October 23rd, 2014 donnahoke



As promised, another installment of RIPP. And, as always, if you don’t know what RIPP: Real Inspiration for Playwrights Project is about, please click here (the original idea) and here (the evolution of that idea) to get some context before reading.




“I’m sort of a one-woman show; I don’t have a literary manager, so they’re totally piling up. I took submission guidelines off my website because I was getting too many. I would like them to be read, but that’s just not me really. I kind of go by instinct. Come see my shows. Show interest in my company. Out of all the emails I get, I had this guy recently who said, ‘I really liked your show,’ and I said, ‘How did you happen to see it?’ That’s a relationship; it’s not a deep relationship, I’ve never met him in person, but if somebody came to my show and wanted to meet me after and handed me a play…


“People write unbelievably long emails; I’m not going to read a really long email. They just go on and on, or synopses of the whole play; I’d rather start to read the script. One or two sentences. And some credits, and how many characters; that definitely helps. When I occasionally read email, I’m 1) probably going to start with this guy who saw my show and had a conversation 2) not going to respond to anything that says what’s your submission policy and 3) going to see it looks short enough and could be interesting. But I do try to tell people that I cannot promise if or when I will read it.


“It’s also easier for me to see something or see a reading that sort of grabs me rather than have a pile to read from. I was an actor in a reading of A Splintered Soul in LA years ago, and then I saw it in LA, and found a director to work with him and shape the play for off-Broadway and we sold out the show; I was willing to do that because I’d seen it and a friend who’s a director thought the play had a lot of merit. Finding a director who’s interested is always good because my director friends are also looking for plays they can pitch. Another play I produced I’d seen in LA and loved, and it had just never been to New York. I don’t know if I’d read those if they would have stuck out for me, because I’m not a literary manager who can read plays and absorb them that way. (And I don’t produce plays with females as prostitutes or anything demeaning to women. I don’t care if it’s a great role; it’s not what I do.)


“As a producer, it’s so visceral. It’s like dating or getting into bed with someone; there is this element of who is this person I’m going to get to know. If somebody is out of town, how do I get to know them because I can’t meet them for coffee when you’re putting so much on the line? A show takes up a year of my life, it’s a huge undertaking, and it’s all me. It’s not just finding a play you love, but the thought of creating a relationship and doing somebody’s play.”


MY NUTSHELL TAKEAWAY: We hear a lot about relationships, not just in this series, but in the general annals of playwright advice. If you’re not a known quantity, and you’re expecting a theaters to take a chance on you, it’s imperative that they know what they’re getting into. As my SO says, “they just want to make sure you’re not batshit crazy.”


As playwrights, it’s easy say that the work should speak for itself, and certainly it’s of primary importance. But that supposes that there is only one play, one that stands out above all others, that is worthy of produced—ain’t that never gonna be true. Maybe one plays appeals to a producer a little more than another, but I’m going to assume for any given opportunity, there are at least a hundred plays a producer could reasonably consider and if, as Ms. Solomon so practically points out, a producer is going to invest huge amounts of time and money, s/he wants to be sure that the process is going to be as smooth as possible. And while there is no guarantee, knowing the playwright is a gigantic step in the right direction.


I actually have a personal example, which goes back to my advice on why anybody trying to garner full-length productions should be writing and submitting ten-minute plays. I recently got a phone call that I’d been accepted into a pretty nice, all-expenses paid development opportunity at a theater that had done a ten-minute play of mine the year prior. I’d Skyped into the rehearsal, and met some of the actors there, and the play went over well. Well enough, it seems, for this theater to invest some resources in me, enough for the phone caller to say, “We love your voice, and you’re easy to work with.” Both of those things are equally important.


So to bring things full circle: how can you show you’re easy to work with from afar?

1) Take Ms. Solomon’s advice about short, to-the-point emails.

2) Follow submission guidelines to the letter, whether you agree with them or not. (Read my recent blog post on this topic.)

3) Write ten-minute plays, “meet” the directors, if even remotely; form a relationship.

4) Invite producers and directors to your readings, so you can introduce both your work and yourself. Do it in a short, to-the-point email with a catchy two-sentence synopsis.


Until next time,

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 Bill POter said at 7:37 pm on October 23rd, 2014:

    That was pretty neat. Thanks, It gives me loads to think about.

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