HOW TO PLAY #POFF: Playwrights Offering Free Feedback–a free reading/feedback circle

January 25th, 2017 donnahoke

 

 

The third anniversary of the launch of TRADE A PLAY TUESDAY (#TAPT) has just passed. In its three years of operation, there has never been a Tuesday without participants, and feedback and experience have served to iron out the kinks. Since #TAPT now runs (mostly always) seamlessly each week, it’s a good time to honor the repeated requests for something more, i.e. an opportunity to get feedback for full-length plays. Currently, there is nothing like this that exists solely for playreading. And so here is Playwrights Offering Free Feedback (#POFF), the name voted by the Official Playwrights of Facebook.

 

Image result for privacy is your choice images

 

This proposed system should address issues that could arise in a full-length trade program. I may have missed some, but, as with #TAPT, putting the program into practice will highlight issues to consider or reconsider; adjustments will be ongoing based on implementation experience and suggestions. For now, this is how it will work, starting immediately.

 

1) THE CODE: The golden rule. We work on an honor system because playwrights are a community. Neither I, nor anybody else, will make money from this venture; trust and mutual respect are our only commodities. Enter with the attitude of giving as much as you take, and it will work.

 

Image result for the golden rule images

 

2) EARNING CREDIT: You can read a play any time you want to; just send an email to donna@donnahoke.com and ask for one! Earn one credit for reading and responding to a full-length play (if you feel the play was overly long or cumbersome and worthy of two credits, let me know and I’ll take a look). If you’ve got nothing to be read at the moment, you may bank credits for future use.  You may also gift your credits to another playwright; just send me an email with the request. I keep a master list of participating playwrights and credit totals. SECURITY NOTE: If I don’t know your name, I will do a search to make sure you are who you say you are, and I will not send you a play if I can find zero online evidence that you are indeed a playwright. It’s nothing personal; it’s for the security of the person whose play you’ll be reading. Also, I will keep a permanent list of who has read what.  

 

IMPORTANT CHANGE AS OF 6/27/17: In running this for six months now, I have seen that there are more people who like to read than who like to submit plays to be read. So, going forward, if you’ve amassed enough credit to have a play read, you will not be given another play to read until you submit one to be read unless I have such an inventory of plays to be read that I need readers. I didn’t anticipate this problem, but this change will facilitate a smoother back-and-forth from hereon. I may also just choose to let several readers read the same play, which is a bonus for submitters.

 

Beginning with this launch, January 25, 2017, you will also earn one credit for every 8 TRADE A PLAY TUESDAY feedbacks you give (maximum two per Tuesday).

 

Image result for bartering images

 

3) SUBMITTING A PLAY FOR FEEDBACK: Do not submit a play until you have credit to have it read. Please refrain from sending anything over 150 pages. This presumes standard, not readers’, formatting; if in doubt, consult the Dramatists Guild modern play format.

 

To submit a play to #POFF:

  • Send a PDF of the play to donna@donnahoke.com.
  • –Do not include any identifying information on your title page.
  • Pages must be numbered.
  • –The subject line should read #POFF/NAME/TITLE, e.g. #POFF/DONNAHOKE/THECOUPLENEXTDOOR
  • –Must be sent in PDF (word retains your name).
  • Submit only full-length plays; if you want feedback for ten-minute plays or single scenes of ten pages or fewer, please refer to the TRADE A PLAY TUESDAY guidelines.
  • If you have specific questions or concerns you’d like addressed in the feedback, please include these with your submission.

 

If it’s not labeled this way, I’ll ask you to resend; it’s imperative that I keep all plays in one folder, properly labeled. This email folder will also serve as the play queue. When somebody requests a play, they will get the next play in the queue. Unlike TRADE A PLAY TUESDAY, this will not be a direct one-to-one trade.

 

If you choose to send the same play a second time, you must resubmit it following the guidelines above; please don’t just send a note saying “submit it again.” Having a new file ensures that all plays in the queue will be sent out in the order they were received. If there are no plays in the queue when someone requests one, a lucky playwright will get a second read at no charge.

 

SECURITY NOTE: Please know that before I send any play to any reader, I will do a search for evidence this person is indeed a playwright; I will not send a play to anyone who has no online evidence of being a playwright, and I will always know who has read your play. 

 

 

Image result for accruing credit

 

 

4) REQUESTING A PLAY TO READ: Once you request a play, you have 48 hours from the time you receive it to read and respond to it. This short timeline is so requesters don’t request a play unless they have planned time to read it. Experience has shown that the more time allowed to read, the more optimistic the reader about the ability to fulfill the commitment, and the less chance the commitment is actually fulfilled. This will also keep the feedback loop moving more quickly, and lessen wait times.

 

***Each participating playwright will be given one 48-hour extension; to use it, send me a request by email before your first 48 hours is up. For every play you read within the required deadline, you will earn a 24-hour extension; up to three of these may be combined for future reads, i.e. if you have three 24-hour extensions, you can combine them to ask for a 72-hour extension. If you miss your deadline, you will be unable to participate in #POFF until you’ve read your assigned play for no credit.

 

Image result for missing a deadline

 

5) THE FEEDBACK: Here’s where it gets tricky. A minimum of one page of quality feedback per 60 pages is required to earn the credit; this means a 90-page play should be getting a page and a half of feedback. By all means, if you are moved to give more, do so, but this is the minimum.  Feedback should be honest and well-intentioned, and not something dashed off in order to earn a credit. Think about what you want from others, and conscientiously provide that yourself. Also, please put your feedback in the body of your email; this makes my life SO much easier.

 

***I will eyeball (not read in its entirety) the feedback before sending it along; if it seems lacking, I will ask for revision; this will make you hate me so please don’t make me do it. Poor/lazy feedback has probably been the only real ongoing problem with #TAPT, and it’s only been when I got repeated complaints that I intervened—and that’s been rare. But #TAPT is a much smaller time commitment, so if a playwright wants to resubmit, not much time/effort is lost. My biggest fear with #POFF is that somebody will feel they’ve wasted credit and not gotten solid feedback. This is the only way I feel I can minimize that risk, but please also understand that not all are created equal when it comes to providing feedback: this is true even when you pay for it.

 

Image result for not created equal risk images

 

All feedback should be in service to the play the playwright has written, i.e. constructive criticism. We are not here to trash talk each other, but to support each other and learn from each other. By all means, if you like something, say so, and if something doesn’t work, explain why or ask questions that might lead the playwright to a better solution.

 

Responders need not follow a template, as it tends to prompt responders to find a few words to say about each topic, e.g. character or theme, and not delve as deeply as they would if not guided. Playwrights should explore their own reactions to the play in feedback, not follow somebody else’s idea of what feedback is.

 

Image result for confidentiality images

 

7) CONFIDENTIALITY. Feedback will initially be sent blind, to me at donna@donnahoke.com. Once feedback is completed, approved, and submitted to the playwright, the playwright may request to be introduced to his/her reader. If the reader agrees, I will supply emails to each. This, I hope, will help foster community among the participating playwrights, but also protect both responder and respondee from embarrassment or recriminations.

 

That’s it! If you have questions, concerns, or suggestions, please post them in the comments below, or email me at donna@donnahoke.com, and I’m happy to hear them. I have no idea how this will work, but the success of TAPT has convinced me it’s worth trying. Unlike TAPT, this doesn’t operate on a particular day, so more than ever, I’ll need your help spreading the word; the more playwrights we have involved, the better! Let’s give it a whirl!

 

 

Please follow me on Twitter @donnahoke or like me on Facebook at Donna Hoke, Playwright.

Playwrights, remember to explore the Real Inspiration For Playwrights Project, a 52-post series of wonderful advice from Literary Managers and Artistic Directors on getting your plays produced. Click RIPP at the upper right.

To read #PLONY (Playwrights Living Outside New York) interviews, click here or #PLONY in the category listing at upper right.

To read the #365gratefulplaywright series, click here or the category listing at upper right.

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 43 states, and on five continents. Her full-length plays include ELEVATOR GIRL (2017 O’Neill finalist), THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR (Princess Grace semi-finalist, currently in its fourth year in rep in Romania), SEEDS (Artie award winner for Outstanding New Play), SAFE (winner of the Todd McNerney, Naatak, and Great Gay Play and Musical Contests), and BRILLIANT WORKS OF ART (2016 Kilroys List, Winner HRC Showcase, Firehouse Festival of New American Plays); she’s also authored more than two dozen short plays that have had hundreds of productions, and has been nominated for both the Francesca Primus and Susan Blackburn prizes. 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.

In addition, Donna is a blogger, advocate, and moderator of the 11,000+-member Official Playwrights of Facebook. Recent speaking engagements include Citywrights, Kenyon Playwrights Conference, the Dramatists Guild National Conference, Chicago Dramatists, and a live Dramatists Guild webinar. Her commentary has been read at #2amt, howlround, the Official Playwrights of Facebook, the newly released Workshopping the New Play, and donnahoke.com.

Be Sociable, Share!


10 Comments on “HOW TO PLAY #POFF: Playwrights Offering Free Feedback–a free reading/feedback circle”

  1. 1 Joe O'Connor said at 12:55 pm on January 29th, 2017:

    Donna, My writing has come to a halt but my interest in theatre is as strong as ever. I would be delighted to read longer plays. My best to you, Joe

  2. 2 nick said at 9:54 pm on February 2nd, 2017:

    Looking for a full length to read.

  3. 3 donnahoke said at 10:09 pm on February 2nd, 2017:

    Awesome! Please send a request.

  4. 4 John O'Hara said at 8:47 am on February 18th, 2017:

    Hi Donna

    I would love to read a new play of any length.

    John O’Hara

  5. 5 donnahoke said at 8:58 am on February 18th, 2017:

    Awesome! Just follow the instructions and I’ll send you one!

  6. 6 Hillary DePiano said at 3:15 pm on April 20th, 2017:

    Could a playwright submit two or more one-acts as a single submission to reach that 60 page minimum? I’m thinking of someone having, say, 3 twenty page plays which would be too long to send into TAPT individually but would combine to meet the 60 pages minimum so they could still get some feedback even with a longer one-act.

    I’m writing up that long promised post about this and TAPT so I wanted to make sure I had it right.

  7. 7 donnahoke said at 3:25 pm on April 20th, 2017:

    I don’t prefer it because starting three times means having to make cohesive critique three separate times, which could conceivably be more work than one longer play. (and thank you!)

  8. 8 Jim Moss said at 1:28 pm on May 2nd, 2017:

    Hi Donna,

    I was wondering what the queue line for a full length play is currently like. I sent you a play yesterday and I’m eager to have it reviewed and I’m not sure if it’s gone out or it’s still waiting in queue.

  9. 9 Tony Schwab said at 5:52 pm on July 7th, 2017:

    Dear Donna,
    I do not appear on the web as a playwright. I directed my own work but that was in the late 70’s. My play was read at St Clement’s in the 80’s but received no press. Above is link to my bio on the Victorian Web for which I write long articles and that mentions my theater work.
    Below is a recent letter from Peter Campbell, director and professor for theater at Ramapo College re: my new one-act. I have others like it. I also gave you much of my theater resume. I have a full-length play I would love to have read by an engaged reader. Please give me a chance to start by reading a play. I am a certified NJ high school teacher of English and will write a response that will be valuable to any playwright. I could scan some old reviews if you need
    Thanks!
    “Dear Tony-
    I am sorry not have responded. I am embarrassed to admit that I simply forgot. I read the play over the holiday break and was struck by its characterizations and its formal bravery. The main character, Jasmine, reminded me of the character of the Boy in J.M. Coetzee’s new books The Childhood of Jesus and The Schooling of Jesus – somehow different, and threatening to the order because of that. Jasmine’s precociousness is the most interesting component of the piece, and mostly holds it together. However, at the same time, I often found myself nodding at the cleverness of the dramaturgy and not necessarily responding emotionally to the material. Is it possible that it might be too smart? I hope you understand what I mean. Some of the intellectual references may go over the heads of most audiences, and make it difficult to understand the dynamics of Jasmine’s relationships with her various and sundry elders.

    With all that said, I hope you are able to get a reading of it together, as I think it is worth being heard. If you’d like, I could share it with some students to see if they might be interested in trying to put something together at Ramapo – there is a student theater group that sometimes does readings of new work.

    I apologize again for my consistently delayed responses. Thanks again for reaching out and sharing your work.
    All best,
    Peter”

    TONY SCHWAB
    574 PALISADE AVENUE
    TEANECK, NEW JERSEY 07666
    201.692.9504 c. 201.739.7521
    tschwab574@gmail.com
    OBJECTIVE:
    To teach acting and directing on the college level; to act and direct

    THEATER:
    Director and Teacher of Acting: 2003-2009
    Sage Day High School:
    Antigone;
    Curse of the Starving Class;
    Original Student 2-act play;
    You Can’t Take it with You;
    Hamlet with reversed genre casting
    Director/Writer 2000-2001, NJ
    Much ado About Shakespeare, connected collage of scenes from major plays
    Don’t Worry, Be Happy, connected montage of scenes from 150 years of comedy
    Director, Together, Teaneck, NJ Recreation Department 1989-92; Evening theater program for families; winner NJ Recreation Award
    Teacher of professional acting classes. Theater Laboratory of Los Angeles and New York. Director of five productions based on motifs and characters in O’Neill, Cervantes, Shakespeare, and Chekhov. 1972-1980. Inspired by Jerzy Grotowski’s Poor Theater.
    Director, NYC.
    Ensemble Studio Theater, NYC, You Didn’t Have to Tell Me, by Brother Jonathan. 1973
    Lincoln Center of the Performing Arts, Community Theater Festival, Mister Esteban, The Everyman Company produced by Geraldine Fitzgerald and Brother Jonathan, street theater rock musical based on Macbeth performed throughout New York City, 1972.
    Actor, Television: Guest roles. PBS, Baretta, Baa Baa Black Sheep, Supershow Personal management: Lucy Kroll Agency, N.Y.C. Acting agent: Sue Golden Agency, Los Angeles, CA. 1976-1980
    Actor, New York. Two leading roles. Circle-in-the-Square New York, N.Y. Ah, Wilderness, by Eugene O’Neill; Seven Days of Mourning, by Seymour Simckes. 1969-70
    Playwright:
    Quarantine 2016
    The Girl Who Would Not Go to School 2015
    Dickens Loses His Way 2015
    My Dysfunctional Family 2014
    Duties of the Heart. Reading Mikveh Israel, Philadelphia, PA 2010
    Big Man based on Ibsen’s Peer Gynt; book, lyrics and director. Music by Joe Alter, street theater musical, Magnet School of Teaneck, N.J.. 1987
    Co-playwright The Jessica Tapes, St. Clements Theater, N.Y. N.Y. 1986

  10. 10 donnahoke said at 9:29 am on July 8th, 2017:

    Great! By all means, send a Reader Request.


Leave a Reply