So, you've written a new play. But rather than being the traditional, full-length model, your piece falls into a more obscure category. Maybe it's just 10 minutes long. Or it's set in Kansas around the turn of the century. Or, better yet, it's a 10-minute play set in Kansas around the turn of the century.
You wonder: How can I ever possibly get this produced? The truth is that there are playwriting contests looking for authors just like you, who've written about the specific subject of your play.
With each passing year come more and more contests looking to build a reputation for their "uniqueness." Some have interesting names, like Theatrix's Drop Your Shorts Competition (a 15-minute play festival) or the Mixed Blood Theater Company's We Don't Need No Stinkin' Dramas Playwriting Contest (for comedies or musicals dealing with politics, race, or sports). Others have even more interesting premises, such as the International One-Page Play Competition.
"With a generic play contest, I think it's harder to have judgment criteria," says Rob Bundy, artistic director of the Stages Repertory Theatre in Houston, Texas, which sponsors the Texas Playwright Festival, the Women's Repertory Project, and the Hispanic Playwrights' Festival. "When we specialize like this, we have an easier way of saying what we're looking for."
"There's a lot more activity in the new play field than there used to be," adds Michael Dixon, literary manager for the Actors Theatre of Louisville's National Ten-Minute Play Contest. "[Theater companies] have discovered how much fun and how rewarding it can be to create new work for the theater--and they want to create work that will speak to their audience and will be appropriate for their artists. Those issues drive the focused kind of contests we're talking about."
Established in 1964, the National Ten-Minute Play Contest was one of the first such competitions to acknowledge the importance of innovative playwriting styles. Over the years, winners have ranged from well-known figures like Lanford Wilson and Joyce Carol Oates to relative unknowns. Like other, similar competitions, the National Ten-Minute Play Contest is great for young writers because the form allows them to complete a play, polish it, and move on.
"Not all ideas are full-length ideas, and not all ideas are longer one-act ideas," Dixon says. "Some subjects are perfectly suited to a ten-minute exploration, which forces you to address the issues of developing good characters, creating conflict, and dealing with theme all at the same time. In plain sense, you just don't have time to waste."