Playwright FAQ

We welcome plays of any style, any length, and in any stage of development. Just email us the following info, and we’ll work with you to set a reading date:

a)  Your name (pen name)
b)  The title (or working title) of your play
c)  A two- to three-sentence description (for promotion)
d)  Number of pages and estimated run-time (in minutes)
e)  Number of readers required

NOTE: Most of the questions and answers below pertain to our standard meetings (held the first and the third Tuesday of each month). For much of 2014 we introduced a “third Tuesday” or “3T” format for more intensive critiques of new works in development. A description of those meetings appears lower in this FAQ section. Currently, both first and third Tuesdays are used for table readings of new work.

 

THE KINDS OF SCRIPTS THAT WE READ

Q: I’ve never attended a meeting before. Will you read my script?
A: Yes! It’s a nice idea and highly recommended to attend a meeting and see how we do things first, if you want to bring your script to us for an open table read. In fact, we ask that you attend at least a couple of meetings first as a listener or reader if you are interested in offering a full-length play (typically 80 pages or more). But if you have a one-act or shorter script and would like to jump in with both feet and have your play read at your first meeting, please contact us so we can discuss it and maybe pencil you into the schedule.

Q: Do plays need to get approved before being read?
A: No. We read all kinds of plays, all levels of quality. Whether mild-mannered or avant-garde, your first play or your 100th, we’re open to hearing what you’ve got. Our schedule fluctuates depending on how many people have indicated they have drafts they would like to bring to the table.

Q: Can I bring a full-length play? I don’t want to monopolize.
A: Sure! We have a schedule specifically so we can accommodate both short and long pieces. One thing, though: If you want to submit a full-length play, we require that you first attend at least two meetings first (at some point, over time) in person. We’re trusting you with a whole evening — so we need assurance that you’re not going to flake out!

Q: Can I bring the same piece to be read a second time, but in a later draft?
A: Probably. However, we do encourage a spread of time between readings of the same piece and a significant revision of the work. On the schedule we also would give priority to works previously unread by our group.

Q: Do you read screenplays?
A: Sorry, no. We read scripts intended for live theater. We do not accept scripts intended for film or television.

 

GETTING ON THE SCHEDULE

Q: How do I get on the schedule?
A: By email to info@pdxplaywrights.org or this address: submit@pdxplaywrights.org … or talk to the facilitator at our next meeting. We’ll figure out what slots are open, and which one will work best for you.

Q: How long will I have to wait for an opening in the schedule?
A: Sometimes we can get your play read at the very next meeting, two weeks away. Toward the end of the year, though, we’re more likely to have a full calendar. Then you may have to wait a number of weeks or even a couple of months.

Q: Can I schedule to be read several months from now?
A: Yes — but please check with us to see how far out we’re currently planning.

 

PREPARING YOUR SCRIPT

Q: What should I do to get my script ready?
A: We’ve compiled a few suggestions here: Preparing Your Script.

 

WHAT TO BRING TO YOUR READING

Q: What do I need to bring?
A: All you need to bring is yourself and copies of your script. Some authors have typed out questionnaires to guide discussion after the reading. You’re more than welcome to do this if you wish. The point of the reading is to get the sort of feedback that feels most helpful to you.

Q: What time should I arrive at the meeting?
A: The meeting begins at 7 p.m. With regret, PDXP is run by human beings who are often coming from their jobs or other responsibilities… On rare occasion, we are not able to arrive until just before 7 p.m. Most of the time, however, we try to start setting up the room at 6:45 p.m. If possible, we recommend that you try to arrive at about 6:45 p.m. too, so you have some time to get settled and deal with any last-minute issues.

Q: How many copies of the script do I need to make?
A: It’s wonderful if you can bring enough scripts so that everyone in the room can read along. However, it’s only required that you bring enough copies so that each of the people reading a part aloud has a copy. Important: Don’t forget to bring a script for the person reading stage directions!

Q: How many people attend PDXP meetings?
A: Typically we have about 12 people at a meeting. A low night is 8 people, a high night is 20 … we’ve had more, too. We ask people to RSVP before attending — but the truth is that we are still essentially a drop-in group.

Q: What if I don’t have a printer?
A: Many of our participants save their work on a portable thumb drive and bring their work to a commercial copy center to make copies. Some manage to reduce costs by using recycled paper or double-sided formats for purposes of the table read.

 

YOUR PLAY GETS READ ALOUD

Q: Who’s going to read my script?
A: Typically, at the start of an evening we ask our attendees for volunteer script readers. You, as the playwright, get to choose who from among the volunteers will read each role.

Q: Can I be one of the readers myself?
A: We recommend that the author not be a reader. We believe the author should get to just sit back and focus on hearing how the script sounds when read aloud. An exception: If the script is for a one-man or one-woman show where you intend to be both author and performer, then you may well want to be the person doing the reading. Your choice.

Q: Can I ask friends/actors I know to come read?
A: Absolutely. If you have someone in mind to read a role, ask them to come. PDXP is always glad to become acquainted with new actors.

Q: Can my friends/family come to just listen?
A: Yes, of course! The more, the merrier.

Q: My play involves projections that I want to show. Do you have a digital projector?
A: We can look into that availablilty, depending on the space. Please contact a PDXP admin team member. (Don’t forget that in this stage of your work, it’s the text that matters most, though!)

 

FEEDBACK FOR THE AUTHOR

Q: What feedback will PDXP give me about my play?
A: We have a default format that we use for responding to plays. We give feedback in three passes…

Round 1: “Popcorn responses.” Audience gives one-word responses that express their gut-level impression of the play. Alternately, they can echo back short phrases or images that they remember particularly clearly. The goal is to get a very general sense about how the play impacted the audience emotionally.

Round 2: “What worked about this play?” The audience talks about they liked, what was powerful, what served the structure well.

Round 3: “Questions from the playwright.” This last round is the most important — it’s where you get to ask the audience anything you want.

Q: Shouldn’t there be a question about what doesn’t work in the play?
A: Writing can be a very vulnerable act. Bringing your writing to be read requires a small (or large) act of bravery. We want to protect the author’s right to hear only as much criticism as they’re ready to digest. If you, the playwright, want to ask questions that invite only very narrow responses from the audience, then you are welcome to do so. If you want to ask for “brutal honesty,” well, then you are welcome to do that too … But still — PDXP’s facilitators will do our best to remind everyone to truly focus on the “honesty” part. Please do not be “brutal!”

Q: What sorts of questions should I ask my audience?
A:
You can ask anything you want. We recommend giving your questions some concerted thought in advance of the meeting. Here are a few ideas to get you started …

• Were there any parts where you found yourself bored or spacing out?
• Were there any bits of dialogue you remember that felt unnatural to you?
• Did the play end with you still feeling confused about anything?
• Did the characters actions feel realistic to you? Did anything seem forced?
• What was your interpretation of why [character] did [action]?
• What did you think happened at the end of the play?
• I’m floundering a bit with [that scene]. Any suggestions about how I could get it to work?
• What did you feel didn’t work about the play?
• I’d like to welcome whatever feedback you have. I’m open.

Q: I’ve got a lot of questions for my audience … What if we run out of time?
A: You could distribute your email address and ask people to write to you with further feedback. Unfortunately, for privacy reasons we cannot give you attendees’ email addresses; you’ll have to ask for that contact info from individuals yourself. Nor can we send out a mass-mailing after the event; only a small portion of the people on our contact list regularly attend meetings.

Q: I don’t like the default feedback format. Can I do something else instead?
A: Sure. You can even facilitate the feedback session yourself, if you want. Just talk to the evening’s designated facilitator beforehand so they know what to expect. Again, the point of all this is to get you the feedback that is most useful to you!

 

THIRD TUESDAY WORKSHOPS

Q: I’m curious about the “Third Tuesdsay” (3T) workshop format. What’s the idea?
A: We had heard the call from many PDXP folks who wanted more hands-on and intensive assistance during the initial stages of project development. For the first half of 2014, we designated our third Tuesday meetings (3T) – and ONLY the third Tuesdays – to be reserved for these works in progress. Those “3T” meetings adopted a different process both for selection of works to be discussed and for the format of the critique. Because of participation and timing constraints, this format has not yet been re-initiated, but eventually it might be. The goal was to provide playwrights:

• Time to hash out project ideas that are in their infancy

• Feedback on outlines as well as character and plot development

• Immediate, in-progress feedback on the first pages of your play, so that you can right your ship before you get too far off course.

Q: How does registration work?
A: In the latter half of 2014, the 3T format was at least temporarily suspended to accommodate regular table readings. When the 3T process is active, it works through our learning portal (found by clicking on the “Workshop” link on our Welcome page). For effective feedback, registration for 3T workshops will be limited, and subject to facilitation by the PDXP administration team. Participation will change over time, as writers complete projects, for example. However, we also have an ongoing Open Forum available for online feedback of this kind when participation in the full workshop is not available.

Q: How is the format different? How will the sessions work?
A: Playwrights involved in a 3T workshop will upload ten pages of their new play (or an outline for a new play) to the PDXP website one week or more in advance of the meeting. We will limit this to four playwrights per evening.

• Other registered members of the workshop will read these pages any time in advance of the meeting and show up to the 3T with notes.

• If the ten pages is further along in the play, a brief introduction will be provided. Playwrights may post the entire work-in-progress up to that point in case someone needs to “catch up.”

• Unlike first Tuesday sessions, pages for 3T sessions (when in effect) ordinarily will not be read during the meeting (in the interest of time). Instead, members will jump in with lively discussion and constructive feedback. Also, unlike the standard meetings, the playwright whose work is being discussed will take active part in the discussion for more detailed feedback at this stage of development.

• Formal guidelines will be posted, but this venue is for playwrights to hear generous, clear, appropriate, and honest, no-holds-barred feedback on their work.

• For those not familiar with this kind of workshop, we encourage you to ask questions of the admin team via e-mail to info@pdxplaywrights.org.

Q: I’m relatively new to all of this. Which format is right for me?
A: We recommend starting with our regular open table read meetings. They offer a great way to hear a play in development at a table reading and are recommended as a ideal way to begin participation in PDX Playwrights. Hearing a script of any length read aloud is an important part of play development. In that format, the writer guides the level of feedback. There is nothing wrong with submitting excerpts of plays in those meetings, although we highly recommend a completed draft. The 3T sessions, because of their more intensive critical nature, may be most useful for advanced writers just embarking on relatively longer works in progress.

Currently, first and third Tuesdays of every month will still be open for play table readings and feedback with no foreseeable changes in our established structure.

Still have questions? Write to us! We’re happy to chat.