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January 23rd, 2014 donnahoke


If you don’t know what RIPP: Real Inspiration for Playwrights Project is about, please click here to get some context before reading.




“We recently produced the West Coast Premiere of The Bereaved by Thomas Bradshaw. The first time I read a Thomas Bradshaw play in 2009, I tore through each page with excitement, breathlessly eating up each terrifying and startling scene. As soon as I reached the end of the play, I jumped up from my chair with a feeling of thrilled disgust, complicit in the realization of his subversive and sexually violent world just by reading the words on the page. It took four years, several bicoastal conversations over lunch, and reading almost all of the plays he’s ever written before I was ready and able to program him into our 2013 mainstage season.  And I’m so thrilled that Crowded Fire is the first company to present his work in the Bay Area.


“Bradshaw’s work was recommended to me by Jonathan Spector when he was working with the Playwrights Foudation in San Francisco.  Bradshaw’s play, Job, was being workshopped in their Rough Reading Series. I was unable to make the reading, but I read the script and met with Bradshaw for coffee while he was in town.  


“I have to say that most of the plays we produce have come from relationships we’ve built, like with Bradshaw. We don’t currently have an open submission policy because we’re so small, but we’ve read a wide range of work by local and national playwrights. The work of Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig for example, was sent to us by her agent, and while she was in residence at Marin Theatre Company, I had a lovely meet-up with her. About three years later, we’re producing that very first script I read of hers, 410[GONE].”


My nutshell takeaway: I bet you think I’m going to talk about relationship-building, but—surprise!—I’m not (well not exactly). What I’m thinking about instead is theaters like Crowded Fire who do new work—and not just do new work, but do it happily—and don’t have an open submission policy. In some ways, this might seem as though a door is closed but, in others, it actually opens it wider because theaters without open submission policies, theoretically, are reading a lot fewer scripts.


So what does this mean for you? If there is a theater that you are convinced is the perfect fit for your play, you can certainly do the invite-the-AD-for-coffee route we’ve discussed before. But what you can also do is comb through the theater’s production history looking for names of directors and/or actors with whom you share a connection; when you find one, invite that person for coffee. Theaters that take recommendations take them from trusted colleagues who know their company aesthetic, and if your play excites and actor or director, it’s more likely to get a read. Another alternative: Say you’ve sent a play to a theater that does have an open submission policy and gotten a positive rejection; when you follow up to say thank you, ask if the AD knows of another theater for which your play might be a better fit. AD-to-AD recommendations are among the best.


So much of the reasoning derived from all of these posts has to do with submitting smarter by taking time to find the theaters that are right for a given piece of work. This is more work, and naturally means that you won’t be submitting to as many theaters, but if the goal is productive submitting, it should pay off.  Finally, as both of Ms. Wolf’s examples illustrate, remember that the wheels of production turn very, very slowly; patience is paramount.


Until next time, please spread the word about RIPP and the exciting Trade A Play Tuesday!






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