October 23rd, 2013 donnahoke


Can you believe this is the 34th post in this series? If you’ve been reading, I would love to hear how RIPP has helped you, so that I can share these responses in a future post. And if you don’t know what RIPP: Real Inspiration for Playwrights Project is about, please click here to get some context before reading.




I am indeed one of those lamenting playwrights you are speaking about. I am also fortunate enough to be Brat’s artist in residence this year, so I have a bit of perspective as well. However, even with success, the questions linger about the next project, the next script. For this reason, I thank you and look forward to hearing advice from interior sources. As for my own experience, I would give this piece of advice to folks out there struggling, as this is how I found myself with my first commissioned play, a dream project I never thought would come into reality.


First of all, look for opportunities to practice failing. These should be places you can see yourself actually at in two or three years, not just the Humana festival or Atlantic, but theaters that still seem beyond your grasp. Second, since this is a chance to fail, dream big. Failures should be big and since you’re planning on not getting the job anyhow, have fun in giving the dream projects voice. The only cautionary word to your big dream is to do your homework: your dream should be parallel to their dream.


Finally, put all the cards on the table. Honesty is sexy and refreshing, so just let it out. From the first letter, to any other contact you have, be you. I’m an awkward guy, I’m scared of a million things, and when I walked into Brat’s office to pitch them a play [The Last Plot in Revenge], I had literally failed at writing three other times, I let them know as boldly and as clearly as I could that, yeah, I’m terrified but all great art has something scary in it and I think they should find out what’s scary in this project. That’s how I did it. I hope this helps you find success too.


My nutshell takeaway: My favorite part of this whole thing? Be you. Have you ever had a friend or fellow playwright say the equivalent of “This is a Donna play”? Because no matter what kind of play you’re writing—comedy, drama, magical realism, issue-oriented—your voice comes through. There’s no point in pretending it doesn’t or trying to hide it. And if a given theater is not interested in that voice, then they’re not; we can’t take it personally anymore than we can try to write things that don’t come naturally to us. Next thing—go do this. Seriously. Do exactly what Brian did and then let me know what happened. Or if you’ve already done it and it paid off, share that, too.


Written by 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 46 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), 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 three dozen short plays that have had hundreds of productions, and has been nominated for both the Francesca Primus and Susan Blackburn prizes. She’s also a two-time winner of the Emanuel Fried Award for Best New Play (SEEDS, SONS & LOVERS).

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 12,000+-member Official Playwrights of Facebook. Recent speaking engagements include Citywrights, Kenyon Playwrights Conference, the Dramatists Guild National Conference, Chicago Dramatists, Austin Film Festival, 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

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  1. 1 Judy B. Goss said at 10:30 am on October 23rd, 2013:

    Glad to find your series. Great way to start this day. Thanks!

  2. 2 donnahoke said at 10:32 am on October 23rd, 2013:

    Thanks for reading!

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