Open Forum

What to Do With My Play...

  • 1.  What to Do With My Play...

    Posted 08-09-2019 21:13
    Hey all,

    I'm wondering if anyone has any advice on how to proceed with a full-length play I've written. I wrote it for the fall play last year, but new administrative staff coming in insisted on a new policy of only producing previously-published material. I'm sitting on this work, and would like to find a way to see it performed at another school. Getting it published would be great, but I am really focused on getting it on stage. Ideas?

    Dave Engel
    Theater Department Head
    Advisor to Thespian Troupe #98
    Fayetteville-Manlius School District
    Manlius, NY

  • 2.  RE: What to Do With My Play...

    Posted 08-10-2019 10:35
    This policy seems somewhat random.

  • 3.  RE: What to Do With My Play...

    Posted 08-11-2019 16:13
    Let us take a look at it and say the first 50 schools (or whatever number you think) to reply with a yes, I'll put that in my season can do it royalty free. Then you'll have some numbers to present to publishing companies and feedback on the project. Just a thought. I'd be happy to at least read it and I know others would, too.

    Break a leg and may all your theatre seats be filled!

  • 4.  RE: What to Do With My Play...

    Posted 08-11-2019 17:10
    My season is already set but I would be happy to read it. Consider it for future use.

  • 5.  RE: What to Do With My Play...

    Posted 08-11-2019 17:19
    I suspect your district is fairly risk-averse and conservative, and so their idea is if it's published, that means it's been vetted and they're less likely to end up with a "problem." The problem with that policy, however, is that they can never do a world premiere, which is one of the most rewarding experiences their students can have: they get to work on a new play with a living playwright, becoming part of the play's development process and watching the play evolve as they work on it. On top of that, a world premiere often is more grant-worthy (particularly if you want to bring the playwright in) and allows the local press to be more engaged than they might be for the umpteenth production of a play everybody and their sister is producing.

    Having said that, it's tricky producing your own play. For one thing, I generally don't think it's a good idea for playwrights to direct their own work, particularly for the original production. Your entire play is clear to you because you wrote it. However, not everything may be clear to the audience. An outside director will bridge that gap, but if you are also the director, then it's hard for you to recognize where those problems lie (i.e. you're handicapped by your playwright's insight). Also, it's hard to wear a playwright hat--and keep developing the play--while also wearing a director hat. When I was teaching full-time, I did a few of my short plays as companion pieces for the "main" play of the evening, mostly as a way of allowing more students to participate. We did one full-length play of mine, but we did it as a "workshop," and someone else directed it, allowing me to focus on being the author. (Personally, I'd have felt uncomfortable at the time making a play I'd written our mainstage production, though I think I have a bit more of a track record now than I did 20+ years ago.) The bottom line is that while your district's policy is sort of misguided, in this case, it may force you into doing something that's better for your play in the long run. (And also, that way there's no chance your district could try to label your play as work product and claim ownership.)

    So...what to do? There are numerous drama teacher Facebook groups, and people are always very enthusiastic about the opportunity to read a new play for free. So I'd go there and post, offering up a free perusal and seeing who bites.

    I do, however, disagree strongly with the idea of offering up the work royalty-free. A good play takes many, many hours of work, and playwrights deserve to be paid for that; royalties are a statement that a play is a thing of value and a way of recognizing all of the work that went into its creation. In other words, royalties are literally how playwrights get paid for their job. Further, whenever anyone works for nothing, it makes it that much harder for the rest of the playwriting community to get paid for their efforts, which would eventually lead to no one being able to afford to write new plays (and therefore exponentially fewer plays for the educational theatre community). It doesn't have to be a huge royalty, but it should be something. Sure, their production will be helpful to you, but they're also getting something out of it.


    Jonathan Dorf
    Playwright/ Co-founder of YouthPLAYS/ Co-chair of The Alliance Of Los Angeles Playwrights
    Los Angeles CA

  • 6.  RE: What to Do With My Play...

    Posted 08-12-2019 10:21
    Thanks guys, lots of good feedback. I'll send it to those who offered to take a look. I agree about directing your own stuff to a large extent. Up to this point, it's been the easiest way to produce work; more importantly, I have been able to offer students plays that are then used to teach a great deal. I gave up a long time ago on hoping for there to be new plays with casts of 20-30 that spoke to my students.

    Again, thanks so much.


    David Engel
    Theater Department Head
    Fayetteville-Manlius School District
    Manlius NY

  • 7.  RE: What to Do With My Play...

    Posted 08-12-2019 11:02
    I'd also be willing to look at it for the future. I set my season the spring before each year to ensure I can get the rights for everything.

    Shira Schwartz
    Chandler Unified School District
    Chandler AZ