Dark Knight Dramaturgy

A Bay Area Theater Blog

Submitting your play to a new-works festival: some hopefully helpful hints (PART 4; Final Meeting: Before)

Posted by Dark Knight Dramaturg on March 10, 2009

When I finish this post I will get on my bike with my laptop and an angelfood cake in my backpack and ride to Safeway because, despite my taste for simplicity when it comes to sweets, Rachel informs me that most people do not like angelfood cake toppingless. This is why, I figure, the angelfood cake itself only cost $1.99, whereas the surrounding condiments–mostly various fruit toppings–cost more: angelfood cake is just the vehicle.

From Safeway I will head to the final meeting of our new play festival selection process. On my computer are stored 24 scripts with 24 reports attached to them, and a ranking sheet showcasing my preferences as they stood two days ago a 1 p.m.; today they have shifted slightly, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they shifted again tomorrow. The 5 I would have in the festival. Then my top 10. Then the 20 that I wouldn’t argue against. And then the final 4 that I would probably make a fuss over before they got in. We got an email an hour ago telling us which plays we will be “presenting” to the group. Of the two I am to chaperone, one was no surprise. I pushed it this far, and I doubt it has the support it would need to go forward. We’ll see how well my debate skills have kept in the storage unit of my mind since I last used them on the high school mock trial team.

The other play I am defending is even trickier: I don’t even remember putting it in my top 10, but there it sits: #6? I am trying to replay the logic exercises I went through Sunday morning to compose this list: this play is great, but there is no real reason for it now; that play has a great concept, but the execution is too shaky for me to put my confidence in the playwright; this play would make an amazing staged reading, but a play? If we include this piece, then that piece doesn’t fit. . . And yet I don’t remember why I passed other plays by for this one, and I do not have a lot of time to figure it out. I am not encouraged by a note in my script report that reads, “I find myself trying to talk myself into this play. My first reaction was not ‘wow’, or maybe even ‘yes’ but it was certainly ‘maybe.’”

I am not sure what tonight has in store. I would imagine the judges who care the most and like to argue the most are going to win spots for their favorites. Those who are quieter and more amenable will likely compromise. I wonder if we vote? I wonder how much sway the artistic director has. Part of me wonders if it would have been easier for the readers to have been dismissed after we narrowed it down to the final 24, and leave the final cut to the staff of the theater. Well, no, I don’t really wonder: I am sure it would be easier. So then, is the point of this final meeting more for us than for the playwrights? We will see. I am off to buy strawberry sauce and whip cream.

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