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Opinion

Playwrighting

Do It Yourself!

By Kevin M Reese

So, you're thinking about foregoing the usual route of courting a play publisher to handle your new play or musical-- and take the responsibility on yourself.  It will take a lot of your time and quite a bit of your money to pull this off-- but if you can do it, you'll never regret it.  There is a LOT of work involved.

 The following is not to be construed as an all-inclusive checklist.  If you want THAT, you have to pay for the workshop (Heh-heh-heh...).  This is just to give you an idea as to what I have come across in my efforts to market my own plays and musicals.

Write the Show

  • Make sure your show is good - This sounds obvious, but there are a LOT of bad scripts out there.  Ask any theatre that produces plays for kids.  They probably go through a stack of scripts before they find one that they feel is producible in their theatre.

  • Make sure your show is unique -- How many Little Red Riding Hood scripts does the world need?  But don't confuse "uniqueness" with "weirdness."

Produce the Show

  • Get it produced.  Find a theatre group to do it.  children's theatre, dinner theatre, community theatre, summer theatre, college/university theatre, high school drama club-- heck, form your own troupe and perform it at your local elementary school.  GET IT PRODUCED.  

  • You have to work the bugs out of it in front of an audience.  The best playwright in the world isn't 100% certain how a particular line or scene will go over with an actual audience. 

  • Try not to be in the cast.  You need to observe the audience's reactions to the performance:  Where do they laugh?  Do they laugh when they should?  Do they get restless at any point?  

  • Try not to direct the show yourself.  Having another director's viewpoint is critically helpful to the development of your show.  Chances are, s/he will also give you a lot of suggestions for script changes before rehearsals ever begin.  Weigh them heavily because they come from a fresh perspective.

Edit the Show

  • Go back and make the final revisions to your script based on the audience reaction from your performances.  

  • Don't let yourself get tricked into the mentality that your work is "art."  Most "artists" I know produce what they want to produce and offer it "as is" to the public.  Playwrights can't usually afford to work that way.  Consider your talent more as a SKILL that needs honing.  I am still making revisions to plays that I wrote 5 years ago.  It's a never-ending process.  The final versions of my plays will not exist until my death.

Print the Show

  • Are you going to offer printed script to the producing theatres?  Manuscript-style or two-sided booklet style?  I use Word Perfect to print all my scripts in two-sided booklets.  This makes them look just like scripts offered by other play publishers.

  • What printed materials are you going to offer the theatres?  I offer actors' scripts, director's scripts, lead sheets, and educational study guides.  Everything is printed on my computer with Word Perfect and Finale (lead sheets).

Record the Show

  • Are you offering a pre-recorded performance soundtrack?  With plunging budgets nowadays, you might want to consider this.  We offer our performance soundtracks on CD.  This way the theatre doesn't need to hire a pianist or orchestra to play for their performances.

  • Make sure the recorded accompaniments are high quality. Don't think you can get by with just recording a piano for the accompaniment. Use drums, keyboards, guitars, bass, strings-- the works. Kids nowadays are used to full accompaniments to their music.

Market the Show

  • Don't even CONSIDER mass marketing a script before it has had at least one (hopefully professional) production. 

  •  Attend conventions that are appropriate for your show.  I set up a booth at the American Association for Theatre and Educator's (AATE) and Educational Theatre Association (ETA) conventions.  Find out what organizations a theatre might belong to that would produce your show and see about getting an exhibitor's booth at the convention.  Get your name out there!

  • Put out an ad in one of the theatre trade magazines.  Find ways to get free listings in the "play publisher" sections of theatre publications. Submit your plays to the magazine for review-- and pray they LOVE it.

  • List your play with Doollee.com - a FREE  online script database.  This is another place producers go looking for scripts-- make sure they see your script there!  My shows are listed with them.

 Customer Service

  • Offer "Positively Outrageous Service."

  • Be prepared to swallow your pride occasionally for the good of your business.

  • Be prepared to give away things for free.  


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