MY 2018 YEAR IN REVIEW

December 29th, 2018 donnahoke

Once again, I offer up the year’s facts and figures in an attempt to inspire you to keep up your submission game.  As with 2014’s Recap: You Can’t Argue With Numbers2015’s Review in Numbers, 2016’s Year in Review, and 2017 Year in Review, the goal is to share stats and results of submission, the hows of productions, as well as a few highlights that made the year fun and kept my spirits up. If I were a sports team–oh say, the Buffalo Bills–I might call this a rebuilding year. I won some games (i.e. had productions), but also had a lot of readings and did a lot of revision and made a lot of trips and met a lot of people. It still added up to a very busy playwright’s life during which I can only hope I planted seeds for a good 2019.

 

This year, I actually submitted more than last year–to a total of 494 unique opportunities (often with more than one play, but I don’t count each of those as an individual submission, as I realized this year that some do, and maybe I should because I haven’t hit 500 in a few years) as opposed to last year’s 441–but ended up with one fewer production of full-length plays and 26 more productions of ten-minute plays, despite not writing any new ones (except for two very specific asks). I did, however, make a total of 166 submissions to ten-minute opps this year (very often with multiple plays), which is way up from last year’s 115 (when I swore to no longer send to opps wanting first productions for no pay), which only continues to prove that ten-minute play festivals show no signs of slowing down. If you’re not writing them already, here’s why you should be: Ten Reasons You Should Be Writing Ten-Minute Plays).

 

While I wasn’t without productions, three of them were very short runs—one ran a single night in Ireland (yet had a full rehearsal, posters, a trailer, everything…), another two ran one weekend each at high schools (my first two high school productions!), and the fourth is THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR which just entered its fifth year running in Romania. But the fifth production, ONCE IN MY LIFETIME: A Buffalo Football Fantasy, was a commissioned piece that played to great critical and commercial success in my home city and ended up being one of the most exciting theatrical experiences I’ve ever had (I mean, freaking Scott Norwood at the final night, come on). Also, thanks to this show, I once again made more from playwriting this year than I did the previous year (by 30 percent); this is an annual goal that I’ve maintained since my first play was produced in 2010. So… balance.

 

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The winning moment in ONCE IN MY LIFETIME: A Buffalo Football Fantasy.

 

In the interest of always maintaining transparency, those four new productions were the result of 1) a cold submission (THE WAY IT IS in Ireland, its third production); 2) asking around to find high school interested in the world premiere in advance of publication (MARCUS JAMES at West Seneca East); 3) a high school student finding FLOWERS IN THE DESERT and loving it enough to direct it for showcase, its eighth production; I don’t really see it as a high school play, but who am I to judge?; 4) a California Buffalo ex-pat deciding he wants to produce a play in which the Buffalo Bills win the Super Bowl, Googling “Buffalo playwright,” and finding me. None of them came about the same way, and, none were really the result of networking either; the final three I’d categorize under “having a presence” or “momentum,” which I guess is an indirect result of networking, but it’s a muddy track.

 

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THE WAY IT IS at Eva’s Echo, Galway

 

The world premiere of MEET ME AT THE GATES, MARCUS JAMES at West Seneca East High School

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Fewer productions didn’t mean I was idle. I took a record 18 trips this year, and only one of them—to Sacramento to visit my in-laws—was unrelated to playwriting (weirdly, I’d never been to Sacramento and ended up there again before the year was over). Ten were to New York City; I was there so much that people started asking me, “When will you be in town again?” I had New York readings of TEACH, BRILLIANT WORKS OF ART, ELEVATOR GIRL, and ON THE ROOF. The first three of those also rose to the top 15 recommended full-length plays on the New Play Exchange; ELEVATOR GIRL is in the top four. These are critical to the rebuilding phase!

 

In all, I had 16 readings of full-length plays, 10 of TEACH (somebody produce this play) alone! TEACH also won three prizes, was a finalist for three things, and a semi-finalist for the O’Neill. In other contest news, ELEVATOR GIRL was a finalist for the Princess Grace Fellowship, SAFE was a finalist for the Sultan Pudamsee Prize, CHRISTMAS 2.0 took third place for the Pickering Prize, and SONS & LOVERS won the Emanuel Fried Award for Outstanding New Play. (See my acceptance speech here.) I also won a couple of out-of-town awards, including a Bartell (Madison, WI’s award) for Best Short Play Writing for “Write This Way.”

 

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I also had 55 productions of ten-minute plays—including a commissioned adaptation—despite writing only two new ones, the aforementioned commission and a prompted five-minute monologue for Rachael Carnes’ Code Red. Many thanks to Elizabeth Coplan, whose Grief Dialogues accounted for six new productions of “Life Lines” (I finally got to see one at the Dramatists Guild Conference in July!) I also participated in my seventh Buffalo Quickies, with the resurrected “Spirit of Buffalo.” There were four more productions each of my most-produced shorts, “You Haven’t Changed A Bit” and “Survival Strategy.” In total, short play productions accounted for almost $1200, $400 more than last year; the same plays are continuing to work for me (write ten-minute plays! Have you clicked on this link yet?). And one of them, “Two Puzzles Walk Into the Bar,” was performed at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament hosted and introduced by Will Shortz! How it got there a is long story (if you want to know it, email me), but the collision of two passions was a highlight of the year. See the play (and me! and Will!) below:

 

 

I had three publications: MARCUS JAMES at YouthPLAYS, SONS & LOVERS at Stage Rights, and “Sold” in the Smith & Kraus Best Ten-Minute Plays 2017. I’ve already gotten a production out of that last one. (I still have heard nothing about the potential FLOWERS IN THE DESERT publication, and it’s been 14 months.) BRILLIANT WORKS OF ART was also one of the inaugural plays on the Play4Keeps subscription podcast series; check it out!

 

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I went to three conferences: I was a fellow at (now defunct 🙁 ) Kenyon Playwrights Conference, presented on two panels at the Dramatists Guild Conference, and attended as Ambassador and playwright the National New Play Network Showcase (the second Sacramento trip). I also spent a lovely week in Naples, Florida with Jennifer Maisel and Alix Sobel as a winner of the Gulfshore New Works Festival (TEACH); it was the best working vacation ever.

 

What did I write? I finished AMERICAN DEAL (last year, I was calling it THE REAL DEAL), a drama about a convicted murderer with a book deal that might earn him parole—and revised it several times. It went out to a scant few opps (and made it to the semis of one, which was validating), but mostly this was a year for submitting HEARTS OF STONE which got short shrift last year in favor of ELEVATOR GIRL, which I wrote the same year. It’s hard to argue with that choice, given the attention ELEVATOR GIRL has gotten, but I’m curious to see how HEARTS OF STONE fares. It did get more than a few nibbles even as the backup submission (to a few theaters for which EG was just all wrong lol).

 

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The Chicago premiere opens January 11, 2019, at Vanguard Arts Collective with the New York premiere to follow.

 

I also wrote LITTLE WOMEN NOW, a modern adaptation of the classic, and had a killer reading of it in December; it’s ready to go and might even have a place to go TO (fingers crossed)! Less “finished” is a first draft of HELL AND OTHER PLACES WE GO (the play I said I abandoned in last year’s review, so you never know which plays will roar back to life), my first all-female cast play; I’m three scenes shy of finishing it, but I’m counting it anyway because if I could find three freakin’ days, it would be done.  I came up short on my writing goals by one screenplay–the same goal I missed last year!–but  I couldn’t have anticipated all the travel, so I’ll let myself off the hook and put it on the 2019 Goals list. (Also on that goal list? Finding a way to be less sedentary with a desk life; even though I worked out 254 days of 2018, I need to get UP more!).

 

My script consultancy picked up considerably, with help from my position on faculty with Dramatists Guild Plays in Progress. And, finally, I furthered my informal playwriting education by seeing 118 shows: 74 in Buffalo (including seeing my son as LeFou, the best), seven at the Shaw Festival, and 37 in New York.

 

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The crazy kid 😉

 

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Illustrations from the New York reading of ELEVATOR GIRL

 

And, finally, best of all…. drum roll: my daughter finished my website! If you’ve never gone beyond the blog page–or even if it’s been awhile–check it out! All new and updated here.

 

So far, I know next year brings beyond the first leg of a joint world premiere of ELEVATOR GIRL at Vanguard Arts Collective in Chicago, the Dramatists Guild Annual Meeting in February, a workshop production of TEACH in Denver in June, a spring retreat, a reading of HEARTS OF STONE in Charleston, and four more scheduled productions of short plays. Oh, and writing a pilot for ONCE IN MY LIFETIME. But last December, I remember saying, “I don’t have much travel scheduled” and it ended up being my busiest travel year yet. I’m ready for whatever comes, and have found this year, more than ever, that being open to opportunity and saying “yes” is what keeps the momentum going, and playwright life exciting and unpredictable.

 

How was your year?

 

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