It has been six months since I launched TRADE A PLAY TUESDAY (TAPT); I almost can’t believe it’s been that long, but sure enough, the date on the original guidelines post is January 14. For those who don’t know, TAPT is a simple, one-to-one, give-and-take feedback system for short plays and scenes; in short, you send me your plays and scenes, and I swap them out as they come in. Since its inception, with few exceptions, TAPT has run every Tuesday and, to date, more than 250 plays have been traded. That’s pretty amazing. (If you want to know more about TAPT, or would like complete guidelines for participating, click here.)
Some weeks have been heavier than others—I probably trade an average of ten plays/scenes a week—but never has there been a week where nobody sent things to trade. And nearly every week, a new playwright pops in and is delighted by the process. That this is still going strong after six months and still attracting new participants means, I hope, that it’s in the ether. It’s a resource that people use when they need it, whether that’s every week or once every two months. And as long as there even one play coming in each Tuesday, TAPT will continue.
What’s even more amazing is the notes I get from playwrights who have participated, notes that say they’ve made reading relationships for full-length plays and ongoing friendships that started with a simple Tuesday trade. I had really hoped this would be a byproduct of the process, as we playwrights work in such isolation and sometimes knowing that you can get instant feedback or run a question by someone one-on-one can really help. I often join in myself and I feel as though I’ve built a go-to cadre of playwrights at all levels of experience and specialty.
I would like to share one note (and I have permission from the playwright to do so) that sums it up:
I’ve gotten cursory responses, not especially helpful or thoughtful. I’ve also gotten fairly helpful critiques which give me the nerve and impetus to go back to moribund plays, as well as ringing endorsements suggesting I should start submitting the scripts. It’s similar to the range of responses you might get in a writers’ workshop, but one match at a time. And it’s nice to connect with other playwrights you haven’t met.
To the first sentence, I say, of course, the process hasn’t been perfect as it’s developed. I have had to do a little bit of policing in asking a couple of regular participants to reevaluate their contributions and why they were coming back week after week, but I was heartened that both playwrights graciously said they completely understood and would bow out until they felt they were ready to commit to the process. There was no anger or kickback, because playwrights are a classy bunch. I have also begun to ask new participants to CC me on feedback the first time or two so that I can at least eyeball it for fairness, so if you’ve tried TAPT and were disappointed, maybe give it another try.
This playwright quoted above has come back more than once and, in doing so, reaped TAPT’s intended benefits. There is a risk in any new venture, and I realize that many people have reading groups already, or feel uneasy about sending a play to a stranger. But given the connections that are being made, and the low risk—just ten pages—I’d still say it’s worth a shot. At its heart, TAPT is about community—maybe one week you’re a mentor, and the next you get just what you need to make your play sing. I just love talking to playwrights.
Whether you agree or disagree, I only ask that when you see a Tuesday TAPT announcement, please help spread the word. There are thousands of playwrights out there, and not everybody knows about TAPT yet. I would love it if they did.
I post every Tuesday (and sometimes on Monday nights) on the Official Playwrights of Facebook and I also Tweet several times on Tuesday (follow me @donnahoke) to remind everybody. If you see the Tweet, give it a retweet if you’re inclined as Twitter is so fleeting. And if you have a ten-minute play or a ten-minute scene and it’s Tuesday, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. You’ll always be welcome.