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Thursday, September 2, 2021

NYCPlaywrights statement on honoring deadlines

During the more than ten years that NYCPlaywrights has been running this NYCPlaywrights blog as a call board, there have been very few incidents of theater companies closing their submissions window before their stated deadline.

But for whatever reason, during this past summer, several theater organizations have failed to honor their stated deadlines, sometimes closing their submission windows more than a month in advance. NYCPlaywrights knows this because we've been contacted by several playwrights who have complained about the practice.

NYCPlaywrights regrets that any playwrights have had a submission window closed on them prematurely. Unfortunately, NYCPlaywrights is not in a position to prevent the practice. Since most theater companies do honor their deadlines, we assume any given theater company will honor the deadline given, when we first post their call for submission, and we don't have the resources to regularly check up looking for signs of bad faith.

But we do have recommendations.

Theater organizations ~

  • If you have a maximum number of scripts in mind for your call for submissions, use that instead of a deadline date, in all your publicity. Do not have a secret maximum which you reveal only if it's met.
  • If you get many more email submissions than you expected, that means you have that much greater chance of finding the perfect script. And it's just email - you could set up an email account for free, on a service like Gmail, exclusively for receiving submissions. Gmail has virtually unlimited space on its servers for your submissions.
  • You say the script readers are overwhelmed with the number of scripts to read? I recommend you give the task of reading scripts to whoever set the deadline. Or get volunteers or hire people if you have to - college students often work cheap, and they usually know how to read. Do whatever it takes to honor your promised deadline, or risk looking unprofessional.
  • Email is quick and easy and free and that's why calls for email submissions tend to get huge responses. If you want to limit your responses, ask for hard copies via snail mail. 
  • Have some consideration. Very few playwrights make a living in the theater, but even if the respondents are "only" amateurs you should not take them for granted. You owe their hard work a basic minimum of professional courtesy.

Playwrights ~
  • NYCPlaywrights makes every effort to confirm the validity of the calls for submissions posted on this site. However, no guarantees are made by NYCPlaywrights as to the postings on this site and submitters are advised to use their own discretion when submitting work. 
  • If a theater group does fail to honor its submission deadline, that's a valuable piece of information - they are not very professional. Do you really want to trust them with your work?
  • Have some sympathy for theater organizations - theater is hard and expensive and that's why theater companies come and go and why there are many inexperienced producers who are bad at calculating deadlines. This doesn't excuse closing the deadline window prematurely, but don't scream at them for screwing up. We need all the producers we can get.
  • And if their information is on the NYCPlaywrights site, you can be sure that they offer at least one no-fee option. We need all the no-fee charging theater organizations we can get.
  • If you discover a theater group that has closed its submission window before the deadline you can do two things: email info@nycplaywrights.org and let us know so we can post the information on the group's blog post and prevent the theater organization and playwrights from wasting time. And contact the theater organization and tell them politely how you feel about closing the deadline window early.

Thanks all, and happy theater-making.


HENSLOWE: Mr. Fennyman, let me explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster. Believe me, to be closed by the plague is a bagatelle in the ups and downs of owning a theatre.

FENNYMAN: So what do we do?

HENSLOWE: Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well.


HENSLOWE: I don’t know. It’s a mystery

Images and text from "Shakespeare in Love"

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