Yesterday I meant to write-up my process for how I submit my plays. I'll start by describing what I wrote up today and randomly decided to call the 4P Questions: "Premier Play for Premiere Performance".
I could've made if "Picking a Premier Play..." and called it 5P, but there's a swank Irish restaurant in Falls Church called the 4Ps, so... yeah.
Anyway they are the questions I ask myself when I find a new theater and am considering submitting to them. The two first questions are:
1) Does this theater do good work?
2) Does this theater get reviewed?
Now before you start thinking I'm a snob, hear me out.
It's no secret that most theaters doing new plays only want World Premieres, or possibly Regional Premieres. That's why they call it "New Plays", not "Sloppy Seconds Plays". And yes, the National New Play Network has Rolling Premieres with its Continued Life of New Plays Fund, just to combat this situation, and it's brilliant... if you can get in.
Think of your new, unproduced play like it's your promiscuous teen kid (stay with me). It wants to get done really badly. And it's going to happen sooner or later (unless it's one ugly little bastard). So you want to raise your kid so that when it happens it's a good experience, and doesn't result in unwanted pregnancy or herpes (I'm not sure what those are in this metaphor/simile -- a bad production and a shitty review?)
What I'm saying is, you don't want your play to end up in the backseat with the first theater that brings them a five-dollar bunch of carnations.
So I ask those two questions.
Then the next question for myself: If their production of my play actually became a hit, would I be happy with this script as my introduction to the theatre world?
I have fourteen finished full-lengths. Out of those, I'd say the answer to that question is currently "yes" for four (maybe five) of them. The rest of them I like. I don't finish anything I'm ashamed of. But let's rewrite history, pretend Arthur Miller never got discovered, and had all of his finished plays.
You'd have The Crucible, Death of a Salesman, and All My Sons (I always want to write "My Three Sons") at the top. Those are his top shelf plays. Not that View From the Bridge, The Price, and After the Fall aren't amazing, but they're not on the same level. So if he was trying to get done, and a big theater said they wanted to read his work and give him his shot... wouldn't he want one of the big three to be his introduction?
So if the answer is yes to Q1 and Q2, then I send a play that I'd want as my introduction to the world.
If the answer is yes only to the "Do They Do Good Work?" -- but they don't really get reviewed, I send them my The Price.
(And just to be clear here, I'm not saying I'm even as good as Miller's second tier works, I'm just making an example.)
But if the answer is no to both Q1 and Q2 -- sorry, my play won't get in the backseat with you. It'd be nice to have a theater out in the middle of nowhere wanting to do one of my Premier plays (it's always nice to be wanted) but once the deed is done, and my play has lost its #newplay innocence, it better damn well have something to show for it other than a bar story and a troubling rash.
And I know, sometimes you can be David Lindsay-Abaire and do crazy zany plays first and then get the clout to do Rabbit Hole and Good People. Maybe I'm thinking too deeply about this. But if I were the kind of person to think too deeply about stuff, wouldn't I do something insane like spend two hours making a flowchart for how I select which plays to send where?
Why yes, yes I would.
And I hope you enjoy it.
Happy Tuesday all!