If you need an explanation of RIPP: Real Inspiration for Playwrights Project, please click here to get some context before reading. I have a feeling not everyone is doing this, as I keep getting emails from playwrights wanting to send me their plays or asking how to get produced which, again, is not the point of RIPP.
FROM MOTL DIDNER, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, NATIONAL YIDDISH THEATRE- FOLKSBIENE
“I work for The National Yiddish Theatre – Folksbiene, which primarily produces work in Yiddish. Most of our productions are classics, as very few playwrights are creating new work in this language. But we were approached by a playwright/director several years ago with whom we had not previously worked.
“He had created a new musical adaptation of the I. B. Singer short story “Gimpel the Fool,” which had been produced in Romania. We had interest in the piece and produced a staged reading which was presented four times for audiences around the boroughs of New York City.The piece tested very well and went on to a very well received full production two seasons later.
“This was an example of a playwright, working in a niche, who targeted his play to the right producer. However, it was ultimately the high quality of the work and the response it elicited from the audience at the staged readings which resulted in our selection of the piece. This is to say that we did not selected it simply because it was new and in Yiddish.
“Playwrights should avoid working in a vacuum. It is painfully easy to fall into the pattern of working alone, behind closed doors; emailing untested scripts out into the great void; lamenting each form letter—or worse, non-response. Playwrights who are not well connected should build their own network of actors , readers, and audience, and take a “Do It Yourself” approach.
“Organize your own readings. Learn what you can from each pass through. Solicit honest feedback from a diverse audience. The audience should consist of as few close friends as possible. Polite praise from friends will not result in produced work. When the play has been refined and is ready to send out, target the submission to theaters that are most likely looking for your play. If you send your new drama to a company that only produces musicals then you will only become part of the great amount of clutter that most theaters receive. Write a cover letter. If you get a response (acceptance or not), write a thank you letter. If you don’t get a response, it is okay to ask once for confirmation of receipt. If you still don’t get a response, don’t take it personally. It probably means that the person who receives scripts is overwhelmed with submissions. Remember, that there are many more plays being written than can be produced. Be patient. Have realistic expectations.”
My nutshell takeaway: There is a lot to take in here! First, another successful tale—and they are worth repeating—of sending your best work to the right theater. But Mr. Didner’s advice is where I sit up and take notice. Yes, he talks about sending to the right theaters and writing a cover letter. He notes that one should always respond to either an acceptance or a rejection with a thank you, which makes me want to ask how many of you do this? I do sometimes, but I always feel like sending yet another thing to an AD’s mailbox is just one more annoying thing to clutter it up. Thoughts?
I’m also keyed into to Mr. Didner’s implication that ADs are not always receiving a playwright’s best work, that plays are going out into the universe untested. That’s a pretty big deal, and because Mr. Didner is not the only person I’ve talked to make such an assertion, at some point in the future, that will probably prompt a greater—and perhaps uncomfortable—discussion. Finally, his advice to keep expectations realistic—even if you are writing stellar work—is a sound one, and the encouragement to self-produce is an increasingly oft-beat drum. There are indeed far more playwrights than means to produce them, but I also see a change in the entire production paradigm, at least for lesser known playwrights. Names and credits are being built locally, often without an accompanying Broadway dream. For any playwright, this IS a realistic goal, and self-production can assist in its accomplishment.
Until next time,
P.S. If you have comments, I would politely request that you make them here. Having some on Linked In, some on Facebook, etc., makes it hard to create a central conversation. Thanks.