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May 22nd, 2013 donnahoke


For an explanation of RIPP: Real Inspiration for Playwrights Project, click here.




“Our Mainstage is committed to commercial works, but the festival on our Second Stage is a place of art.  We have produced everything from comedies and dramas to experimental works, as short as eight minutes and as long as 40. I’ve been running the festival of original one-act plays for the past 17 years. Each year, we receive from 500-750 submissions, and we’ve presented close to 90 world premieres. I’ve had playwrights as young as 20 and as old as 86.  I’ve had both professional playwrights and first-time writers. Every play that is submitted—and I can say this truly as I am the one who does it—is looked at,  usually on the day it arrives. 


You should never give up. I had one playwright submit for almost seven years and then was finally accepted. We have a local playwright, Frank Tangredi, whose work we have presented four times and has now had worked accepted at the Abingdon and the Pasadena Playhouse. The playwrights have had the opportunity to see their works in action and make changes for future productions (several have gone on to other festivals around the country). The goal of our festival is to honor the playwright and his or her intentions. Don’t give up, don’t give up, don’t give up. 


If I might throw out some advice to playwrights: make sure to include a short synopsis with a character list, preferably on the same page,  but  keep it simple. Stage directions and descriptions should be as minimal as possible; don’t describe the set down to the last detail. It’s just as easy to say there is a door to the outside and one to the bedroom. Pages of description or off-putting. It’s the words, the story, the characters that drive the play. 


Also, I’m sure it’s been said a hundred times but please—scripts  should be as neat as possible,  clean margins, fresh copies, legible font, etc. Make it as easy as possible for us.  There’s nothing helpful about getting a poorly made copy that has clearly been through multiple hands. Be realistic about what you’re submitting and to whom. Ours is a one-act festival; we usually present six plays on the bill. I always point to the submission that was a ten-minute play with a working elevator that had to be shown stopped between floors. Yes, there is creative producing—but there’s also the impossible.”


My nutshell takeaway: This one is a little different because Mr. Sanzel is talking about short plays, but more and more, I think that ten-minute plays should be part of any playwright’s portfolio for a number of reasons: 1) Theaters don’t have to take a big risk to produce your ten-minute play (i.e. your name doesn’t matter) which means 2) You can actually get productions of ten-minute plays on a regular basis—lots of them, and many of them even pay royalties. 3) Ten-minute productions are still productions that build your resume. 4) Every ten-minute play production introduces you to a director and some actors. 5)  Most often, you are not competing with the big names when you enter ten-minute play festivals 6) Nearly all ten-minute play festivals actually respond and/or publish a list of winners, so you know the result of your submission. 7) The little successes that ten-minute plays bring you are bright spots that keep you going as you wait for responses on those full-lengths.


That little rant—well-known to my local playwright friends—probably needs several nutshells and maybe its own blog post, but since it’s important, and appropriate for this RIPP entry, there it is. Even if you don’t get into Theatre Three’s festival—because I and many playwrights I know can vouch for it being a tough one to crack—there are many, many more that you can submit to. Full-lengths are hard to place, so why you’ll waiting, why not?


Until next RIPP,





  1. 1 Len Cuthbert said at 9:46 am on January 20th, 2014:

    My ten-minute plays that work in a production are starters for a full length. I had a 10-minute play that was in several festivals and most didn’t pay anything. When I applied for a grant to write it to full length, three of the AD’s wrote me a reference. I got the grant. I wrote the play. I produced it. It won a contest elsewhere. That was the payoff.

    One other 10-minute play was in a festival that sold out 20 shows with an audience of about 90. 10-minute festivals that are well organized and produced are very, very popular.

  2. 2 donnahoke said at 9:50 am on January 20th, 2014:

    I couldn’t agree more. I am currently developing a full-length comedy from a very successful ten-minute, the first time I’ve attempted something like that. I also have a full-length production in the works that is coming through a director who did one of my ten-minutes. I’ve gotten to travel a little for ten-minutes, when the producing entity offers a stipend. I don’t think they’re the downfall of playwriting that some people say they are.

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