Friday, January 16, 2015

The New Play Exchange - Boon or Bust?

After three years of development, Gwydion Suilebhan and the National New Play Network yesterday launched the New Play Exchange, an online database that allows playwrights to upload synopses and samples from their plays while allowing theatre companies to search for those plays by genre, cast size and keyword.

Already, the site appears to be a big hit. From Facebook to HowlRound, eager playwrights are breathlessly describing the benefits it will bring, how it will break down those walls which have so far prevented their plays from getting produced, or even read. Some of those playwrights are even boasting about the dozens--yes, dozens!--of plays they've already posted to the site.

But so far an important part of the equation has been missing: the theatre companies.

Let's face it. The site's entire success depends on whether theatre companies will actually use it, and so far I've heard nothing from them, no breathless posts from artistic directors expressing their relief that finally they have an easy-to use website where they can search for new plays.

Don't get me wrong. I'm as hopeful as any other playwright that the New Play Exchange will succeed, that it will lead to productions that wouldn't have happened otherwise. And I'm grateful to Mr. Suleibhan for all the effort he's put into this project.. That's why I ponied up the $10 annual fee to post my own full-length farce, Kill the Critic!

But I'm not holding my breath.

After all, most artistic directors select their seasons based on plays they've seen elsewhere or scripts that came recommended by someone they know and respect. Relationships matter as much as the scripts themselves. And I don't think that's going to change.

Despite the enthusiasm in the playwriting community, there are a lot of questions remaining to be answered about the New Play Exchange. Will literary managers actually take time out from their busy days to search it? If they do, will they find what they're looking for? Or has the New Play Exchange merely transferred the slush pile from their desks to their laptops, forcing those literary managers to slog through mountains of dreck to find one nugget of gold? And suppose they do find that nugget, will they actually produce it?

Until we know these answers, I'm going to keep submitting my plays the old-fashioned way: by personal query to the literary manager of artistic director of each theatre company that is open to plays like mine.

One by one by one.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Rumpelstiltskin is here!

My newest play has just been published by Pioneer Drama Service. Rumpelstiltskin, Private Eye is a full-length comedy that won the 2014 Beverly Hills Theatre Guild Competition for Youth Theatre. Here's the blurb:
Fairytale Land has been hit by a crime wave! The Three Bears' home was broken into. The Three Little Pigs' Home was destroyed. Now Little Red Riding Hood's grandmother is missing. The crimes seem unrelated, at least if you listen to those shady Grimm brothers. Could an evil mastermind be behind them all? Only hard-boiled detective Rumpelstiltskin and his wisecracking sidekick Ugly Duckling can solve this wacky case.
I'm super excited because this is my first large-cast school play so I'm expecting it to do well. In fact, the play has already booked its first production at a middle school in Daytona Beach, FL.

But don't let the fairy tale theme fool you. The humor is sophisticated enough that high schoolers will have a blast with it. And audience members of all ages will love the mystery angle. I mean, who doesn't enjoy a good whodunit, especially if the one "who dun it" is a favorite fairy tale character?

Oh, and if you want to know who the bad guy or girl is, well, you're just going to have to buy the script!

For a script sample and ordering info, click here.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A look ahead to 2015

Just as it's important to review the year just finished, it's important to lay out your goals for the coming year. On the first of January, the new year spreads out before you like an untrampeled blanket of snow, and setting guidelines helps point your feet in the right direction before you get distracted by other paths.

Last year, I made two resolutions. Or should I say one real resolution and one default resolution (carried over from the previous year).

The real resolution was to get to bed by midnight every night so that I my brain will still be alert in those evening hours when I do bulk of my writing. How did I do? Well, my "early" bedtime lasted for a couple weeks and then I fell back into my old pattern of collapsing into bed around 12:30am or 1am, after I got done watching a movie or surfing the web or just putting off bedtime as long as I could. Still, it didn't seem to affect my productivity. During 2014, I completed two full-length plays and came close to completing a third. So out it goes.

My default resolution, which I originally made in 2013, was to make one submission every day of the year. I didn't intend to carry it over into 2014, as I thought I'd entered every contest I could in 2013. But I had a new play to submit--You're Driving Me Crazy--and by that time, the habit was so strong that I just kept going, ending up with a total of 230 submissions for the year.

Yes, that's still short of the 365 I aimed for, but it's more than I've ever done and it got me a respectable 17 productions. Most of them, of course, were for You're Driving Me Crazy, proving not only that this teen-centered collection of plays appealed to adults, but that it has global appeal as well, with productions in Australia and the UK. This should help when I submit the play to my publisher later this year.

At this point, I don't need any more productions of short plays, especially if I'm not making any money out of the deal. What I need is more time to write. My brain is bursting with ideas and I need to get them down on paper before they evaporate into the ether.

So here, in no particular order, are my goals (not resolutions!) for 2015:

1) Increase writing time during the week from 1 hour to 1 1/2 hour per day.

2) Increase writing time on the weekend from 1 hour to 3 hours per day.

3) Cut way back on Facebook. Ten minutes a day should do it.

4) Only submit to markets that pay.

5) Get Million Dollar Meatballs published.

6) Get You're Driving Me Crazy published

7) Get my first professional production for Kill the Critic!

8) Finish the school play I'm currently working on.

9) Finish the adult play I've struggled with off and on for the last two years.

10) Lose 10 pounds (my wife made me add this one).

Come back next New Year's Eve to find out how I did.