work, e.g., incongruities, logic problems, character inconsistencies; as well as things that hooked you strongly/moved you in some way
In other words, rather than judging or criticizing or showing off, HELP the playwright. If your audience must have all those other conversations, they should do so with whoever they attended the reading with, after the talkback ends, preferably with a beverage – those other things are social intercourse, not professional.
About submissions, submit to any of the opps readily available from a bit of googling BUT please make sure that your play actually is worthy of taking up those people’s time (has already gone through rewrites and at least one reading and more rewrites). As a Lit Manager and frequent Reader – and having discussed this with other lit managers, artistic directors, readers – there is an alarming number of plays submitted for pretty much every opp, and 90% of them aren’t even remotely stageworthy, glutting readers’ and volunteers’ time and costing theaters time and money.
There are only a few opps that offer criticism, and those usually come with a fee attached.
Speaking of which, NEVER pay a fee to submit your work.
Theaters’ use of the losing submitters’ fees to produce the winners is immoral.
The argument that fees winnow out less professional works is specious – fees winnow out less prosperous playwrights/playwright-wanna-be-s.
But if you’re rich, and don’t care about the community of writers, directors, actors, designers, go right ahead, pay-to-play.
©2012 all rights reserved