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Playwrights, Lyricists, Composers BLOG

Playwrights, Lyricists, Composers BLOG

Leicester Bay Theatricals often receives questions from playwrights on what we are looking for in the construction, writing, development, and producing of plays and musicals across all performance platforms.

  • What does a play need to be accepted by a publishing company?
  • What can I do to get my play produced?
  • Should my play be a musical?
  • Should my musical be a play?
  • Should I write for a particular audience?
  • Should I write for a particular theatrical market?

I will try to distill onto this page advice we have given and received from playwrights and friends. If anyone has advice or experience that they would like to share, please e-mail me with your comment. I have been reluctant to open this up as a true blog, as I have been a little leery of that form, due to so much spam and vitriol. After all, I do not want a Facebook battle happening on my site. But, the blog should be working.

I will try to post weekly on a Thursday.

Realistic Dialog BLOG — March 8, 2018

Posted by on Mar 9, 2018 in PLC BLOG | 0 comments

Have you ever heard the term “Realistic Dialog”?

It is a very misunderstood concept.

There is a huge difference between words sounding like someone could say them, that they come from a characters heart, and out of their mouth after hopefully passing through their brain; and speech that is directly off the streets, out of the boardroom, the school, the hairdresser’s salon, or any myriad of other types of locations where playwrights set the action of their plays.

It is a good thing that the words being spoken by a character sound like that character would sound — logical, regional, conscious of their class and place in the world (unless of course, they are lying or creating a subterfuge).

It is not a good thing for the words to sound like they just walked in off the streets, or out of the boardroom, or the boss’ office, and slapped the character in the face with their ordinariness, their sense of commonplace, their utilitarian slang-ness, and then popped out of their mouth.

When we playwrights wroght a play (like an ironworker wroughting something out of metal: shaping, twisting, hammering, stretching, reheating and reusing) we do not take just ordinary words as our arsenal. We, like all good fiction writers––whether it’s truth or fiction that is the basis of our story––must build a world for the characters of our plays to inhabit. That includes language. Even the character of lowest social standing will, in a play, have words chosen for him that fit the time, the place, the emotional subtext, and nuances of his personal life and education, or lack of it. But they are not the words of a person similar to our character, who could be sitting in the audience, listening to this character so much like him or her; wondering how this character sounds so right and yet not just like the person sitting there, but so appropriate for the character speaking to us out of the created and heightened world of a play on a stage in a theatre.

It is NOT reality, folks. You should never use words or phrases simply because they ‘sound real.” Each word, clause, phrase, main thought or subjunctive, is carefully chosen by the playwright to help the character inhabit his or her world; give insight into thought and feeling; give rise to action.

There was a movement in the early part of the 1930s where producers went to Europe, and other places, and actually cut the room of an apartment, and other locations, out of a building, and brought it back to NYC and put it on a stage as the habitation for the actors of the play he was producing. The actors felt out of place. The dialog created for them did not work in a ‘real’ environment.

Neither does ‘real’ dialog work in the wonderful physical creation of a playwright aided by a brilliant scenic designer.

Listening to real people talk CAN give you rhythms, a cadence of speech, sounds of vowels and consonants, accents, regionalisms, speech defects –– all those things that make people interesting to listen to. But these words, in and of themselves, do not belong on a stage. Unless they are ‘chosen’ by the playwright because they need them to ‘live’ for a moment on a character’s journey.

In almost all cases, the time of a play is between 20 minutes and two-and-a-half-hours. The time span of the play may be days. Our dialog cannot be ‘real’ because we are not dealing with ‘real’ time.

A character’s life on the stage is heightened, sped-up, made up of carefully chosen moments of a day that are edited together by a skillful playwright. I think you would, as would I, be bored to tears if we attended a two hour play and the action was just like a real two hours just excised from the lives of a group of associated people. Not interesting. Not DRAMATIC.

We have language. It is a gift. The purpose of dramatic writing is to time warp along the tesseracts of a character’s life, hit the high points and the low points, in some sort of artful and meaningful imagined arrangement, and cause an audience to be compelled along with these characters on their ‘pretend’ journey. We cut the mundane in order to present the moments that will elicit a laugh or a tear or a gasp or a sigh. This can’t be done with random everyday words.

Actors are not the people they play. They are actors. Language is a tool for all disciplines in the theatre, even those who do not speak onstage. Everyone on a production team focuses on the words. Lighting punctuates scenes where emotion is brewing in a roiling sort of way. Costumes often are constructed based on what one character says about himself, or about someone else. There are strange angles and levels on the set to heighten the emotion and the perception, telling the audience where to focus.

If the play wants to be ‘real’ just put an overhead ceiling light on and let the actors perform under it in jeans and a t-shirt, with the back wall of the stage open to view. See how many tickets you sell to that one.


— © 2018 by C. Michael Perry (Educational use permitted.)

A Playwright’s Potential to Excellence — August 10, 2017

Posted by on Aug 10, 2017 in PLC BLOG | 0 comments

A Playwright’s Potential to Excellence — August 10, 2017

Apply this to you, the Playwright (Composer, Lyricist) and to each of your characters. It sort of goes along with what I wrote last time, but since humans have been talking about this for at least 2000 years, I thought it would be good to mention it again.

“Tentative efforts lead to tentative outcomes.
Therefore give yourself FULLY to your endeavors.
Decide to construct your character [yours and those in your play] through excellent actions and determine to pay the price of a worthy goal. The trials you encounter will introduce you to your strengths.
Remain steadfast…and one day you will build something that endures; something worthy of your potential.”
Roman teacher and philosopher — 55-135 AD

I think Epectitus should have been a playwrighting teacher. This advice is perfect for creating characters in your plays and musicals who live and breathe in the moment, who strive against all odds for their goals, and who keep going through every setback. [A playwright can use this to shape his or her life, also.] This is not necessarily a rose-colored-view. Our characters can do all this and still fail. [Tragedy] They can try again and again and fail and fail until they finally succeed [either Comedy or Drama]. Or they can succeed admirably, having learned the lessons along the way, and having survived the process of life. [again Comedy or Drama]

TENTATIVE means, of course, half-hearted, not fully committed, hesitant, not thinking they/you are up to the task. They/you must believe, even if the goal seems impossible.

FULLY, above means a depth of commitment to achieving whatever it is your characters or you have set for themselves/yourself.

EXCELLENT means that only the best actions will get them/you where they really want to be. Anything less than EXCELLENT and they/you will not come close to the realization of their/your needs. As a teacher in a drama classroom for over a decade, one of the mantras on the wall was “What is easy is seldom excellent.”

PAY THE PRICE means that they/you choose to take the risks, even if those risks seem impossibly high, for those are the ones which most often help a character achieve success.

Engage yourself in the work. Engage your characters strongly. Allow your characters to engage each other with zeal and that do-or-die attitude. That will make excellent theatre, whether it is traditional or experimental in form.

— C. Michael Perry © 2017 All Rights Reserved

Why Do You Write For The Theatre – 27 July 2017

Posted by on Jul 28, 2017 in PLC BLOG | 0 comments

Why do you write for the theatre?
A Playwright, a Lyricist, a Composer?
What gets you up in the morning to begin?
What keeps you up at night, because the words or melodies in your head won’t leave you alone?
What can interrupt any moment of any day, just so you can jot something down?
Why won’t they leave you alone? What have you done to insure that you will always want to write?

Can you define why you write? What drives you?
If you can you will be on the road to a long and satisfying career, whether amateur or professional––or somewhere in-between.
If you cannot, then don’t bother.
Dedication and commitment are the two things that are necessary for any writer, let alone a writer of theatre. (Or should that be a ‘wrighter’ of theatre?)
Your answers to these, and other questions will help you keep going when either the writing or the re-writing is getting tougher and tougher.

You are just like an actor/character in one of your plays. That actor/character has a goal––an objective. It has to be strong. Personal. Motivational to keep him or her interesting and productive on stage. That same something can keep you going even when you want to quit!

  • Do you merely want to express yourself through the medium of drama/theatre?
  • Do you want to explore new ways of doing and thinking?
  • Do you want to inform an audience of theatre-goers, or even readers?
  • Do you want to propose new ideas, or solid older ideas in a new way?
  • Is it the beauty in life, or the trials of life that you want to expose?
  • Do you want to change lives?
    Then keep writing! You have at least the correct questions that you are asking. Get as specific as you can when you provide answers to these questions. The more narrow and pertinent your answers are, the more likely you are to not only keep writing,and writing well, but to succeed at it.


  • Do you want to see your name in print? In lights? On a marquee?
  • Do you want to rub shoulders with the elite?
  • Do you want to leave your mark on the theatre?
  • Do you want to be in control of the words on your page?
  • Do you want to sit back and wait for the fat royalty checks?
  • Do you want to be famous and looked up to?
  • The stop writing and get a job.
    I am not saying that all these things cannot come with the life of writing for the theatre — they certainly can — but they will never keep you motivated to churn out scenes and songs, scripts and scores, attending endless rehearsals with interminable re-writes, day after day.What are the rewards?
    Certainly there is the satisfaction of getting it right. The trust you engender in others when you persist. The occasional ‘yes’ as you submit a play! The reaction of an audience to some of your favorite moments in your play or musical. The reading of your play. The Premiere Production of your musical. The licensing agreement!
    Believe me — these are results that can keep you going. However, when these results are still in the future, what can keep you going? Your thoughtful and honest answers to the questions above, along with any others that you may want to ask yourself.
    You know yourself better than anyone else! Write every question down on a piece of paper (on a computer screen) FIRST. DON’T ANSWER THEM — YET! After you have about 12-20 questions — then start going through them and creating truthful, workable, motivational answers.
    Post them around your workspace.
    Tape or glue them to the inside of the folder of the script or score you are currently working on.
    Post-it note them on your computer desktop?
    Or on a post-it note that you stick to your monitor!
    Or on the bulletin board behind it.
    On the mirror in your bathroom.
    On a kitchen cabinet where you keep your most often eaten foods.
    On the fridge!
    Give yourself every chance to succeed by asking yourself the right questions and asking them often!

Thanks for reading! Thanks for listening!

© 2017 by C. Michael Perry ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Conflict — July 20, 2017

Posted by on Jul 20, 2017 in PLC BLOG | 0 comments

Conflict — July 20, 2017

You know — many playwrights struggle over conflict. Some even wonder if they can do without it. Some think it is fine, but how do they use it? Some don’t like conflict, so they try to avoid it. Others prefer to just let their characters talk things out.

In just trying to decide if you want, need or should write conflict, you have proven that conflict is essential and inherent in every story, in every relationship, in every thought process.

You cannot do without conflict.

Every scene, every ‘moment’ must have some level of conflict in it; some relationship to the story of the play.

If we look at the acting system distilled from the Stella Adler school of acting, we come up with: Objectives, Obstacles, Tactics. (Which, of course, is based in The Method of another great acting teacher.)
In other words, each character should ask:

  1. What do I need?
  2. What or who stands in my way?
  3. What am I willing to do to get what I need?

A playwright is well-advised to study this ‘method’ (any acting method really) because then all of the action that a particular playwright concocts will be character driven and story centered.

We must also separate the character’s wants from his or her needs. Needs are stronger and last over time,  driving us to a final goal. Wants are often intense (think of impulse buying), but then they usually fade quickly. Now, also, as a playwright and as a character, a want can be employed as a sub-division of a need. Often, a want can get a character through a scene, where a need may be too intense, be too big too early. But the want may be constructed to feed the need, and thusly help the character achieve their objective — at least in the scene or the moment.

Each want or need met in a scene either propels the character forward, or sets them back. Both of those are good and build to the next want or need.

Also — each character that is placed in the script will have some interaction with the principal character’s need, or objective. By varying degrees, the central character will be impacted by each of those obstacles and characters differently — but especially the obstacles which the principal antagonist sets in the path of the central character.

The importance of these obstacles and their relationship to the need should tell the playwright that the most difficult-to-overcome obstacles should be saved for later, lest the play build too quickly, or too unevenly, or actually be resolved too soon.

As the principal character navigates around those obstacles, some may be easily hurdled, some may take some effort, or little effort — others require everything that the character has in the moment.
Each way that a character chooses to step around a hurdle, or uses to confront and do away with a hurdle, or employs to plow through but is then bounced off a hurdle, gives a method, or if not so organized as that, a pattern, to his or her journey through the story arc.

We are complex beings, sometimes obtuse beings. Our characters must be likewise and like-minded. We don’t always see the best way to achieve our goals. Sometimes we never find a way through — that is tragedy. Sometimes we try something that every other character knows is wrong — that is comedy.

If you consistently ask yourself, “What does my character want in this scene?” you will be ahead of the game. When you employ the question, “How far is my character willing to go to get what he or she needs?”, then you will have drama of the first order.

The great Russian acting teacher, Konstantin Stanislavski, called the major story arc a “SuperObjective”. It is the backbone-thread of any play that links all characters to it, but it is driven by the need seen as vital to the principal character/central character/protagonist. Everything is seen through that need.

A need must be strong — vitally important. It cannot be ambivalent, peripheral, dispensable, or unfocused. The need must be clearly seen by the protagonist. It must be intense enough to drive him or her. The things that are NOT seen by the protagonist are the obstacles that will be placed in his or her way, and the choices of the tactics that he or she will employ in the moment to achieve that vital objective, or goal.

I mentioned another important concept about tactics in the previous paragraph. They occur in the moment. They must seem spontaneous. They cannot appear convenient or pre-conceived in any way. Some times the tactic will seem well-suited to the situation. Sometimes not. Sometimes when chosen in desperation — meaning that the antagonist has clearly unsettled the protagonist — a desperate tactic may lead to so many wonderfully deep or dark places for the protagonist to explore. These are called RISKS.

Always take risks, even if it is just to see if they pan out or not. A play full of risk-taking, on the part of the protagonist as he reacts to what the antagonist has done, or on the part of the antagonist as he creates ever-inventive road-blocks for his nemesis, is a play that is fulfilling, worthy of the time which the actors and director will spend to put it together, and the time (and money)that an audience will invest in coming to see it.

So maybe a good title for this little rant is: Use “Objective-Obstacle-Tactic-filled risk-taking.” It will pay off every time with a riveting play that has explored all of its possibilities. A fully explored play will be most satisfying to an audience, leaving them without the ability to ask the question, ‘What would have happened if…?”

* remember we are called, ‘PlayWrights’ people who, like iron-workers, heat-up, hammer, twist, shape, bend, the material we are working with and fashion it – or “Wright” it [like wrought iron] into something from its separate malleable elements– not merely PlayWrites, where we simply “write’ words on a page.

© 2017 by C. Michael Perry

Character Arc What and Why – May 25, 2017

Posted by on May 25, 2017 in PLC BLOG | 0 comments

Character Arc What and Why – May 25, 2017

What is a Character Arc and Why is it necessary?

A Character Arc is the journey that a character takes through his or her life in the play. It encompasses backstory, yes, but it’s biggest focus is what happens to the character during the course of their two hours on stage, and maybe secondarily, what their future might hold after the play ends.

I believe each character has an arc. Others would disagree. Some arcs are huge, covering a lot of ups and downs, plenty of emotional shifts, wide changes in behavior and/or thought. Others may have very little movement; but no character is entirely static. If you have a completely static character, why have them in the play at all? Their interruptions, distractions – conflicts with others – might best be handed by another character.

Each character has a beginning point in your story. They start somewhere, physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually — there is a place for germination or fertilization. The conflicts that character either endures, fails to endure, ignores, or succeeds in defeating, make up the character arc.

Character arcs interact. If each character does not connect in some way to your principal character, then they might be superfluous. One character may not interact with every other character in the play. That is all right, since, it is the principal character’s arc that becomes centric, all others flow to it, through it, or away from it. There is a causality. Each arc affects other arcs, but all arcs should have a cause and effect on the principal character’s arc. If they don’t, why are they in the play? Well, there might be a secondary character who’s arc is affected and in turn affects the principal character. That gives levels of arc.

Not every play will need all of this arc-interaction. But I feel most do.

Some characters may not seem, or even look, as if they do anything! But examine them closely. If you say that a character does not change, that may, in itself, be an arc, because their NOT changing causes reactions in others. They are not static. They may not, in themselves, grow; but they cause either growth or stagnation in other characters. So they have an arc as measured against the over-all through line.

Character Arcs are based in the character’s wants, needs, desires, likes, and dislikes.They center around what a character does to achieve those aims. All theatre/drama/comedy is centered on action; the physical/mental/emotional/psychological/spiritual raison d’etre for each character, but especially your “principal protagonist’ and his or her ‘principal antagonist’; how wants are undertaken, and how obstacles delay or even halt forward progress.

These different tactics give variety to a character, and fully-drawn characters give interest and purpose to the play. Call it a well-made-play, or not. Most involving drama benefits from solid arcs for each character. Remember this: once you know ALL the rules, then you will know which ones to break for your play. (If you feel you need to break them at all!)


© 2017 by C. Michael Perry ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Submitting To A Theatre – May 5, 2017

Posted by on May 5, 2017 in PLC BLOG | 0 comments

Submitting To A Theatre – May 5, 2017

Submitting a Play or Musical to a Theatre

There are many opportunities for this to happen, here are just a few:

If you write musicals, then there is a very good resource for you to join with, or become aware of. The Musical Writerzine by Carol DeGuire is an exceptional help in discovering quarterly who is accepting what and from whom. Contact Carol: VISIT:(

For writers of all sorts of theatrical enterprises the New Play Exchange offers a lot of visibility for your product. You register as a writer (I think it’s a $10 yearly fee). It is a database with notifications depending on what you select as categories. You will get email notifications from the producers/theatres who are listed and looking for new plays like the ones you write. VISIT:

Also Ken Davenport, a Broadway/Off-Broadway producer of note (GODSPELL, THE VISIT, KINKY BOOTS, & DADDY LONG LEGS, SPRING AWAKENING, ALLEGIANCE, to name a very few — also recently named as Executive Producer for North America at the Really Useful Group [Andrew Lloyd-Webber]) — offers many services (some free) at his Producer’s Perspective site. ( He offers a lot of insight into the world of Broadway (and beyond). His podcasts and blogs are of special interest. He also takes script submissions, and has a database where you can register as a writer or director.

If you want to submit to a certain Theatre Company, then it is always best to search that company’s site for submission information: dates submissions are taken, whom to submit your material to (dramaturg, artistic director, play selection committee — or other — get a name if you can! — make your cover letter/email stand out by personalizing it), types of material they are looking for, types of material they are NOT looking for. Suggestion: do check on the plays and musicals they have produced, study their mission statement and who they are as a theatre company — then you can see if your title can fit their mission — and you market it that way. What can your play/musical do for them? That’s a pretty good hook. Compare your show to shows they have already produced, not in quality (don’t toot your own horn too much) but in style, audience base, familiarity or uniqueness of the piece. Relate to them without too much buttering up. No one likes a slice of bread with too much butter.

Be sure to track your submissions, having seen the length of their response time, contact them about a week after that time expires to see if they have gotten to your project yet. But don’t badger them. Respect their time.

It is a long process, sometimes an involved one, and you have to get used to waiting; but you can succeed at it if you are willing to take the time and put effort into it to get it as right as you can.

C. Michael Perry

© 2017 by C. Michael Perry ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

The Process of Theatre Writing – April 20, 2017

Posted by on Apr 20, 2017 in PLC BLOG | 0 comments

The Process of Theatre Writing – April 20, 2017

What can I say about playwrighting that can take you from the ideas, to the words, to the page, to the stage? Not a lot in one sitting.
I have written the scripts for a dozen or so musicals and written the music and lyrics for more than 30 more. I was commissioned at the age of 18 to write my first musical. At age 19 I finished it, together with some of my closest friends, and the commissioners actually produced it and it was quite successful. That was in 1973. I have won awards, been produced across the world, and have spent more hours inside a theatre in rehearsal, than some people have been alive. I have quite enjoyed the process of writing.  I spent years as a professional actor, then a director/choreographer, then a teacher in the public schools. It has all brought me great joy, but writing is my passion.
It must be yours to be good at it.
There is nothing more satisfying than to hear a laugh (in the proper places) at something you have written that was supposed to be funny. There is nothing more awesome than being able to evoke an emotion from an audience, even a tear or a gasp, when they see something that you have created and it touches them in those places that only the a spirit can reach.
Writing is a process. For the Theatre writing is THE process. It begins with a concept, an idea, a story. Don’t ever ask, “what story am I going to tell?!” Ask, instead, “whose story am I going to tell?” Each story is added to, refined, reworked. The writing is not done once it is on the page, because a script is not a novel. Living actors must be able to inhabit the characters you write for them. The process is not complete without rehearsal. In rehearsal you learn what does and doesn’t work the moment your actors start speaking your words. LISTEN to them. If you keep saying, “They’re not getting it,” maybe you should consider that it is you who didn’t get it. A written script is not even a road map without the actors. It is only a guide book. If you think your script is perfect before the actors get a hold of it, stop writing because you will not be successful.
An open mind is a terrible thing to waste. It is also a major hurdle to have a mind so full that you know everything there is to know. Even Shakespeare did not always get it right.
The process of theatre writing is re-writing. It is listening to what is happening on the stage. It is sometimes more important to listen to what is NOT happening on the stage. Then make sure that what needs to happen is what does happen. The theatre is not made up of words alone, but words that embody action. Nobody wants to go to a play or musical and hear words that lead nowhere. Hyperbole? No!
Active, progressive stories and characters that take us on a journey; that is what you have to create. Every word must contribute to the overall arc of the play. Every character must fit into that arc. Each word moves us forward into some action that is inevitable. This means that you must choose each word very carefully. One word out of place and the story is broken, delayed, unfulfilled. Not shattered, but ineffective. Too many words and the story is clouded, over-burdened. Too few words and there are gaps, chasms, in the through-line.
Characters have wants and needs. Sometimes the plot is as simple as the character going after what he or she thinks they want rather than what the audience comes to understand that they really need. This is one thing that binds an audience to a theatrical piece: they are discovering something before the character does and long to have that character find out what it is. The needs and wants of the characters work on several levels. Each scene has a want and/or a need. Each conversation can be broken down into wants and needs — these are things that are immediate. Then there are the long term goals, the over-arching wants and needs.
Where does your character want to be at the end of the play? What do they want to achieve? Each character must want something or someone, or has a need to do something or be someone. These must interrelate; must either contribute to or take away from the main character’s ability to obtain what he or she wants. Each character is either a help or a hindrance. They are colleagues or enemies, and all the shades that go with that. Sometimes they can be both friend and foe at different times. Ambivalence in a character is acceptable. Ambivalence in an author is not.
At the end of the play does your central character achieve his or her Objective? Then you may have a comedy, or a serio-comedy, or maybe even just a drama. Do they not get what they want? Then you might have a tragedy, or at least fine drama.
Every bit of dialog is an interaction with a chain of reactions to what is said and/or done. It all must work together for the viewer. The audience members are the reason we are all there in the first place. If you are just writing for yourself — that is fine — but send it to a therapist.
Most times we find ourselves as a playwright or a composer locked away in a room. That’s what it sometimes takes to create the kernel or the nut of the concept or idea. But it is only through collaboration that the true writing process of the theatre expands your piece into something stageworthy. Sometimes this collaboration works with yourself if you have a really open mind and a propensity that leads you away from schizophrenia. This collaboration can also be in the form of working with actors and directors and designers who all bring something to the table for you to sample. You, as the playwright, must decide on what ingredients work best in your play. It is yours, after all.
I love collaboration, with the actors, but also with another writer. Some of my best work has been sitting in a room with one of my collaborators (or even lately Skyping with them — not quite as good but it still works) and bouncing ideas off each other and becoming inspired by the comments and contributions of your fellow writers. (This is how TV writers work together in a group. Not that all television writing can be held up to an acceptable standard.) One word or thought can lead to a new lyric or a better-constructed scene. Put lots of words together that lead to action, or reveal character maybe through their inaction, and the play starts becoming a better-constructed play overall.
After all is said and done, you must serve the play. What is best for the play is what you must write. Sometimes you have an idea or a concept that becomes unworkable. You have to be willing, as a writer, to let go of what does not work. Jettison the refuse. Start over if you have to. A friend just talked to me, after the premiere of her new play that I attended, that a show I was in that she wrote many years ago was being conceptualized and a first draft written while she was Assistant Directing another original show (not written by her) that I was performing in. She got a script together. Then read through it. She was so disgusted that as she walked by a trash can she just let the pages fall from her fingers and started over again. She didn’t like a word she had written. She told me it was ‘awful’. You have to set your ego aside for the betterment of the child you are trying to give birth to. You want a healthy, walking, talking, laughing, crying child. Aunts and Uncles, Grandparents, church leaders, teachers, community members — all contribute the raising of a child. But it is the parents that eventually filter what the child sees, feels, hears, experiences. The same process works in the theatre except that these ‘relations’ are replaced by your colleagues; the people you work with. But you must be the parent.
There is also an important concept that lies within working with collaborators, or colleagues: Working with. They don’t work for you. The Director is also not your boss. The theatre is nothing more than a collaborative process with each person doing his or her part to contribute to the whole. It is like a built-in society operating under a law of communal living: everyone with their strengths and talents contributing equally; having an equal chance to be heard.
If you want to write, sit down and write. Do it longhand, use a typewriter, use a computer — speak your notes into your phone! Whatever. Just start the process. Gather your friends around and read it together often! Feedback on what works and what doesn’t work, will come from the strangest and most unexpected of places. Have an open mind. Be willing to accept that you don’t do everything correctly.
Remember this, that the title of the show we know as Oklahoma! was Away We Go! as it entered Boston on it’s tryout tour in 1943. The title song had not even been written yet and it was only two weeks before the New York opening! Remember also that the song Bali H’ai from South Pacific was hurriedly scribbled on the back of a restaurant napkin during lunch between the morning and afternoon rehearsals of ‘preview week’. Richard Rodgers left the afternoon rehearsal and by dinner time had the song written and arranged and in the show.
Seek inspiration. Then listen to it. Don’t always pretend you know better. You don’t. There is a guide out there. Call him God, call her Muse, that doesn’t matter. Just listen.
Seek information. Don’t be afraid to research. Ask questions. Solicit opinions. Change your mind.
Use words that lead to actions. Illicit actions and thoughts from your performers. Watch them. And listen.
Use thoughts that express desires, wants needs. Listen.
It is all part of the writing process for the theatre.

C. Michael Perry

© 2017 by C. Michael Perry ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Submitting to a Publisher – April 13, 2017

Posted by on Apr 13, 2017 in PLC BLOG | 0 comments

Submitting to a Publisher – April 13, 2017

Well, this one can be complicated. Each publisher has different requirements for play and musical submission. Some are agented, (which means that only if you have an agent can you be placed with that particular publisher). Some only publish from certain markets, (which means if you have not had a New York City production you can pretty well count on not being read, let alone accepted, by some publishers (especially in the Musical market). Some accept unsolicited manuscripts! (not many).

If your play has not been produced — do not send it to anyone but an agent or directly to a producer. (Those are entirely different strategies than submitting to publishers.)

For open submissions policies, there are usually 3-steps you have to go through. Never send anything unsolicited! Ever! Nyet! Ka-put!!! Even if they say they accept unsolicited manuscripts. It will sit forever until they reader gets around to it. Believe me, they have stacks and stacks of material to wade through.

First, is the research.

Check online for their submissions policies, types of scripts accepted, and times of the year that submissions are accepted. You might also stroll through their catalog to see what titles they have and what titles they do not have, paying particular attention to titles that are NOT in the catalog. Notice what audiences their plays cater to, which performing groups seem to be targeted by the Publisher. You may have the best adaptation of Little Women ever!!! But if a publisher already has one or two versions (play, musical, short, full-length, small-cast, large-cast) you might want to consider not submitting to that publisher, unless your adaptation can be easily distinguishable from their current options and made to stand apart from all others.

Second, is the QUERY LETTER.

This is more than just a letter of introduction (in which you tell them about yourself in a few words as possible), you should also include a more formal BIO or VITAE SHEET.  Your query should include a cast list (with description of each character), a list of previous productions, letters of recommendation from producers, any reviews, a good synopsis (with song placement, if a musical) that describes the uniqueness of your particular version (See “Writing a synopsis”, below), and a sample 3-8 pages of a scene for dialog purposes (including a song lyric, if a musical). If a musical you may be asked to submit either a sample mp3 AND a sample page of sheet music and/or a lyric sheet.  There may be other requirements, so check with each publisher.

Third, is the FULL SUBMISSION.

This will be an entire script and score with possible CD or download of mp3s. There may be other requirements, so check with each publisher.

As to formatting your document.

Each publisher has its own way to format for print purposes. Do not worry terribly about the format of your submission, as long as it is clean and readable and LOOKS professional. White space on the page is preferred. (Wide borders) You can use the Samuel French format with character names centered (ALL-CAPPED, BOLDED), stage directions tabbed close to center and possibly parenthesized (and italicized), with dialog flush left. You can also submit in the format of all character names (ALL-CAPPED and BOLDED) and dialog in paragraph format, flush left, with stage directions indented and italicized. If a musical, you should indent your lyrics to a different setting than the stage directions, which could be italicized.

Ease of the read is what a publisher wants out of your formatting. You must also know that playreaders, acquisitions editors, read fast. If you know your play isn’t ready — don’t submit. I have too often read the first 4-8 pages of some full scripts and just placed them in the ‘NO’ pile. Most publishers can tell when a play is not right for them within those few pages. Sometimes it is not about the quality of the play. Your play may be great, but not right for their market, or what the publisher is looking for at that particular moment, sometimes because of its similarity to other material already in the catalog. (Do your research)

Don’t be disheartened. Even though you may not get all sorts of notes from a publisher, they still may include something in their rejection letter. Read it carefully. Do not contact them to ask what was wrong with your play. Another ‘NO’. It is NOT however, time to throw your play into the round recycler or stuff it through the shredder! Do not react emotionally. I know that one of your children has just been pronounced not bright enough to be promoted, but the time has come for further education!

Get a table reading together, with colleagues, if you can — and with friends, if you must. Rework the play after the first read, then take suggestions from the readers (and any listeners you invited), especially if you had some from the Publisher, and make improvements. Then do another table read. Query the cast to see if you have met the hurdles set for you by those rejection notes.

Get another production — even if it is by a small company, or is only a staged reading — all productions are valuable. It doesn’t matter if the producer is amateur or professional or educational — it is a production. All playwrights should be interested in is getting the play up and on its feet. You can’t do that without involving actors and a director.


Avoid self-praise. Let the reviews you send do that for you. Tell about the story, who the characters are, what their struggle is, why producers might be interested in this title. You might even tell them how it all works out. Create mystery and excitement without hyperbole. Give a sense of the style in which you write or the style of performance that you feel is best suited to your script. Give them help to see it on the stage of their imaginations. Get them interested in reading your script! Focus on what you think your script can do in their marketing programs. How does your title fill a niche in their market? What audience? Which producer? Does it fit with other pieces in their catalog with similar marketing goals and strategies?

Above all — keep promoting yourself! Getting your play into the hands of producers may help your chances at getting published. Find its audience! Find its market! Promote! Promote! Promote!

Don’t be mad at the Publishers, they don’t always get it right, but they do know their market. They read for that market. They are focused on ‘who would produce this play’ while they are reading it. That phrase plays over and over in their minds while the words slip by on the page.

So, Break A Leg!

© 2017 by C. Michael Perry ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

How many characters should I write for – 3 March 2017

Posted by on Mar 30, 2017 in PLC BLOG | 0 comments

In a recent post on a Facebook Playwrights page the number of characters in a play or musical was discussed.

Now: Number of characters does not necessarily mean the number of actors needed to play them.
Double-casting, or multiple casting, is usually a directors choice, but sometimes a playwright may choose the device of one, or all, of his/her performers, playing multiple characters, including opposite gender casting. It is wonderfully theatrical!

My collaborator and I are working on a musical that is looking like 8 characters will be portrayed by 8 actors. Our previous musical ended up having 8 characters needing 8 actors to tell the story. Anyone see a pattern developing?

If you are expecting professional and regional theatres to produce your play, the cast numbers (not necessarily character numbers) must be lower (musicals can get away with a few more bodies onstage than plays can).

But if you are writing for the school or community market — and most plays end up there anyway through licensing — then you can be a bit more generous in involving characters to tell your story. Even if the roles could be doubled, some/most schools and community groups have the numbers of performers to fill the cast.

I am not saying that you should write for a market, but it does not hurt to keep a market in mind. After all, a play is not meant to be read, but performed. If your piece is too unwieldy because of an overly large cast, it might satisfy artistically, but may never be produced. Remember: Sophocles and Shakespeare wrote to be produced, not read later and appreciated throughout time. Write what your piece demands. Listen to the muse, even though sometimes you may have to put a muzzle on him or her.


Serve the show, first. Then look at the markets. See how many of them your show covers (as far as number of performers is concerned — you may be surprised), then get your play or musical produced.


© 2017 by C. Michael Perry ALL RIGHTS RESERVED