Theater News

From Musicals 101 to Mindy Kaling: 7 Things You Never Knew About Samuel French

This ”house of plays and musicals” is filled with an attic’s worth of treasures and some unlikely playwrights, including a conceptual artist and a former pope.

With a publishing history that goes back to 1854, Samuel French is a company with an old soul that feels anything but old-fashioned. This venerable institution licenses shows like Fun Home, Heathers: The Musical, and Rock of Ages. In addition to the work that gets the scripts of your favorite shows into the hands of theater artists all over the world, Samuel French also offers incredible resources and initiatives that connect creators digitally, allow writers to see free theater across the country, and support the next generation of playwrights.

From uniquely famous authors to its very own app, get to know this iconic institution in a whole new (spot)light.

1. Samuel French's top licensed show isn't necessarily what you think it is…

If you had to take a wild guess at Samuel French's top licensed show, you might not choose The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. The tale of six misbehaving kids who perform in an unconventional Christmas pageant held the number one spot in 2016. Perhaps less surprisingly, Grease came in second and fourth — in two alternate versions — on the most-popular list.

2. You'll also notice some famous non-theater names among the authors in its catalogue.

Samuel French also works with a list of esteemed people whom you might not suspect have written plays. Yoko Ono's semiautobiographical musical New York Rock; Pope John Paul II's The Jeweler's Shop, a meditation on love and marriage; and Mindy Kaling's play Matt and Ben are all in the licensing company’s stable.

3. Its Off Off Broadway Short Play Festival has helped launch the careers of some major playwrights.

For the last 42 years, Samuel French has hosted the Off Off Broadway Short Play Festival — a festival of 30-minute plays that's held each August in New York City. Winners are selected from over 1,000 entries, and their work is published and licensed by Samuel French. Theresa Rebeck and Sheila Callaghan are among the previous winners and had their early work published as a result.

4. It offers playwrights, composers, and lyricists free tickets to participating theaters all over the United States.

Playwrights Welcome is a ticketing initiative that provides theater tickets to card-carrying Dramatists Guild members across the country. The program offers free day-of-show tickets to Dramatists Guild playwrights, composers, and lyricists. Fifty-four theaters nationwide have signed up to participate, with over 70 more currently implementing the program. If you’re a theater or Dramatists Guild member who is interested in learning more about the program, click here.

5. Samuel French is quite social.

Samuel French’s social media accounts feature special live events, interviews with creative teams, giveaways, and much more. Its Facebook and Twitter accounts offer opportunities to interact with actors and creative teams and chances to win Samuel French scripts. Its Instagram and Snapchat (search for: SamuelFrenchNYC) accounts allow you to peruse photos from productions around the country. Its YouTube channel features interviews with playwrights, so you can hear about the creative process straight from Itamar Moses, Sarah Ruhl, Trey Anastasio, Amanda Green, and many others.

6. The publisher is here to school you…in a good way.

Schools staging a musical face a range of challenges, from the suitability of material to the construction of a complex set. Enter Samuel French's Musicals 101, a series of articles and resources that take you through the process and address everything from choosing a show and understanding your audience to transposing songs to different keys. This series dovetails with Samuel French's high school and middle school series of shows — adapted editions of popular musicals like Rock of Ages, Heathers: The Musical, and Chicago (available in spring 2018) — that are created specifically for school groups.

7. And Samuel French has an app for that…

Digital editions of plays can be hard, if not impossible, to find. So Samuel French created a play-reading app called Abbott that lets you access and read over 1,700 plays and musicals across multiple devices. You can also highlight lines, bookmark pages, and take notes in scripts.