The Real World: Theater Edition: Tools for Today’s Playwright

Barbara Jwanouskos is bringing a more writer-focused bent to her column, and starts the transition with a link packed tool-box for today’s Fresh Off the Grad School playwright.

If you’re a playwright out there trying to write, make connections and get produced, there are a couple resources you should be aware of that might make it a bit easier for you. I’ve put together a mini guide to memberships you may want to consider and a couple sites online where you can read and participate in discussions involving theater.

The Dramatists Guild
Playwrights don’t have a union like screenwriters and TV writers do, but they do have the Dramatists Guild and when it comes to issues of legality, the Dramatists Guild is an excellent resource for playwrights, composers, and librettists. It has been around for over 80 years and has over 6,000 members nationwide. As a member, you receive a subscription to their publication, The Dramatist, as well as a guide to playwriting opportunities, and information about other meet-ups that are helpful to networking with other playwrights.

The best thing about the Guild is how they advocate for your rights as a playwright.

YOU: Wait, I have rights??
ME: Yes, you do.

Take a second to visit their site and you’ll find the Bill of Rights, which includes being compensated for your work as a playwright if the production charges admission and/or compensates others on the production team – EVEN IF IT IS VERY SMALL. You will also see that no one can change the words in a script you’ve written without your approval and other helpful rights. While these are not laws, they are modes of conduct that are fair and equitable and any good theater company will not only be aware of, but also abide by. As a member, you can also call (800-289-9366) the Guild if you are having legal problems with a production of your work and they will advise you on how to navigate the problem.

July 14-17th marks #RightsWeek, which is sponsored by the Dramatists Guild, Samuel French, and HowlRound, when theater makers will be having a series of online and offline conversations about one’s rights in the theater, specifically with regards to intellectual property. Follow the above listed sites and use the hashtag #newplay and #rightsweek for more information.

The Playwrights’ Center
The Playwrights Center is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota and is an excellent resource for playwrights of all experience levels. They offer several fellowships for emerging, mid-career and experienced playwrights that include fantastic benefits such as a respectably sized stipend to offset financial costs associated with devoting all of your time to playwriting, mentorships with more experienced playwrights for those emerging, and staged readings and productions of your work.

For members, they offer many discounts to bookstores, software, and theater publications (like American Theatre put out by TCG). They are an excellent resource for playwriting submission opportunities around the world. Their search functions and organization makes it easy to identify which ones you are interested in pursuing. They also offer classes to their members conducted by their group of Core Writers. Sadly, they are held in Minnesota, so you would need to take a trip out there if you’re coming from here.

The Playwrights Foundation
Not to be confused with the Playwrights Center above, the Playwrights Foundation is based in San Francisco. It offers a variety of classes for playwrights to brush up on their chops – a lot of them taught by local writers like Lauren Gunderson, Octavio Solis, and Eugenie Chan. I’ve taken several classes here and have always had a great time and broken through blocks I’d had in writing.

The Playwrights Foundation also hosts the Bay Area Playwrights Festival each summer that includes a selection of new plays, many of which go on to be produced by the Playwrights Foundation or other companies.

Theater Bay Area
I’ve only recently joined TBA, so am not as familiar with what resources are available and exciting to playwrights. But, from what I can see, you gain access to the Job and Talent Bank, which is an excellent resource (as Ashley mentioned the other day) for audition listings. I have also seen job postings and playwriting opportunities online when I’ve searched it after starting my membership. You get a subscription to the Theater Bay Area magazine and discounts on tickets around the Bay. They also support artists through small CA$H grants and have a Lemonade Fund to support artists who are terminally ill.

In addition to the above, these online discussion sites are great places to keep up with your theater news and issues:

HowlRound includes essays and editorials on theater making. Writers and artists of all kinds participate in ongoing discussions about the most prevalent topics in theater.

Bitter Lemons is a site devoted to LA’s theater scene, but also has some great essays that take up sometimes controversial stances on the practices of making theater.

2AMt is another great site for essays and views on theater.

Born Ready is a podcast hosted by Rob Ready and Raymond Hobbs where they make fun of the issues theater has.

What other resources (memberships, websites, podcasts, etc.) would you add? Let us know!

Barbara Jwanouskos is a playwright who recently moved back to the Bay Area having completed the MFA Dramatic Writing program at Carnegie Mellon University. You can follow her on twitter @bjwany.

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7 comments on “The Real World: Theater Edition: Tools for Today’s Playwright

  1. ashcows says:

    Thank you for this list! I’m going to have to bookmark this and refer to it as I continue to try and look into the world of playwriting. 😉

    • bjwany says:

      Thanks! I’m sure there are more organizations and websites out there that people should check out, but I’ll start here and gather up more for a part two.

  2. bjwany says:

    Reblogged this on The Dynamics of Groove and commented:
    Here is a handy-dandy list of resources for playwrights out there to keep up with theater news/issues, get advice on their rights, get professional development, grants, fellowships, and find out about other playwriting submission opportunities. Enjoy! And let me know if there’s something you would add!

  3. Excellent list! The Playwrights’ Center offers online classes as well, so everyone can get in on the fun!

    • bjwany says:

      Oh, that’s cool! I didn’t realize the Playwrights’ Center had online classes. I’ll make sure to highlight that next time. Also, I’d love to take one!

  4. A great Theatre Bay Area program for actors, directors and as of 2013, playwrights is ATLAS – it’s classes on the business side of the profession, mentoring opportunities, a cohort/small group to problem solve with and an opportunity to create a personal business plan that may receive funding. Next round probably has applications later in the year? http://www.theatrebayarea.org/?page=Atlas

    • bjwany says:

      Thanks for the info, Valerie! I was wondering about the ATLAS program since this past year was their first time offering it with playwrights and I know our own Marissa Skudlarek was fortunate enough to go through the program. I just couldn’t seem to find info on the application process, but it looks like it will be out soon-ish, I hope? I’ll keep checking. I’d love to hear more about it!

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