Playwrights talk a lot about how to get plays in the hands of those who will read them, and lamenting the seeming impossibility of this task. And yet… if it were truly impossible, would we keep writing? Would we keep submitting day in and day out? We must believe that even if the odds are slim, there are indeed odds. Odds that are not insurmountable. Odds that lead to success stories. So I went looking for them. More than that, I found them.
For the past six weeks and ongoing, I’ve been systematically contacting, following up with, and interviewing artistic managers and literary managers asking them to share those success stories. Stories about how they did indeed pluck that script from obscurity. Stories about how a certain playwright got on their radar. Real stories. From real theater folks. And just for fun, I also asked them what advice playwrights can take from those stories (and plenty were eager to throw in a bunch of other advice as well!). The resulting collection of inspiration and wisdom is what I’m calling the Real Inspiration for Playwrights Project: Success Stories and Advice to Motivate You When You Feel Like Giving Up. That’s an unwieldy title, so it’ll be RIPP most of the time.
Make no mistake. I found a LOT of stories where personal connections were critical, though they didn’t all come about in the same way, so I am including them even though they didn’t result from open submissions. And I found a LOT of theaters listed that purport to accept submissions but do so in name only. You’ll hear a lot of advice repeated in different forms and hopefully, hearing it attached to success stories again and again will make it resonate in a way it perhaps hasn’t before. Maybe it will inspire you to take a different tack with submissions.
Initially, I hoped to provide a new story every day for a year, but as you can imagine, the legwork has been onerous. It has, however, paid off, and while I can’t post a new story every day, I do expect to be able to post every week for quite some time. And I will continue posting until I the responses stop coming. (I am hoping once we get started, some word-of-mouth might make that easier. To that end, if you’re an AD or LM reading this, please consider emailing me at email@example.com with either your own contribution or names of would-be contributors. Playwrights, if you’ve got relationships with any ADs or LMs, please do the same.) When that happens, we’ll have a collection that hopefully WILL inspire you to keep on during the darkest days. Because to paraphrase a playwright friend, it’s high time we all started submitting smarter. I want RIPP to help us all do that.
Please respect that what RIPP is NOT is an invitation to bombard with your plays every AD or LM who was gracious enough to respond to my call for stories and advice. Please don’t use these posts in place of doing your own due diligence about theaters, building relationships, and submitting only where appropriate. I won’t assume that these blog posts will get even several hundred hits, but if they do, I can’t imagine that any LM/AD would welcome a sudden influx of as many scripts and want to thank me for it. Be respectful of their willingness to share their wisdom. Reward them for participating by carefully considering what they say.
So with the explanations out of the way, I’ll start (in a separate post, so that the explanation has its own) with the lovely Melissa Hillman, who not only provided my very first response, but also generously supplied the names of more than a few colleagues that I could hit up for more.
I hope you enjoy!