Last year in my 2013 submission recap, I simply reported how many theaters I’d submitted to, and how many I’d heard back from. I’m going to go about it a bit differently this year, and make some comparisons over the past three years, because I think—I hope—it will be telling. (I’m a few days early for year’s end, but I’m not so much a statistics geek that I think it will matter.)
In 2012, I submitted to 200 opps, and had 12 short play productions and two full-length festival readings, some the result of 2011 submissions, which I can’t report, because I only started keeping records in mid-August, 2011, when I actually garnered my first short play production EVER; it would become the first of six that year. (FYI: I’d had my first full-length production in fall 2010, so it really wasn’t until sometime in 2011 that I even figured out about submitting at all; most of those were submissions of the produced full-length, and I didn’t keep very good records.)
In 2013, I made 422 submissions—more than double 2012—and had 35 productions of short plays—almost triple the number from 2012—plus two productions of full-length plays, and one full-length reading. It seemed stepping up submissions paid off.
In 2014, I submitted to 550 opportunities. Before you say you don’t have time for that, please know that it took me fewer than fifteen minutes a day—and it wasn’t even every day—and please read this. That number stuns even me; it’s incredible how those small efforts added up. This breaks down to 368 full-length opps and 182 short play opps; a few of the former, but many of the latter included multiple plays, so the actual number of plays submitted is higher (but I’m a lazy statistician, so no exact figures on that). The full-length list is also elevated somewhat because I was pushing my new Christmas comedy. Production-wise in 2014, I had 36 productions of short plays, two productions of full-length plays (one of which is in the second year of an international run that started in 2013), and one reading. Crazy, right? More than one hundred additional submissions, and, but for one short play, nearly the exact same result. (Probably because all those Christmas play subs yielded some script requests, but not much more.)
Except it really isn’t.
First, productions in 2014 are partially the result of the increased 2013 submissions, just as the increased 2013 productions were the result of increased 2012 submissions.
Second, the results from many, many of 2014’s submissions have not come in yet, and some that have will be affecting numbers in 2015.
Third, and finally, there are results that can’t be seen in numbers. I had three short plays published, and several full-lengths accepted for publication. SAFE won the Todd McNerney National Playwriting Contest, was a winner in the Naatak Inaugural Playwriting Contest, was semi-finalist for both nuVoices at Actors Theatre of Charlotte and the 37th Annual Bay Area Playwrights Festival, and a finalist for T. Schreiber New Works. The reading of FLOWERS IN THE DESERT was a podcast with Equity actors that ran for six weeks through Readers’ Theatre of Ithaca, and I was interviewed by George Sapio for the Offstage/Onstage podcast. And I am on the short list for another contest that will be announced next month. That’s all full-length stuff.
I also added the countries of Ghana and Canada to my resume. From a purely quantitative perspective, I was accepted by more paying opportunities and, in 2014, made $300 more from playwriting than I did in 2013 (which, if you read my Post About Goals (A Goal Post?), you know is a perennial objective). SAFE was chosen to be part of BETA, a program that provides a workshop production of a play in a university setting (in this case, Saginaw Valley State University) prior to its world premiere. I got invited to participate in a national playwriting conference, which particularly excites me because I’ll get to spend a weekend learning about playwriting and meeting new theater people. An LGBT theater has offered me a development reading of my new play, ON THE ROOF. And, finally, CHRISTMAS 2.0 was accepted—somebody likes it!—into an all-expenses paid development opportunity (another items on my goals short list). But that doesn’t happen until 2015, along with several other results of those 2014 submissions.
So far in 2015, I have 12 short play productions scheduled. And for full-lengths, I have the aforementioned development opp for CHRISTMAS 2.0 at the Hormel Festival of New Works, which will also include presentation of my short play, “Survival Strategy”; my full-length, THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR, continues to run in rep in Romania through June and will be the featured play in a podcast late next year; and I have four other full-length productions scheduled for three different plays, plus one for 2016.
Am I a better playwright than I was in 2011? I hope at least a little. But I always harken back to the words of a friend who told me the only difference between a produced playwright and an unproduced playwright is a produced playwright submits. That’s all I’m doing; that’s all I can do. I don’t live in a recognized theater city. I don’t have an MFA, and, although there are more than a dozen institutions of higher learning in my region, none of them even offers an MFA in theater or playwriting. We don’t have a regional theater and we don’t have a nationally recognized development program. In short, I can’t really network except through sending out my work.
But I am getting productions, and it’s hard to argue with the correlation that the more I send out my work, the more that happens, because as we’ve all heard repeatedly, it’s a numbers game. The Real Inspiration for Playwrights Project (and if you have never looked at it, I urge you to do so; literary managers and artistic directors were very gracious with their time and advice in helping us to submit smarter) has been intended to help us all play it better, but we also have to play more often. It sucks, but I haven’t figured out another way.
Can I inspire you to up your game in 2015? Joyous new year!
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