Reflections from the Dramatist’s Guild National Conference in NYC, July 2018

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It was as refreshing as forest bathing. Three hundred people who love to do exactly what we do, enough to pay for a Manhattan hotel, a flight, and a conference fee.  In one place.  To be with people who “get” you!  This doesn’t happen much for playwrights, especially if we’re new-ish to the theatre and under-produced. We are often more solitary than we’d like, more solitary than is good for our art. For each of the three days of the conference, we connected with each other, heard about others’ good ideas, learned about new resources, and had the uniquely satisfying experience of just being in the same room with passionate, creative, generous playwrights who know that by helping other playwrights, they are deepening their own creative wells. 

If you haven’t already joined, check out the Dramatist’s Guild and attend the next conference! Here's a link to the conference schedule.  Reach out to the playwrights on the panels that interest you and ask them for materials, resources, and tips.  Here are just three of the conference highlights for me:  

·       Paula Vogel’s Boot Camp.  What an inspiring, loving teacher this accomplished playwright is!  We focused on the six elements we chose to drive our play:  spectacle, character, conflict (plot), language, rhythm/music, and thought, and then honed in on six plot forms.  Paula’s advice:  play with each of these forms, and keep yourself fresh with each new play by not being stuck in one.  Above all, “drop and give me 20!”  Pages that is. When you’re stuck, whether at the beginning or anywhere else in a play, start writing with a prompt, without your internal editor, and stop when you have twenty pages.  And get a group of other playwrights together, virtually or in person, and have a bake-off! See the bake-off instructions at Paula's website. If you’d like to participate in a play bake-off at the Playwrights Salon this fall, email us and we’ll get you in.

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·       Radio/Audio Plays. A big market for plays 10-45 minutes long.  First, determine what each company wants, and then write your pitch, including a one-sentence premise, a one-paragraph synopsis, and one-sentence character descriptions.  Check Playing on Air, a producer, and Audio-Drama, a clearinghouse for audio drama.  And for those in Washington State, my tip is to connect with Jack Straw Cultural Center, if you are interested in producing your own audio drama. You can pay to rent their studios and engage the services of their audio engineers.

·       Protest Plays. One quick tip for those of us who write political plays and are at the development stage:  find a community partnership with a group that’s interested in themes that interest you, and invite an audience to read your play on the theme. This from Tiffany Antone, the founder of Protest Plays Project, a lively and inspiring playwright and theatre professor with the mission of, among other initiatives,  “identifying and sharing protest-inspired short plays.”  Share what you have!