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2017 Year in Review

December 26th, 2017 donnahoke


In my continual quest to prove that submitting does work, I again offer up total transparency in my year’s submission and results. As with 2014’s Recap: You Can’t Argue With Numbers, 2015’s Review in Numbers, and 2016’s Year in Review, the goal is to share numbers, changes, results, and any other information that makes you put “Submit more plays!” at the top of your 2018 resolutions list. This year, I once again submitted a little less, but ended up with more, which may mean that I’m beginning to see the results of YEARS of submission, though cold submission still played a big part in my overall successes.


I say this because my 441 unique submissions in 2017 is lower than last year, which was lower than the year before that. And by significant amounts: in 2015, I made 556 submissions, and last year, 499. That’s a drop of about fifty a year, and while, at first, I thought this was cause for concern over diminishing opportunities, when I counted, I realized that I’d only made 115 unique submissions to ten-minute play contests this year. In 2016, I made 161, so that almost perfectly accounts for the overall decrease.


I mentioned last year that I was no longer sending unproduced ten-minute plays to opps that offered nothing in return. I continued that this year, so the fact that my submissions dropped another 50—and all in the ten-minute category—leads  me to conclude that trend is still on the rise, as I talked about in this post.


But here’s the thing: I still had 29 productions of ten-minute plays in 2017, which is three MORE than last year, and guess what? Only one of the plays produced was new, and it was produced three times (and yes, I got paid $100 for the first one). My perennial favorite, “You Haven’t Changed A Bit” got five more productions, and already has one scheduled for next year. And once, again, I made almost $800 from ten-minute plays, most of them previously written. This all pleases me, as I’ve been moving away from writing ten-minutes (though I did write a couple new ones this year, but haven’t sent them out much because that wanting-to-be-paid for new work thing), so it’s nice to know that the ones I’ve written still have earning potential. (I also had my first one-minute play produced!)


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A new ten-minute play, “This Year’s Model,” ended up with three productions, including this one at New Jersey Rep.


That means I submitted to about the same number of full-length opps: 326. And, on that front, in 2017, I had six full-length productions that included two workshops. THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR, which re-upped for a fourth year in Romania, was also the featured Christmas show at Funky Little Theatre in Colorado Springs, a full-length production that was the result of a ten-minute production connection (this isn’t the first time this has happened; please read Ten Reasons You Should Be Writing Ten-Minute Plays).


FLOWERS IN THE DESERT had a little resurgence with a semi-production at Serial Bowl at Midnight Sun in Anchorage, and a run in Denver with And Toto Too. It also has interest from three other theaters, including one in New York City, and, with seven productions under its belt, FLOWERS is now being considered for publication (fingers crossed!).


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FLOWERS IN THE DESERT at And Toto Too in Denver


SONS & LOVERS, a comedy expanded from a ten-minute play (see Ten Reasons, above), first had a reading at Island City Stage in Wilton Manors, Florida, before being produced at Buffalo United Artists, where it sold out all seven performances and was a critical hit! (One review compared me to Paula Vogel; I’m still blushing.)


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HEARTS OF STONE won Honorable Mention with Panndora Productions, and had four fabulous workshop, on-book, no-prop performances during the Buffalo Infringement Festival, possible through a $2,500 Individual Artists grant from the New York State Council on the Arts.


The surprise was my only TYA play, MEET ME AT THE GATES, MARCUS JAMES, which got development at Purple Crayon Players at Northwestern, a workshop production at Paris College’s Pyro Fest in Paris, TX, and was a finalist for the Anna Zornio Children’s Theatre Playwriting Award. I wish I was better at marketing to TYA!


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Other, more critically acclaimed plays, continued to have movement, but no productions… BRILLIANT WORKS OF ART, which made the 2016 Kilroys List, was a finalist for PlayFest Santa Barbara and was read at the Reading Parlor in Portland, and I was subsequently invited to submit to the JAW Festival, so another great example of how one thing leads to another. It was also nominated for the Susan Blackburn Prize, but still no production, and, believe me, I’ve got a whole blog post ready to go about the journey of this play—if it ever gets produced (or maybe eventually, the journey is story enough!).


ELEVATOR GIRL had a strong year, with readings at CrashBox, Wide-Eyed Productions, and The Road Summerplay Festival in Los Angeles. It was also a finalist for Boomerang’s First Flight Festival, a 2017 O’Neill finalist, and is currently the most recommended play on the New Play Exchange. It has a reading at Oklahoma City University upcoming, and it would be a terrific play to get into colleges, so fingers crossed for this, too!


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ELEVATOR GIRL, the most recommended play on the New Play Exchange, at The Road Summerplay 8 in Los Angeles


Writing-wise, I finished my new play, TEACH, which went out to all the big fall opps, as well as a commissioned adaptation from a film, LONGHORNS, which should be produced in 2018. And with all the readings I had–ten of seven different plays–I was also doing a lot of revising.


Perhaps most exciting was a commission to write a play in which the ill-fated Buffalo Bills win the Super Bowl. ONCE IN MY LIFETIME: A BUFFALO BILLS FANTASY will premiere August 23-September 8, 2019, and the Bills open the season the next day! Now they made the playoffs; what does that mean for the play? Stay tuned!


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I abandoned a play called HELL AND OTHER PLACES WE GO, the first play I’ve ever let go—for now—and started another, THE REAL DEAL, that will definitely get finished, as soon as quiet January rolls around. And there’s an adaptation around the corner that I need to get moving on, which means I still may not get to my screenplay, the only 2017 goal I didn’t complete.


My goal each year is  always to make more money playwriting than I did the year before, and I pulled that off by more than 33% this year, thanks to that Bills commission (and I didn’t count the grant, since I used the whole thing to finance the workshop). I also became part of the Dramatists Guild Plays In Progress faculty, which is earning me some spare change doing something I love: reading plays. My fear is that I won’t be able to beat this number next year unless something really momentous happens (I should just leave my fingers permanently crossed).


The non-measurable results of submission momentum…


*I was asked to be a fellow at Kenyon Playwrights Conference, speak at the Austin Film Festival, and record a Dramatists Guild webinar on, of all things, submitting plays!


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At the Austin Film Festival!


*I became an Ambassador at Large for the National New Play Network.


*I was elected to Dramatists Guild Council. My goals there have centered around advocating for regional playwrights, beginning with chairing the Best Practices for Festivals and Contests committee and releasing those guidelines, and, now, chairing that same committee as we move into a new goal to ease submission, and sitting on the Awards Committee.


*“The Pee Test,” “Doughtnut Hole,” and “Sold!” were published, and a cut from “You Haven’t Changed A Bit” was accepted for publication by Applause and is due out in April. I also had an essay published in Workshopping the New Play, by George Sapio.


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“The Pee Test” at Dordt College, after it was discovered in the Best Ten-Minute Plays of 2016


I traveled to New York (several times), Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, Austin, and Orlando. If you’d asked, I wouldn’t have thought it wasn’t such a busy year, but, looking back, there was a lot going on! I don’t feel so bad about not finishing THE REAL DEAL now…


And, I got married! In the theater district! By a theater critic! And presented the final award–Best Production of a Play–at that night’s Artie Awards, which was essentially our perfect reception.

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Next year, so far, I’ve got THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR continuing in Romania, and productions of THE WAY IT IS (in Ireland, the second international production, and the third production of a play that has yet to have a reading!) and ONCE IN MY LIFETIME scheduled. If LONGHORNS is a go, I’m already way ahead of my four for this year.


Reading offers are already coming in—two so far for TEACH, one for ELEVATOR GIRL. And there are five productions of ten-minute plays already on the books already. And none of this, not one thing (except maybe the wedding, but I’m not counting anything out), would have happened without submitting. It works.


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Playwrights, remember to explore the Real Inspiration For Playwrights Project, a 52-post series of wonderful advice from Literary Managers and Artistic Directors on getting your plays produced. Click RIPP at the upper right.

To read #PLONY (Playwrights Living Outside New York) interviews, click here or #PLONY in the category listing at upper right.

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3 Comments on “2017 Year in Review”

  1. 1 Patrick Gabridge said at 10:44 pm on December 26th, 2017:

    Wow! That is quite a year. Congratulations on all your success, and I hope it just keeps building!

  2. 2 Debbie L Miller said at 11:19 am on December 27th, 2017:

    Thanks for sharing your successes. Congrats! Hard work pays off.
    Debbie L. Miller, ICWP member. I interviewed you once for the ICWP newsletter.

  3. 3 Emma Goldman-Sherman said at 10:51 pm on December 31st, 2017:

    Congratulations on all of this! AMAZING! and wonderful! (check the typo – it should read “without” at the very bottom – about submitting) . . . Onward and upward! Happy 2018! xo Emma

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