Donna Hoke offers page-by-page script analysis and career coaching for a reasonable fee. If interested, please inquire at


June 10th, 2013 donnahoke


If you don’t know what 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.




“Theater for the New City has produced three plays by Ian Gordon. He came to us as a technical volunteer volunteered for our Halloween Costume Ball (Village Halloween Costume Ball), then for LES (the Lower East Side Festival of the Arts). Then, he worked crew for our Summer Street Theater tour. He volunteered for lighting tech during the year, and was then hired as a lighting designer for one of our emerging playwright’s plays, and he became crew chief for the Street Theater program. All this time, he studied Lighting Design at Brooklyn College and graduated with a degree in Lighting Design.


“He’d also begun to write plays, and we were so happy with his reliability, enthusiasm, and interest in the play he was working on, and he asked me if he could have a reading of a play he was writing. At TNC, if you volunteer a lot, and give your energies to your tasks, we will always say yes to your trying out something you wish to do. To make a long story shorter, we loved his play when it was read. So when he asked if we would produce it, we said yes. The budget was $2,000. He raised the money himself, from friends and benefit nights he held at TNC. His next play was paid for by TNC, and we produced two more plays by him. This is not a unique story at TNC. So my advice is to volunteer—volunteer—volunteer—and get involved in an off-off-Broadway Theater. If your writing is good, they will produce your play.”


My nutshell takeaway: That last sentence is what strikes me, on two levels. One—they WILL produce your play. Two—IF the writing is good. That’s kind of a double-edged sword, isn’t it? You can do the due diligence, volunteer at a theater, and if the work isn’t to their liking, you still might not get the production. But what you will get, and this is so critical, is people who want to believe in you and your work. This means that even if your play isn’t what they want, or has problems, they will be willing to work with you. They’ll give you the readings you need, they’ll tell you where your potential likes, they’ll be honest with you, and they will provide you an artistic home. And that kind of nurturing can lead the production you seek and maybe not just at this theater. If you’ve been having trouble generating interest in your work, creating this type of relationship may be just the boost it needs.


If you have comments, I request that you please leave them here so that everybody can read them. Some people come to this via Tumblr, Reddit, Twitter, etc., and comments in one place promote central discussion. Thanks!


Until next RIPP,







  1. 1 Andy Reynolds said at 9:30 am on June 10th, 2013:

    As someone who has worked at TNC as both an actor and a playwright, I can’t stress to you what a supportive place it is. The advice Crystal gives is true – if you put time, hard work and dedication into volunteering there, good things can happen.

  2. 2 nick boretz said at 10:02 am on June 10th, 2013:

    This is the way to do it, in my opinion. Early on..when I was at UCLA in the 60’s we had a group and eventually I got associated with the Guthrie in Minneapolis. Had plays done in LA, off off, etc. But throughout it all..I never liked
    going to the theater that much even though I wrote for it. Until I saw “The Dumbwaiter.” I saw the possibilities..and went back and saw everything.

  3. 3 Bella Poynton said at 12:03 pm on June 10th, 2013:

    This makes me laugh. Had to raise the money himself? That isnt really being produced, is it? Also– they WILL produce it IF the writing is good? Well.. that’s a matter of taste, isn’t it? You can SAY the writing of a fantastic play is terrible if you just don’t want to produce the thing. And anyway, getting produced at the Off-Off level is virtually meaningless. If you want to break into the bigger theaters, you have to do it the hard way.

  4. 4 donnahoke said at 12:07 pm on June 10th, 2013:

    There’s such a wave of encouragement toward DIY producing–even the Sam French OOB festival is DIY, as is the Manhattan Theatre Club’s. Do you see any value in it as a stepping stone? A step along the way of the hard way? For my money, it seems as though it’s ALL hard. What hard way do you mean specifically?

  5. 5 Bella Poynton said at 12:11 pm on June 10th, 2013:

    I guess by “the hard way” I mean living in development hell. You live in a city where you can belong to a respectable writing group– youngblood, ars nova, chicago dramatists, etc (there are many others), and then you just submit to the large development conferences (O’Neill, New Harmony, 7 Devils, PlayPenn, Bay Area, Great Plains) until you are accepted into them. And you GO to every one you get into. You go to every reading you get. Getting into a baller MFA program also helps a LOT. You meet a lot of important people. Go and observe at the O’Neill whenever you can. Its not about getting in at one small theater. It’s about spreading your name and work through the entire community of New Play Development in the American Theatre.

  6. 6 donnahoke said at 12:13 pm on June 10th, 2013:

    This is a great answer, and I don’t disagree with any of it, but add that one hopes playwrights are submitting to these opportunities, even as they pursue production at smaller theaters. Because it all helps.

  7. 7 Andy Reynolds said at 6:43 pm on June 10th, 2013:

    Bella, there was a time, in the olden days, when TNC was able to fully “produce” many, many new plays but cuts in funding from foundations and government have made that harder and harder. There was a time not too long ago when TNC – which has been in the same location since the dawn of time, practically – was threatened with eviction. In the years since then, they have taken valiant steps to stay open – and continue to provide quality, affordable theater for many loyal audience members from the Lower East Side. But as a result of these developments, they rely on people who are more DIY than some places that charge upwards of $60-$95 a ticket and are well-funded through subscriptions and rich donors like Playwrights Horizons or MTC (not that I don’t love those places and the work they do, too). But the folks at TNC are still very committed to nurturing new playwrights in a lot of different ways, even if it means the playwright might need to hold a fundraiser or two…

  8. 8 jt nichols said at 10:28 am on June 11th, 2013:

    hmm. I used to do stuff at TNC–even went down there from Maine, for a week, to work on their Halloween show. Sent them a play two years ago, never even got a response.

  9. 9 Atar Hadari said at 4:32 pm on June 11th, 2013:

    The only trouble with this story is that it makes it sound like a young, single person’s game, ideally to be played in New York…

  10. 10 donnahoke said at 4:38 pm on June 11th, 2013:

    There are certainly a lot more theaters OOB than probably anywhere else in the country, but I think the same principles apply, and the experience could be replicated, at any small theater. Certain OOB theaters may have more cache or make it easier to possibly get a major paper review, but more are akin to small theaters in other US cities. I know it would be exciting for me to say I had a New York production no matter where it was, but maybe from a practical perspective, it isn’t that much different from one in an equally small theater somewhere else.

  11. 11 Atar Hadari said at 3:48 pm on June 12th, 2013:

    Ok, let’s say you can do it in Omaha – you still have to leave your kids and spouse at home after a day at work and volunteer to do their lights to get in the door. This reminds me of all those publishing houses nowadays that expect people to do internships. Wonder who’s paying their rent while they’re doing internships? Well gosh, it’s Mom and Dad…

  12. 12 donnahoke said at 4:19 pm on June 12th, 2013:

    I think if you talk to any playwright who is being produced, you’ll find that it requires a lot of time at the theater. Playwriting is a time-consuming vocation, or avocation. There’s no way around that.

  13. 13 Tim Errickson said at 10:49 am on July 24th, 2013:

    Sorry, but if you have to do the lights and volunteer to maybe get your play produced at theater, you are being ripped off. You might as well produce it yourself and save a lot of time. Or submit to actual legitimate theatre companies.

Leave a Reply