Reading Opportunities for Local Playwrights: More Things in Heaven and Earth Than Are Dreamt Of, Horacio…

Until Kate Danley, Seattle representative for the Dramatist Guild (DG), brought together a group of six theatre companies/organizations on May 19th for a panel presentation on opportunities to develop our scripts through readings, I bet most of us didn’t have a clue about how many ways there are in the Puget Sound region to get our work in development out of the data bank and into the hands of readers and actors. I didn’t and developmental readings are a main focus of Seattle Playwrights Salon.

Here’s a brief recap of the opportunities available, with a list of more options DG members provided at the May 19th meeting in Theatre Puget Sound’s Studio C.

Seattle Playwrights Salon: Submit scripts any time for consideration for monthly open, staged readings in Georgetown, Seattle, with directors and actors provided and paid a stipend; occasional closed readings with actors and director provided; writers’ groups, and a weekend boot camp coming in November. More classes, intensives, writing events, play bake-offs, and playwrights’ gatherings are in the works.

Matcha Theatre Works: Inquire about new scripts by women for regularly-scheduled staged readings.

Albatross Theatre Laboratory: Playwrights, directors, and other theatre artists can submit scripts, resumes, and proposals to:

Parley Productions: Open staged readings, preceded by discussion, development, and production for a group of up to 13 playwrights. Inquire about group membership.

Seattle Playwrights Circle: Contact the group and inquire about the next meeting, and then show up at the Driftwood Theatre in Edmonds. Ask first about protocol for readings.

The Umbrella Project: Dramaturg services to get you ready for the next stage of development.

Rain City Projects: From the website: “We ignite solidarity in the Seattle-area playwriting community with lively brunches, salons, readings, writing retreats, and speed dating between writers and directors.” See the site for event information, and attend! Inquire at

DG members also mentioned:

Seattle Playwrights Studio, closed readings with playwrights to discuss in Burien Actors Theatre. Meeting when they have a script to read. Contact Steve Feldman to inquire:

Drunken Owl Theatre, reading mostly short scripts monthly at Parliament Tavern in West Seattle. Inquire at:

There may be more! Let us know if we’ve missed anyone, and we’ll add them into the list. Also, there may be more services each of these groups offers to playwrights. Contact them! Don’t forget: you can always create your own kitchen-table reads, bake-offs, and social events for playwrights. Email us at to see if we can help.

Short and Sweet: Tips for Newer Playwrights, by Anonymous

An award-winning Seattle playwright whose work has been produced throughout the US, Canada, and the UK (and who prefers to remain anonymous) has some smart leads for newer playwrights. Ready? Take a deep breath and plunge in!

Join the Dramatists Guild, and attend local meetings. The group meets every other month and is having a panel discussion on play readings on May 19. No need to be a member to attend. Four area producers will speak about how play readings work, how to get involved, and how to produce them yourself. The Seattle theater scene is small in comparison to the giants, and the Dramatists Guild meetings are a great place to get hooked in.

If you're on Facebook, there's a group called "The Official Playwrights of Facebook". There's a couple of crazy people, but ignoring them, it is a great resource. And if those short plays you have are ready to go, one of my favorite sites is Play Submission Helper. Once a month, they put out a spreadsheet with all of the theaters who are looking for scripts (it's an $8 a month subscription, but totally worth it). You submit your script to the theaters and if they like it, they produce it. It is how almost all of my plays get done. The general rule of thumb is to avoid opportunities that charge a production fee (the playwright shouldn't pay a producer/theater unless the playwright is self-producing.) Also, a good site for submission opportunities is playwright Aurin Squires’s monthly blog, and the Dramatists Guild’s listings.

Another great resource is the BBC Writers Room. They have a page with all of the writing formats, as well as a ton of helpful writing videos so you can figure out what your script should look like before you send it out. And be sure to check out information on playwrights’ rights and submission best practices.

Seattle doesn't have playwright training programs as such. A class or two will pop up every now and again, such as the weekend intensive offered by the Salon in November. The good news is that the Salon may be offering more classes in 2020. And Salvo, “a tiny studio for dramatic art”, the brainchild of Rebecca Tourino Collingswood, offers classes. But don’t let the paucity of local training programs stop you!

Explore the world of on-line classes at the Dramatists Guild Institute, and occasional writing workshop weekend intensives in cities throughout the country. Attend Dramatists Guild conferences, offered every other year or so in interesting cities, read voraciously (I love Working on a New Play by Edward Cohen), see tons of excellent local theatre (our theatre scene is SO good!), and form or join a playwrights’ group. The Salon has a writer’s group now, and is keeping a waiting list for the next group. Write to the Salon’s Managing Director Ashley Arai at, to get on the list.

Got it? Now go for it!

Never Look at a Blank Page and Despair Again: Writing Exercises Shine at Dramatists Guild’s Portland Conference March 30-31

Portland Skyline

Portland Skyline

I thought I’d be writing a straight-forward piece about the effective writing exercises I picked up at the Dramatists Guild Playwriting Intensive in Portland. But I’m not. This is an unabashed fan letter for the Dramatists Guild with the writing exercises tossed in—because it was that good. It was worth the three-hour drive in the early morning from Seattle. It was worth sitting in a classroom for hours on Saturday and Sunday after a full week at the office. And not just for the incandescent teachers, and not just for the innovative writing exercises. Being with my tribe – other playwrights – making connections, seeing great theatre together, honing our skills, sharing our work, and writing together, is the tonic and the balm I need to keep going in this often lonely and often rejection-strewn vocation of mine.

Workshop instructor Francesca Piantadosi, Dramatists Guild representative in Portland, said to each of us at our first session: throw me a name, any name. No explanation. No, “this will help you as you develop your characters.” None of that. I said, Sally. Just that. Twenty-five or so other playwrights threw her some names: Mrs. Henderson, Snark, Ophelia, Buster, Randolph. Francesca wrote them all on the white board, and as she did, considered each name, with Sally being first. What she said about Sally—the name I’d thrown out without thinking—blew open a shut door in my mind and transformed my thinking about writing characters.

“Sally. A big first letter, that S. Takes up a lot of space. Then the small, compact a. Now two very tall letters, and a low-to-the-floor, dipping below the surface y. Interesting.” That’s all she had to say. I immediately knew that Sally, whoever she is, is going to be one contradictory character. Maybe both blustery and sneaky, showy and hidden, and definitely hard to predict. Wow! She had similarly unexpected things to say about each of the names our group gave her. I was on fire to write about this Sally. Francesca asked us to write for ten minutes, using our new character and adding another, and starting with what she calls the best first line ever: ‘No, I disagree!’ Or a version thereof. And we were off.

I loved it! Re-reading my scribbled page featuring Sally and Dan just now, I’m intrigued enough to develop a ten-minute play from this start, thanks to Francesca. And she did so much more during her one and a half hour session. She showed us what a loving, compassionate and passionate, skilled and experienced teacher can do to illuminate the one small thing in which the whole world is revealed. What’s in a name? Everything! (A side note about Francesca. See when she is teaching again. She will light you on fire with her passion for teaching playwriting in prison, and inspire you to go out into the world to share your own gifts with the underserved.)

Gary Garrison, the Dramatists Guild Institute’s Director, followed Francesca’s session with a two-hour, completely absorbing, mind-opening session on, of all things, stage directions. What? They don’t have to be passive and colorless? This is my third time in one of Gary’s classes. Each class, like Francesca’s, focuses on a seemingly tiny particular that opens up a landslide of possibilities. He began with “Don’t ever write ‘lights up, lights down’ again.” And continued, in paraphrase, “Write light as active. It splinters, it creeps, it is heavy and hot or expanding or ghostly or merciless.” And then there’s sound. “Sound pulls you into the play with no work.” And, “write your stage directions as fully as your imagination knows the play should look and sound. You, the playwright, are creating the world of the play. We are in control of that world. Write everything you want and the play needs, then describe what is second-best, what you’d be okay with, in case the director has more limited resources.”

For character descriptions, get specific. Gary pulled “ten random plays that I love from my shelves, really without thinking about it” and printed out stage directions from each for us. Included was Outside Mullingar by John Patrick Shanley: “Tony (father) is 75 or so and his eyes are sly. Anthony (son) is 42, and his eyes are those of an intense dreamer.” Gary: “Those descriptions tell you all you need to know about how to cast this play. This describes the central tension of the play.”

Gary asked us to set the scene, all the way up to the first line of dialogue, with this prompt: ‘Old southern mansion moments after a hurricane hits. Two people who don’t know each other.’ I wrote directions alive with sound and light for the first time ever. I began, before describing the scene: “It’s creepily silent, but for the sound of dripping water. Sunlight seeps into the dark room from the porch, rosy and timid, and slowly and unforgivingly reveals the shattered dining room. Off stage, someone explosively wrenches a door open. A 30ish woman in a torn and dirty, formerly white nightgown lurches into the room, sobbing.” Thanks to Gary, I made great strides from “lights up”.

Chisa Hutchinson did a fine job teaching us short and long form synopsis writing, and play-specific and career-embracing artistic statements, and set us writing them for our current and past plays. As we read aloud our short-forms, Chisa helped us hone. See her useful handout here. E.M. Lewis set us writing with permission and encouragement to use magic in our plays, with these prompts: ‘Write a monologue by a monster, by a monster hunter, by a ghost, by someone who is haunted. And then she asked us to start a new play with magic, starting with describing the weather.’ Yes, it stretched me and intrigued me, to see what lay buried in the depths of my mind. That’s the glory of free writing with smart prompts. It will shake you up and get that page covered faster than you can think.

I’m a huge fan of the Dramatists Guild conferences (La Jolla 2015 and NYC 2018) and now an even bigger fan of the Dramatists Guild Institute’s Regional Conferences. I have a fresh new take on synopsis writing, magical theatre, character names, and amazingly, stage directions! All delivered with wit and style, with tips about getting our work out, working with directors and theatre artists, and how sharing our talents with underserved populations gives back far more than we ever imagined.

Playwright Interview: Kate Danley on Writing as a Day Job

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This month we are featuring a series of interviews with local playwrights to gather their insights on the creative process and getting scripts to the stage.

The Salon’s Artistic Director, Margaret O’Donnell interviewed award-winning Seattle playwright Kate Danley in September. Kate took her first playwriting class and wrote her first scenes in summer 2014. Since then her plays have been produced throughout the US and in Canada, and won staged readings in the U.K. This year, she was elected Seattle regional representative for the national Dramatists’ Guild. She co-founded the Seattle Playwrights Salon in 2016.

MOD: You’re a short story writer, an award-winning and best-selling fantasy novelist, and an actor. Why did you decide to start writing for the stage?

KD: I had the privilege of going to a magnet performing arts high school and I majored in theatre in college. Both programs involved creating original shows, and I feel very fortunate that playwriting and self-producing was established as a very normal, everyday thing that artists needed to do. When I moved to Los Angeles, I began writing sketch and stand-up in the hopes of launching my career from "starving artist" to "relatively financially okay" artist. Casting directors were using the comedy clubs to find new talent and, at the time, it was the easiest way to open the door. Unfortunately, the acting superstardom thing never materialized. What did happen, though, was I was working a lousy day job to support my failing acting habit and to stave off the boredom, I started writing a book, and that book took off. I soon found myself as a full-time author, but there was something missing. I love theatre. I love it more than anything. And writing books wasn't enough. So, I was sitting in my office one day in 2014 wondering to myself, "If only there was some way to combine plays with writing..." and quite literally had the epiphany it was called "play writing." And the rest, as they say, is history.

MOD: I remember being in class with you at the Seattle Rep in 2014 when you wrote and read the beginnings of your now widely-produced play Building Madness. The entire class loved Trixie, your ditsy heroine. Where did she come from?

KD: I am a tall, awkward woman with brown hair and a funny face, and since high school, I have been cast as either the old lady or the serious lead. I looked at all of my cute, tiny friends who got to play all the fun roles I was always typed out of. And so, when I sat down to write Building Madness, I asked myself what sort of role had I always wanted to play that no one had ever let me. I am a huge fan of Gracie Allen and think her unsung genius is disappearing from the zeitgeist. So, I decided to use her as my inspiration and write a part that I would love to play. And, I gotta say, I had the privilege of taking on the role at a theatre in Los Angeles. One of the greatest joys was having friends who had known me for years come up and say, "I didn't know you could do that. And it was really, really good."

MOD: How did you get your first production? What is Building Madness’s production history? What have been your favorite productions so far of the play?

KD: I had three productions all happen concurrently, which is just bonkers. I had entered Building Madness in the Panowski Playwriting Competition, which it ended up winning. Out of that, I received a workshop and a world premiere production at Northern Michigan University. At the same time, a reader of my books named Patty Ram reached out to me when she saw I had a script and became a champion of this play. She pitched it to a theatre in Grande Prairie, Canada, and they picked it up for their season and gave it its Canadian World Premiere. At the same time, I am very good friends with two men named Kevin Cochran and Charles Johanson. They own a great little theater in Los Angeles called the GTC Burbank. Kevin and I awkwardly asked each other if we might both be interested in possibly working on it together (it was like two seventh graders asking each other out to the school dance) and the show had a great workshop production in LA. Each of these experiences holds such a huge place in my heart and helped the play to grow in wonderful ways I never would have discovered on my own.

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MOD: What else have you written, and where have you been produced?

KD: Oh gosh... I've seriously lost count. Thirty books? Twenty plays? Something like that. If anyone's interested, head on over to my website or the New Play Exchange! I also write cozy mysteries under the name Agatha Ball.

MOD: Do you still write novels and short stories? What is your writing schedule?

KD: I do! It is still ye olde day job. Because I am an indie author, I have to release about four books a year in order to keep the roof over my head. In case anyone is gasping in horror, keep in mind we now work on computers instead of typewriters and research can happen instantaneously instead of having to slog to the library. There is certainly space needed for the creative process, but not having to retype a 250-page manuscript word-by-word with every edit has cut back on a lot of the time consuming work.

MOD: What are your best short tips about developing new scripts? Submitting your work?

KD: Once you think your script is finished, gather up your friends in your living room and have them read it aloud. You'll discover all sorts of things you never would have discovered on your own. And look for ways to advance your plot in the spirit of "Yes, AND!" instead of "No, but..."

As far as submissions, create a file of your play with your contact info, your play without your contact info (blind copy), a single sheet with your synopsis, a single sheet with your character list, and a single sheet with your scene summaries (usually the readers are looking for time shifts and locations so they know if it is a single room play or if you are going to need a turntable and huge set changes. It helps with budget expectations.) Pretty much every opportunity will need some combination of these, and once you've created them, submissions become less daunting. There are various submission sites like the Dramatists Guild website, Kat's Play Submission Central, Aurin Squire's Get What You Want, and Play Submission Helper.

MOD: What are you working on now?

KD: I just completed a full-length retelling of the 13th century Robin Hood ballads called Olde Robin Hood. Now that the book is out the door, I can refocus on playwriting. I'm actually working on an adaptation of my gothic penny dreadful novel A Spirited Manor for the stage. It should be a lot of fun for theatres needing some new Halloween fare—shameless plug!

MOD: Why did you co-found the Salon?

KD: I think you and I were both at a point in our playwriting that we needed a way to bring our words to life. It seemed like there were limited opportunities for new local playwrights, and especially new, local, women playwrights, to get anything onstage. And as the old saying goes, "Be the change you want to see in the world." I am so grateful to the Salon and Carlos at The Conservatory for providing an artistic home for Seattle's artists to shine. I know I would not have achieved any of my success without this very special proving ground.

MOD: What are your plans as the Dramatists Guild regional representative?

KD: We have an absolutely incredible, vibrant theatre scene here in Seattle. And after spending many years in both Los Angeles and NYC, I am even more impressed. It is political, subversive, wickedly funny, smart, fearless, heartbreaking, and truly special. That said, I sometimes feel that theaters may not know how to connect with local playwrights outside of their sphere. My hope in the remaining two-years of my tenure is to bridge that gap. I want producers to know how to find the playwright that lives a few blocks from their theatre, someone who has been coming to every show for the past five years. I want playwrights to feel empowered to create their own opportunities and not feel like they have to be anointed by an agent or literary director in order to bring their play to life. I want people to be aware of the work the Dramatists Guild does - from providing paid commissions to playwrights in Puerto Rico who were devastated by Hurricane Maria to studying the ratio of men vs. women being produced and providing hard data so theatres can make informed choices via The Count to honoring the students of Stoneman Douglas High School to championing diversity, equality, and inclusion to making space available in Times Square for any playwright who needs it to providing pro bono legal advice on any question on contracts and copyright... The list goes on and on and on. My goal is to help any playwright in our area feel like they are a part of something wonderful.