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December 29th, 2023 donnahoke


What a strange year…


2023 was the year I decided to double down on the screenplay momentum I started in 2022 and see if my back catalog of plays would do any work for me. As we all know, it’s been tough for the trenches playwrights to get in the mix—tougher than usual, I mean. I have more than two dozen full-length plays, some decorated but unproduced, so I had things to continue submitting, but let’s face it—there’s not much to submit to! My number of submissions this year stands at a mere 142, and if you’ve read any of my past year-end summaries, you know that is PALTRY! A fifth or sixth of peak years and the numbers have steadily declined the past several years. Even in 2020—when by all rights, there should have been no submissions—my submission numbers were triple what they were in 2023. The submission opps just aren’t there and, if they are, they’re for tens or development. Production submission opportunities for full-length plays are nearly extinct. The list of reasons why is deep and worthy of a blog post in itself, but it has meant pivots for many of us.

For me, as I mentioned in my 2022 review, that meant continued focus on screenwriting—efforts that I’m delighted to say paid off with the filming of my first TV feature, a thriller called THE WIVES CLUB, in Kelowna, Canada in October. It’s currently in post-production, about to drop any second! I also have a Christmas romance, AN ANTIQUE CHRISTMAS, soft greenlit with filming expecting to commence this winter. I currently have pitches in to the same company, and we’re hoping to find another script to develop together. Bloom where you’re wanted is my new mantra!

Which doesn’t mean I didn’t have productions this year but where did they come from? Two from the New Play Exchange. A month ago, I did a webinar presentation for the Dramatists Guild on how to use NPX and was surprised to see a sizable chunk of playwrights who still don’t have NPX accounts. Beyond the initial work of uploading plays and their data, it’s the most passive way to get your work into the world. Without it, I would have stood at one stage production this year—a Buffalo Infringement production of THE WAY IT IS directed by my daughter that, while successful, wasn’t a result of my own marketing–and a radio version of FLOWERS IN THE DESERT called EIGHT DATES. THE WAY IT IS got its fifth production in Cape Cod, FINDING NEIL PATRICK HARRIS went up in Washington, DC, and THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR wrapped up an insane ten-year run at Teatrulde Arta Bucuresti in Romania. That is just something I never would have seen coming when I started this crazy journey.


Strangely, the only two productions I have lined up for next year are also in Buffalo—a total of three in Buffalo for the calendar year, the first time that’s even come close to happening. TEACH goes up at Buffalo State University in February, and ANNE OF GREEN GABLES gets its professional world premiere at Theatre of Youth in January. I’m so excited for both of these especially because after that, for the first time ever, I’ve got zip on the theater horizon except for a few readings: BEST LAID PLAN(t)S (which racked up several notices in 2023, including a current O’Neill semi) in Buffalo, MABEL TALKS in Connecticut via Zoom, and MADNESS MOST DISCREET: Larry and Viv’s Last Visit in Denver. I’ve also been busy trying to connect some new talent to MABEL since the name actress I wrote it for—with her full knowledge and participation—ghosted me without even reading it, a huge disappointment.


Reduced submissions means reduced hits which means reduced traveling. Where prepandemic, I was traveling an average of once a month for playwriting work, this year I went to DC for my production of FINDING NEIL PATRICK HARRIS (and my son’s graduation from GW), Cape Cod for a production of THE WAY IT IS, and Seattle for a reading of FINDING NEIL PATRICK HARRIS—and that was it for the year! (Well… I was supposed to go to Vermont for a reading of FNPH but snowstorm!). I also took a grant-funded recon trip for an aborted passion project. The lack of travel has been strange, though the timing worked out well because after four years of searching for a house in the city of Buffalo, we finally found one, so the free time to pack and move and prep to sell etc. was most welcome. But as we head into the new year, I’m going to be itching to be a playwright in another city.

Oh, financially in 2023… Remember when I said in 2022, I had my best year yet? This year was even better. Why? Essentially because I got paid for writing screenplays. Even at the low end of the scale, it’s just more money than I’ve ever made on a play—so far; I have hope for THE CROSSWORD PLAY. Also, the film production company hires me to do “American polishes” on scripts from British writers—where I get to look for things like closet being used to say armoire or saloon car being used for sedan—so that’s fun and just a little gravy on top. Bloom where you’re wanted. I also got a grant for the aforementioned project that, to my greatest disappointment, is not going to happen now as the AD at the theater left—and also royalties for multiple school productions of ANNE OF GREEN GABLES. Oh, and I did write a play! It’s one-act adaptation of SLEEPY HOLLOW, published by YouthPLAYS. It had one performance at the end of the year.


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So what’s on tap? With the demise of my aborted project (if you’re wondering why I’m not writing it anyway, it’s because it just won’t have legs beyond Buffalo), it doesn’t look like plays, at least not at this moment… As I said in 2022, I still don’t know what I’d do with one once it’s written. I have a producer interested in another Christmas screenplay once I make some revisions, and more thriller pitches in the works. I also have an idea for a rom-com that I really want to write. I think I’m going to have to plan some travel on my own for the first time in forever.  I’m remaining open to everything and am excited to see what the year brings me—because it’s always something and it’s always surprising!


Happy new year! How did your 2023 go? How are you feeling about the current state of theater for trenches playwrights? What are you working on?

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6 Comments on “MY 2023 WRITER’S YEAR IN REVIEW”

  1. 1 Rich Pauli said at 12:57 pm on December 30th, 2023:

    Hi Donna,

    I was interested both in your comments about paltry opportunities for full-length plays and that you got some of your opportunities (such as they are) from NPX. I’ve written only a handful of full-lengths (which I rarely submit), so I didn’t realize how dire the situation has apparently become. I have a number of ideas for full-lengths that I had resolved to develop in 2024; but now I’m not so sure it will be worthwhile. As for NPX: I have heard very mixed feedback about its usefulness, and I also worry about AIs scraping its contents. Is that a concern of yours? (Is it even technically possible?) I’d like to get my stuff out there, but the thought of posting all my content is worrisome to me.

    As for tens: You are correct, there are many opportunities there. I have a very low overall submission rate (if I submit 30 times in a year that is high); nevertheless, going back over 2023 I realize that I had 11 productions. I had been thinking the number was 5 or 6, so that was kind of a shock.

    Break a leg in 2024. I hope the opportunities will pick up, both for you and for our comrades in play writing.



  2. 2 donnahoke said at 1:06 pm on December 30th, 2023:

    I’m not sure what you mean by “such as they are” as the production opportunities I got from NPX were both full-length, fully paid royalty productions, and these aren’t the first. So I guess that also answers your other questions about being afraid of having work on NPX, and the answer is no. Some years, I’ve sent out more than 600 plays–nearly all digital copies. They’re out there. As are hard copies and downloads and whatever else. If we’re going to have any chance at seeing our plays produced, we have to put it out there. Given how hard it is to get a production, there doesn’t seem to be much benefit to stealing a play from a relative unknown; if I’m going to work to get a production, I at least want it to be of my own play lol!

  3. 3 Patrick Gabridge said at 1:56 pm on December 30th, 2023:

    Thanks for sharing! As always, you’re giving us important insights into the market for plays (and beyond). You’ve certainly made a huge pivot, and I’m glad it’s working out for you. You’ve always got so much energy and creativity, and it had to find an outlet. “Bloom where you’re wanted” indeed. I’ve basically done with same with Plays in Place.

  4. 4 donnahoke said at 2:04 pm on December 30th, 2023:

    I hope my playwriting days aren’t over, but it’s finding the “Bloom where you’re wanted” scenario there that’s tricky ;). I’m so proud of and amazed by what you’ve done with PiP!

  5. 5 Rich Pauli said at 11:32 am on January 1st, 2024:


    My “such as they are” was referring to your comment about the paucity of opportunities for full-length plays; it was certainly not meant as a comment about the quality of those opportunities.

    Based on your comments I believe I’ll look to get my stuff up on NPX in 2024 (my first New Year’s resolution!).



  6. 6 donnahoke said at 11:40 am on January 1st, 2024:

    Gotcha. It read like you were referring to NPX opps, and I’d agree that most you tag or submit for are of the same ilk. It’s the theaters that find your play that bring the productions.

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