2014 SUBMISSION RECAP: YOU CAN’T ARGUE WITH NUMBERS

December 27th, 2014 donnahoke

 

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!

Please follow me on Twitter @donnahoke and/or like my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/donnahokeplaywright?ref=hl.

 

 

Written by donnahoke

donnahoke

Dramatists Guild Council member and ensemble playwright-in-residence at Road Less Traveled Productions, Kilroys List and award-winning playwright Donna Hoke’s work has been seen in 40 states, and on five continents. Her full-length plays include THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR (Princess Grace semi-finalist, currently in its third year in rep in Romania), SEEDS (Artie award winner for Outstanding New Play), FLOWERS IN THE DESERT (AACT top 20 finalist), SAFE (winner of the Todd McNerney National Playwriting Contest, Naatak National Playwriting Contest, and the 2015 Great Gay Play and Musical Contest), and BRILLIANT WORKS OF ART (2016 Kilroys List, Winner HRC Showcase, Firehouse Festival of New American Plays, top ten Woodward/Newman finalist); she’s also authored more than two dozen short plays that have had hundreds of productions. Donna is also a New York Times-published crossword puzzle constructor; author of Neko and the Twiggets, a children’s book; and founder/co-curator of BUA Takes 10: GLBT Short Stories. For three consecutive years, she was named Buffalo’s Best Writer by Artvoice, the only woman to ever receive the designation.

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32 Comments on “2014 SUBMISSION RECAP: YOU CAN’T ARGUE WITH NUMBERS”

  1. 1 Mary Marshall said at 10:33 am on December 27th, 2014:

    Thanks. It will be very helpful.
    (I am retired and have been in the Atlanta group, Working Title Playwrights, for a year and a half). It has been a lot of fun, but I am getting more serious about things lately.

  2. 2 Richard W. Ridley said at 10:44 am on December 27th, 2014:

    Wow! I am a newbie playwright, and I only made four submissions this year after completing my first full length play in October. Your post has inspired me to go into hyper drive submission mode. Thanks for the info.

  3. 3 Steve Willis said at 1:38 pm on December 27th, 2014:

    Awesome article! Thanks for sharing! I’m inspired… I submitted to 125 opps several years ago, and I ended up getting to travel to Australia for a world premiere there of one of my full-lengths. It really is about submitting… I’m going to do even better than 125 in 2015!!! :-)

  4. 4 donnahoke said at 9:22 pm on December 28th, 2014:

    Steve — That’s so cool! I’ve had short plays done there but haven’t really submitted full-lengths much overseas. Was it a call, or cold?

  5. 5 Patrick Gabridge said at 4:18 pm on December 27th, 2014:

    Great report. 550 is amazing! (I’ve never sent anywhere near that many.) Congrats on your continuing and growing success. And good job on sharing the stats–it’s so important for people to get a sense of what’s possible, and also to see what it takes (a lot of hard work and persistence).

  6. 6 donnahoke said at 9:23 pm on December 28th, 2014:

    Patrick — And insanity! I think you started it all with the Binge!

  7. 7 Joe Krawczyk said at 4:35 pm on December 27th, 2014:

    To date, for 2014, I have racked up 168 submissions, resulting in 9 productions, a published play and one short play and two full-length plays to be produced in 2015. I could have more productions if I wanted to self produce in various festivals and contests in and around New York City. I’ve done that in the past and it’s a lot of work. I’m being more picky and selective as I have been writing plays for the past 25 years, resulting in more than 50 productions in total. Fortunately, I live in New York City and have access to Off-Off Broadway and Off Broadway theater companies. I took early retirement from my full-time job and now exclusively write and submit my plays. I manage my submissions by keeping an excel spreadsheet of what I’ve submitted, date submitted, where, response time, and expected response date. Donna Hoke is right: the more you submit, the greater your chances of getting your work produced.

  8. 8 donnahoke said at 9:25 pm on December 28th, 2014:

    Joe, I’ve self-produced at our Infringement Festival, but it’s not something I’d want to do on a regular basis!

  9. 9 Ann Mary Mullane said at 7:58 pm on December 27th, 2014:

    Thanks I needed your stats! I believe every word. I know I’m lazy about submitting.

    Reading your post will help me set goals for 2015.

  10. 10 donnahoke said at 9:26 pm on December 28th, 2014:

    Thanks, Ann. Read the Goal Post that is linked; it might help :)

  11. 11 Mark Jabaut said at 12:40 pm on December 28th, 2014:

    Donna,

    Inspiring! And congratulations on all your successes!

    Mark

  12. 12 donnahoke said at 9:33 pm on December 28th, 2014:

    Thanks, Mark!

  13. 13 Roy Glassberg said at 6:14 pm on December 28th, 2014:

    With reference to the lack of institutions in your area not offering MFA degrees in Theatre or Playwriting, I suspect that some very good institutions offer degrees: on line; I don’t mean low residence programs. Worth checing out on the internet. I hope they exist and I hope one is good for you.

  14. 14 donnahoke said at 9:28 pm on December 28th, 2014:

    Roy, they’re very very pricey if they do… If it were local, I could do part-time.

  15. 15 Tim Mooney said at 11:23 am on December 29th, 2014:

    Thanks for the inspiration, Donna! You make me feel verrrrryyyy laaaazzzyyyy! Thanks for kicking my butt, a little!

  16. 16 Tim Errickson said at 12:46 pm on December 29th, 2014:

    Terrific write up, Donna. Congrats on the success!

  17. 17 Wayne Paul Mattingly said at 5:33 pm on December 29th, 2014:

    Thanks for this, Donna. Inspirational: stuck in the 225–275 for 2 or three years now…And good goal-setting measure for me.
    Best to you!

  18. 18 donnahoke said at 10:09 pm on December 29th, 2014:

    Wayne — That’s still a LOT!

  19. 19 Kristine Holmgren said at 7:57 pm on December 29th, 2014:

    A question – – – did you pay for your submissions, and if so – – did you track the total for the year? I decided (when I started this madness) to NEVER pay to submit my work. I’ve only submitted to places where I first researched, connected with artistic leadership, was commissioned and/or asked to submit. If sending out more makes a difference – I’m sure going to try it in 2015!

  20. 20 donnahoke said at 10:12 pm on December 29th, 2014:

    Kristine — I think you’ll find that even the staunchest no-fee types will admit, when pressed, to paying for a few, like the O’Neill, Great Plains, etc.

  21. 21 Gordon said at 8:46 pm on December 29th, 2014:

    Donna –

    Kudos! You work hard at being a playwright. Incidentally, when you respond to ‘OPPS” are they “calls” or plays or “cold” I submit to both, based on the principle that if they don’t say they will NOT read anything submitted without an agent they will quite possibly read it. However, as you know, just a small percentage of theatre people, i.e., “ADs”, respond to something sent by an unknown playwright. I do send about 50 submissions per year total regarding my four full-length plays and often draw kudos and compliments from readers who nevertheless, decline to stage them. Being retired, I have time to send out multiple submissions but find a good deal of ageism in the American theatre world. Most companies are seeking plays from “young, promising playwrights” probably like yourself. I’d doesn’t seem to matter that a person over 60 can still write, and perhaps write very well. Many theatres don’t see much advantage in working with an old geezer, even to produce a play he wrote earlier, when in his or her “prime.” Years ago I wrote an epic two-act bio-drama that was produced once at the university level, and won a national award, but hasn’t been produced since. Can anyone else out there relate to the age thing? How do you counter it?

  22. 22 donnahoke said at 10:14 pm on December 29th, 2014:

    Gordon — How do they know how old you are when you send the play?

    And to answer your first question, I send to opps and also do some cold submitting if I have a play I think will fit.

  23. 23 Steve Willis said at 11:39 am on December 30th, 2014:

    The production in Australia was a cold online submission… I knew no one, and except for one very brief phone call, everything was done online. I met the producers and director for the first time when they picked me up at the airport. It was a major exciting event in my playwriting career… Aiming for more in 2015!

  24. 24 donnahoke said at 2:29 pm on December 30th, 2014:

    Steve — That’s super awesome and inspiring!! Not a call, but cold? Even better!

  25. 25 Francis RTM Boyle said at 1:34 pm on December 30th, 2014:

    Donna,

    Where did you find 550 places to submit? Dramatist’s Sourcebook has nowhere near those numbers.

    I’m desperate to know; I have had a few plays performed, my dream is to make a living at it.

    All the best-

  26. 26 donnahoke said at 2:28 pm on December 30th, 2014:

    Francis — The DG Sourcebook is the tip of the iceberg. Are you on Official Playwrights of Facebook?

  27. 27 Kelly McBurnette-Andronicos said at 6:06 pm on December 30th, 2014:

    This is so helpful, Donna. I shared it with my local playwrights’ group.

  28. 28 donnahoke said at 11:28 am on December 31st, 2014:

    Kelly — Thank you. Do they know about TRADE A PLAY TUESDAY?

  29. 29 Francis RTM Boyle said at 8:42 pm on December 30th, 2014:

    No, I’m not yet a member- is it an open group?

  30. 30 Gordon said at 12:05 am on January 1st, 2015:

    Donna –

    RE: Ageism in the theatre.
    You answered my query about ageism with the question “How do they know how old you are when you send the play?”
    Frankly, I don’t know, but there are ways to find anyone’s profile these days, including their age, for those theatres that want to screen for that factor. I have talked to other playwrights, and also to a retired and revered director at Villanova, who agreed with my assessment.

  31. 31 donnahoke said at 10:07 am on January 1st, 2015:

    I do agree there is age discrimination in some instances (contests that are only open to under 35 etc), but I do find it kind of hard to believe that if a theater really likes a play, they’re going to go on a hunt to find out how old you are. I know a lot of middle-aged playwrights who are getting a lot of work produced.

  32. 32 Judy said at 10:44 am on June 1st, 2015:

    Where do you find all these places to submit?


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