“Authors by the hundreds can tell you stories by the thousands of those rejection slips before they found a publisher who was willing to ‘gamble’ on an unknown.” – Zig Ziglar
Make time to write. Writing is the priority. But you also have to make time for the business of writing and part of that business is making submissions.
Over the last couple of years I’ve assembled a growing list of festivals that offer a variety of opportunities for established and emerging playwrights. I’ve listed eleven of those playwriting opportunities below.
Well ten playwriting opportunities and one television writing opportunity.
Many of these competitions have been in existence for several years and some of the prizes are outstanding. But big prize or little prize the competition is fierce and some of these festivals can draw up to a thousand submissions or more.
So what are your chances?
None if you don’t enter.
And what are your odds if you do enter?
That depends. Depends on how good you are, who the judges are, and whether or not it’s a full moon. But if you don’t enter you guarantee failure. And if you do enter you face rejection. And rejection hurts. Why does it hurt?
“The answer is — our brains are wired to respond that way. When scientists placed people in functional MRI machines and asked them to recall a recent rejection, they discovered something amazing. The same areas of our brain become activated when we experience rejection as when we experience physical pain. That’s why even small rejections hurt more than we think they should, because they elicit literal (albeit, emotional) pain.” (Why rejection hurts so much – and what to do about it. Guy Winch, Ideas.Ted.Com. December 8, 2015)
So, it hurts. I understand that. I’ve felt that. But does a salesman stop making calls because the last client he talked to said no? Does a baseball player stop going up to bat because the last two times he struck out? No, of course not. The salesman makes another call and the baseball player takes another swing. Being rejected is simply a part of life and if you’re a writer, an actor, a salesman, or an entrepreneur rejection is simply going to be a bigger part of your life than it is for other people.
Now, before we get to the list of playwriting opportunities there’s one more fantastic opportunity I want to tell you about.
Until midnight June 30th Steven Pressfield is offering his most recent book on writing for free from his web site. Yes free! “No opt-in required. You don’t have to enter your e-mail address or compromise your privacy in any way.”
Pressfield is the author of, The War of Art, Do the Work, and Turning Pro. These are three of my favourite books about the art and business of writing and I would highly recommend them to any aspiring writer.
Pressfield is also the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance, Gates of Fire, and the Warrior Ethos. He has a great blog on his web site where he muses about the art and business of writing. In his most recent blog post he has offered – free to download – his new book on the business of writing called: Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t.
“What is Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t about?
The title comes from the very first and most important lesson I ever learned as a writer, on the very first day of my very first job, as a junior copywriter for Benton & Bowles Advertising in New York. What the phrase means is that because readers are inevitably busy, impatient, easily-distracted, i.e. they don’t want to read your sh*t, it’s incumbent on you and me as writers to make our stuff so interesting, so sexy, so unusual, so compelling that a reader would have to be crazy NOT to read it.
Every other lesson in writing follows from this one tough-love truth.” (Get Steve’s New Book On Writing…Free! Steven Pressfield – June 15, 2015)
Please note that this is a limited time offer. After June 30th the book will no longer be available for free. But once it’s not available for free you can certainly buy it. After all writers need to eat too.
So, now we come to the playwriting opportunities. Several of these deadlines are coming up fast so if you’ve got a play ready to go fantastic. If you don’t then make note of the contest or festival and plan for next year.
The information I’ve provided is not the complete information about the festival. I’ve provided an overview for each opportunity in order for you to determine if it’s an opportunity you want to check out further. At the bottom of each listing there is a link leading to the Festival/Competition website for further information.
In other words, don’t take my word for it, before you enter any of these contests please check out the complete submission guidelines provided by the Festival and/or theatre at their websites.
Jewish Ensemble Theatre: 28th Annual JetFest
- Deadline: June 30, 2016
- Submission Fee: $15.00
- Type: Full Length
- Restrictions: Playwrights over 18
- Award: Each of the four finalists receives a $500 honorarium.
- Note: Entry must be a full length original work or adaptation with a minimum running time of 85 minutes that has not been published prior to the festival in 2017. Cast size of 7 or less is preferred. Staged readings/workshop productions are not disqualifying factors.
- JET’s programming generally reflects issues of social conscience and human rights both in drama and comedy.
For complete submission details, festival information and how to enter your play refer to the Jewish Ensemble Theatre: 28th Annual JetFest website.
StoryBook Theatre: National TYA Playwriting Competition
- Deadline: July 1, 2016
- Submission Fee: None
- Type: Theatre for Young Audiences (8yrs & Older) 55-75 minutes in length
- Restrictions: Playwrights must reside in Canada and be eligible to participate
- Award: 3 scripts will be awarded $1,000.00 (Canadian) each. Playwrights of the 3 winning plays will be invited to participate in a workshop for play development with a professional dramaturg and director. The workshop will include a public reading at StoryBook Theatre in Calgary in September 2016. Winning plays may be eligible for up to an additional $700.00 for travel costs.
- Note: SBT is looking for original plays including adaptations of folktales or stories from the global culture. Plays must be previously unproduced and unpublished. Scripts can have as many characters as you like but must be played by a cast of no more than 8 actors.
For complete submission details, festival information and how to enter your play refer to the StoryBook Theatre: National TYA Playwriting Competition website.
Northern Arizona Playwriting Showcase
- Deadline: July 1, 2016
- Submission Fee: $12.00
- Type: 10 minute play festival
- Restrictions: Plays should be written for no more than 3 actors. Entries may not have been a previous contest winner on any stage; entries may not have been performed for a paying audience. Plays may have been workshopped in venues where donations are accepted.
- Award: Winning plays will receive a staged reading.
- Note: Plays will be judged anonymously. Please submit your play with just the title but no author identification on the title page. Submit your contact information in a separate document. Co-authored plays are acceptable. Multiple submissions are also acceptable.
For complete submission details, festival information, and how to enter your play refer to the 2016 Northern Arizona Playwriting Showcase website.
Alleyway Theatre: Maxim Mazumdar New Play Competition
- Deadline: July 1st, 2016
- Submission Fee: $25.00
- Type: Full Length and One-Act
- Restrictions: Open to anyone of any age or citizenship but limited to one submission per year. Entries must not be previously produced and withheld from production during the period of the competition. Plays or musicals which have had workshops or staged readings are eligible for submission.
- Award: The winning full-length play or musical will receive its premiere production at Alleyway Theatre during the season which begins ten months after the announcement of the winners, and a royalty/prize of $400.00 will be awarded.
- The winning one-act play will receive its premiere in the annual Buffalo Quickies one-act celebration, and a royalty/prize of $100 will be awarded.
- Note: Full length – limit one play or musical per year, not shorter than 90 minutes, any style, requiring no more than 10 performers. All submissions of musicals must include an audio CD.
- One-Act – limit of one play or musical, per year, 20 minutes or less, any stle, no more than 6 performers. All submissions of musicals must include an audio CD.
For complete submission details, festival information, and how to enter your play refer to the Alleyway Theatre Maxim Mazumdar New Play Competition website.
Quannapowitt Players, Inc.: Suburban Holidays V!
- Deadline: July 1, 2016
- Submission Fee: None listed.
- Type: One-Act
- Restrictions: If you are not a resident of New England your play will be considered however preference is given to New England playwrights (MA, CT, NH, ME, VT). Plays must be the original works of the playwrights and unpublished at the time of production. Preference is given to unproduced work, but works with limited productions will be considered.
- Playwrights may submit one play only. If more than one play is sent, then none of the playwright’s submissions will be considered.
- Award: Plays will be fully produced with a full set, costumes, props, sound cues, and rep lighting. Playwrights whose plays are chosen for production will receive a $100 honorarium.
- Note: Suburban Holidays 5 explores the theme of the holiday season (in whatever form that means for the playwright. Though we receive many winter holiday themed submissions (Christmas, New Year’s, etc.) all other holidays are welcomed. Have a Valentine’s Day play? We want to read it! Kwanzaa? Send it along! Purim? We’d love to see it.
- One-acts of any length will be considered, but plays of between 10 and 25 minutes are mostly likely to be accepted.
- There are no restrictions on cast size. We welcome large cast plays. Original musicals will also be considered, though musical accompaniment will be restricted to a keyboardist, should a musical be produced.
For complete submission details, festival information, and how to enter your play refer to the Quannapowitt Players Suburban Holidays V website.
The International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation: 2016 Sir Peter Ustinov Television Scriptwriting Award
- Deadline: July 1, 2016
- Submission Fee: No fee.
- Type: Television Script Writing Award
- Restrictions: The applicant must be a non-U.S. citizen residing outside the U.S. The applicant must not have reached his/her 30th birthday as of December 31, 2016. The applicant must be a minimum of 18 years of age upon completion of the entry form. The applicant may not have had a script or contributed any written words to any fiction material produced and/or aired on television prior to entry date. Material that has previously been sold or is currently under option may not be submitted. Only one entry per scriptwriter will be accepted.
- Award: The winner will be flown to New York City to be presented with an award and a US$2,500 prize at the International Emmy World Television Festival. The winning script will be read by actors in front of an audience at the Festival, and the winner will be invited to take part in the red carpet festivities at the International Emmy Awards.
- Note: The Applicant must deliver an original completed DRAMA script for television (Drama Series: A dramatic production in which theme, storyline, and main characters are presented under the same title.)
- Script must be a minimum of a half-hour and a maximum of one-hour commercial length.
- The script should be a stand-alone or pilot script, not a random episode that is part of a series.
For complete submission details and festival information refer to The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation 2016 Sir Peter Ustinov Television Script Writing Award website.
South Street Players: The Tri-State Theatre Festival: Halloween Edition
- Deadline: July 3, 2016
- Submission Fee: None Listed
- Type: One-Act 20 minutes or less
- Restrictions: Only accepting plays from playwrights in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Plays in standard playscript format must be 20 pages or less. Submissions longer than 20 pages will be declined for consideration.
- Award: Play gets produced at the Tri-State Theater Festival Halloween Edition from October 21-23, 2016 in Spring Lake, NJ.
- Note: Plays must be Halloween-themed, which includes but is not limited to, plays about ghosts, vampires, werewolves, witches, zombies, trick or treating, pumpkins, headless horsemen…pretty much anything and everything Halloween…however all plays must be family-friendly, PG-rated.
- Playwrights may submit more than one play. South Street Players is a family theatre. No excessive swearing, no nudity.
For complete submission details and festival information refer to the South Street Players Tri State Theatre Festival: Halloween Edition web site.
Theatre Lila: Submissions for original work entitled – The BED: A Theatre LILA invention
- Deadline: July 10, 2016
- Submission Fee: None Listed
- Type: Short scenes from 5 minutes to 30 minutes.
- Restrictions: No monologues. Cast may not exceed 8 actors.
- Award: All winning pieces will be combined into a collage-like production that will be produced in March 2017. Writers will receive a small stipend, a pair of complimentary tickets to the production and acknowledgement in press, website, and playbill materials.
- Note: Accepting submissions from playwrights and poets. Seeking short scenes ranging from five minutes to a maximum of thirty minutes. Seeking all styles of poetry, spoken word, and original song.
- The entire scene will be set around a large four poster bed. Submitted works must revolve around this set piece only plus props.
- Theatre Lila is seeking a diverse collection of voices from all cultural backgrounds, races, and ages.
- Selected scripts will be combined to create the world premiere of The BED.
For complete submission details and festival information refer to the Theatre Lila: The BED: a Theatre LILA invention website.
The Bridge Initiative: Women in Theatre: Playwright of the Year Award
- Deadline: August 1, 2016
- Submission Fee: None Listed
- Type: New Plays and Musicals
- Restrictions: Female Playwrights only.
- Award: Playwrights and their plays receive promotion through The Bridge Initiative: Women in Theatre website, press releases both locally and nationally, and social media channels. Additional promotion is provided by three additional theatres: Magnolia Theatre Company, WAMTheatre Company, and InProximity Theatre. These three female-focused theatre companies are joining forces with The Bridge Initiative to help foster the playwright throughout her process.
- A week long development workshop in Arizona which includes a professional director who specializes in development, dramaturg, actors, and other supportive artists for the process that will best serve the play and the playwright.
- Additional staged readings of the play with Magnolia Theatre Company and WAMTheatre regionally, as well as InProximity Theatre in New York City, that will include the support of producer and artists. The writer may attend in person or via Skype or FaceTime.Travel, housing, and stipend for the week of development in Arizona.
- Note: Accepting new plays and musicals written by women. The work must be in development with a cast limit of eight (8) and the writer must have an understanding of the next stages needed towards the creation of the play. The Playwright will be submitting her piece with the intention of committing time, work, and rewriting within a conscious and measured pipeline of development that will be generated with The Bridge Initiative: Women in Theatre and three other theatre companies committed to the shepherding of the work and writer throughout the process. A panel of professional theatre artists nationwide will adjudicate submissions.
- The winning writer must be available for the development process, beginning with a week-long residence in Arizona February 21st to 26th with a dedicated director, actors, and supportive artists throughout the week in Arizona and beyond.
- The play must not have been fully produced prior to the contest and there must not be any rights attached to the script.
For complete submission details and festival information refer to The Bridge Initiative: Women in Theatre Playwright of the Year website.
David Charles Horn Foundation: Yale Drama Series
- Deadline: August 15, 2016
- Submission Fee: None
- Type: Full Length Play
- Restrictions: Playwrights may submit only one manuscript per year. Plays must be written in English. Submissions must be original, unpublished full-length plays written in English. Translations, musicals, adaptations, and children’s plays are not accepted. The Yale Drama Series is intended to support emerging playwrights. Playwrights may win the competition only once. Worldwide submissions are accepted.
- Award: The winning play will be selected by the series’ current judge, Nicholas Wright. The winner of this annual competition will be awarded the David Charles Horn Prize of $10,000, publication of his/her manuscript by Yale University Press, and a staged reading at Lincoln Center Theater. The prize and publication are contingent on the playwright’s agreeing to the terms of the publishing agreement.
- Note: Plays that have been professionally produced or published are not eligible. Plays that have had a workshop, reading, or non-professional production or that have been published as an actor’s edition will be considered.
- Plays may not be under option, commissioned, or scheduled for a professional production or publication at the time of submission.
- Playwrights must omit their name and contact information from the manuscript. The manuscript must begin with a title page that shows the play’s title, a 2-3 sentence keynote description of the play, a list of characters, and a list of acts and scenes.
For complete submission details and festival information refer to the David Charles Horn Foundation – The Yale Drama Series website.
American Blues Theatre: Blue Ink Playwriting Award
- Deadline: Submissions from July 1, 2016 to August 31, 2016
- Submission Fee: $5.00
- Type: Full Length
- Restrictions: Plays must be written in English. Worldwide submissions are accepted. Translations, musicals, children’s plays are not accepted.
- Award: The winning play will be selected by Producing Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside and the Ensemble. The playwright receives a monetary prize of $1,000 and a developmental workshop or staged reading at American Blues Theater in Chicago. Cash prizes are awarded for runners up, finalists, and semi-finalists too.
- Note: Submissions must be the original, unpublished full-length plays written in English. Adaptations are accepted with proof of rights held unless source text is in the public domain.
- Plays that have been professionally produced or published are not eligible. Plays that have had a workshop, reading, or non-professional production will be considered.
For complete submission details and festival information refer to the American Blues Theater Blue Ink Playwriting Award website.
**Before you enter any of these contests please check out the complete submission guidelines provided by the Festival and/or theatre at their websites. Although I’ve tried to double check everything and make sure it’s accurate it’s always best to check the source. And good luck!