thanks, Mary, for posting the list. And congrats on being a semifinalist!
due to my general math incompetence, honed over many years as an English major and facilitated by pocket calculators, I made an error in adding scores, and inadvertently omitted one semifinalist. The corrected list follows, and my apologies!
Ten Minute Plays
Jani Brandli, Somerville, MA: Moon Man
Sandra Dempsey, Toronto, ON, Canada : Rosa’s Lament
Jim Gordon, Norwalk, CT: A Good Deed
Evelyn Jean Pine, San Francisco, CA: Counting the Minutes
Judith Pratt, Ithaca, NY: Metaphorical Shoes
Linda Holland Rathkopf, Brooklyn, NY: First Tier
Douglas Stewart, Santa Fe, NM: Final Exam
Nicholas Tasi, Worcester, MA: Boxer
Justin Warner, Jackson Heights, NY: Lunch Boat
Harriett Weiss, Palm Springs, CA: Billie and Henry
One Act Plays
Dori Appel, Ashland, OR: Bon Voyage
Martha Boesing, Oakland, CA: Song of the Magpie
June Calender, New York, NY: After Evelyn
Jay D. Hanagan, Geneva, NY: Pitching the Good Game
Judy Carlson Hulbut, Tacoma, WA: Driving Daughter
Maureen Brady Johnson, Oberlin, OH: Limbo
Robert L. Kinast, Prairie Village, KS: Salt in the Pepper Shaker
Kathleen Kramer, Newfield, NY: Hearts of Cloves
John Lordan, Evanston, IL: Friendly Skies
Mary Steelsmith, Los Angeles, CA: List of Honor
Jan August, Mountain View, CA: Still in the Game
Donald Drake, Philadelphia, PA: The Passage
Judy Juanita, Oakland, CA: Theodicy
David Kravitz, Oak Park, IL: The Standoff
James McLindon, Northampton, MA: For Unto Us
Julia Perlstein, New York, NY: PLINKO!; or, the Goddess of Static Cling
Bonnie Rozanski, Lawrenceville, NJ: Still-Life With Dog
Mark Scharf, Gaithersburg, MD: The Whispers of Saints
Lynn Snyder, Berkeley, CA: Older Than Dead
Marcia Wilkie, Los Angeles, CA: Living Room
Nancy Zaman, Lake Isabella, CA: To Heir is Human
How goes it? I may have been reading too much into, but your mention of a mathematical error being to blame for the ommission of a semifinalist leads me to believe there is some sort of grading rubric that you use to rank submissions. Is that fair to assume? If so, I'm quite curious as to what that rubric looks like. Would it be shareable?
sure--don't have a copy here at home, and can send it next week when I'm in the office; essentially, there are four criteria with a total possible of 10 points in each criterion (things like originality, quality of dialogue, centrality of senior roles or concerns, etc.), and then a space for comments, and a place for the evaluator to check yes or no as to whether the text should be included in the Heckart Drama for Seniors Collection even if it doesn't make it to semifinalist status. About 25% of the scripts are so recommended.
I look forward to seeing it. I was thinking, while reading your original announcement, that it might help our little forum to use some kind of rubric in our critiques of one another (especially in the 'critique my play' section) to possibly get some sort of formal, quantifiable method of feedback... Just a thought.
You say "to possibly get some sort of formal, quantifiable method of feedback."
Whatever a particular organization must do to decide on their choices in a contest or competition is of course up to them. Something must be done to handle the sheer numbers submitted. I am grateful for every one who sponsors a competition, which is exactly what the Greeks did! We, as playwrights, all should be grateful whether our plays are chosen or not. It is a lot of work to run a competition..
But, from my perspective, on this Forum the joy of it is...there is nothing quantifiable, but only qualifiable.
I would hate to see this site getting into just the mathematics of it all. What is the difference between a 9 or a 10 when it comes to judging a play or any work of art? I have never seen an agent for actors or playwrights ever write a number in the assessment of someone's work. What is better when you get a play response? A number? Or a specific comment on an aspect/aspects of the play? Some Literary Managers are really good at it. Very professional. I received one the other day that was very well-written. And requested more work from me. Some do know how and take the time/have the time to do it. We know they are all pressed for time, as is anyone. But, it is their job! The good ones do it well.
When I have been asked to judge competitions, I overtly discount the "Prepared Criteria" of the award on such things as "originality", "playwrights voice" (what the hell does THAT mean???!!!!) and all the other mishmegosh and have the final judges read only my written critique. So far, the plays I have recommended in competitions have mostly all been chosen!
I passionately (what is the theatre without passion?!) believe the decision makers must work as hard as, and invest as much of their souls as the playwrights, as far as I am concerned. They must lay their *sses on the line emotionally and intellectually. There is little clinical about it. And the final decision makers must also work as hard as the playwrights who submitted. I take it THAT seriously. It is not easy work...if you take it seriously.
A reader must be as worn out as Solomon must have been. Sadly, I know from experience, many are not. And many do not read the entire play.
Just as when I audition actors: I feel I must work as hard as them to get a good audition out of them. I am exhausted at the end of an audition session. As an actor - at which I have made a good living - I have been in too many auditions where the people auditioning would rather be somewhere else. They will fly to a city for supposed auditions to see shows and visit friends or family just because the theatre pays for the trip! (Good use of my tax dollars on funded theatres!) I will not do that to actors. And I will not do that to writers. They will encounter that enough in their lives as actors, writers and artists, but not in my backyard or in my critiques.
No legitimate producer does it by "the numbers." I know producers...Tony Award winning producers...and Obie Ward winning producers, and believe me...most of it it is pure "gut" from their own artistic core. They are not just "money" people. And their gut can also be wrong! But at least they literally put their money - and their investors' money - where their mouth is.
The critiques on this Forum are best left the way it is. The moment there is a "system" it will lose its heart and soul and "guts" and instinct which is what the theatre is all about. We are not dealing in physics...although there is great poetry to physics - ask any physicist...unless it is the physics of the heart. Or read "Copenhagen" by Michael Frayn.
Some producers I have known are as good or better artists than the playwights! They are great nurturers and wise theater people and great showmen/women. If you ever get one of these who loves your play, you will be blessed! Which is why I suggest to students in theatre departments that they take all their knowledge and channel it into becoming great producers.
Let the critiques on the Forum - which are as good - despite their necessary brevity - as anywhere from my experience, say what they will. (Though it has been relatively quiet lately in the last few months) And then trust the playwrights to know enough to take those critiques and apply them or not apply them.
The genuine, caring and courtesy of the critiques on this Forum is what is most attractive to me. I would hate to see it go into a numbered quantifiable "system."
I am pretty much a classicist and a stucturalist. But I don't let that get in the way of being totally wonked over the head and speared through the heart by something written that totally out of left field moves me emotionally and spiritually or intellectually and that violates every rule in the book.
That is why "the space for comments" that Alan mentions in his reply to you would be the most important aspect of any critique I would value.
That's the most I've seen written in response for on here in a while... I appreciate your view, your thoughts, as always... However, will maintain my position, which is that it may be a valuable tool that CAN be used. It's not necessary that EVERYONE take part in using it, but it occurred to me that it might be a good idea after seeing so many theatres refuse to provide any criticism from submissions. I think, if there are people who frequent the forum who regularly grade, assess these submissions, why not let us in on seeing what ringer our works are being run through?
As an actor, I love seeing that kind of feedback, it only makes future auditions better and I'm sure it could have the same effect here.
That must be at least part of the reason so many of us lurk around the site, to find support that will foster growth.
Thank you. You already know I am a fan of what you are doing with your Greek project!
Sadly too many theatres do not have the time to provide critiques. And this would be form the people we as playwrights would consider most helpful. Ironic, isn't it?
What I have found is even if you get a form letter of rejection, there can be a short, courtesy note on occasion at the bottom. And I have received form rejection letters that say "we encourage you to submit more of your work" without any personal note, but they obviously liked the work and want you to submit more. And then there are form letters that just reject with no encouragement. The particular theatres are doing the best they can. They all have widely varied amounts of money dedicated to a Literary Department.
I think usually one gets a pesonal letter when the Literary Manager genuinely likes your work and feels they can comment on it without hurting the writer, and espcieally when they encourrage you to send more work.
I like comment sheets form readers. Some can be lacerating, but one of the best lacerating comments I got, which was quite brutal, made me look at a part of the play, and fix it up. Some readers comments sheets merely show the ineptness of the quality of the readers who are out there, however! Scary! (I am sure there are horror rejection stories on the Forum and would love to hear them! Maybe I'll start a thread!)
The best attribute about this Forum is the turnaround on a critique is pretty quick, unlike the 6 months to well over a year open response time from most theatres (this does not include compettions which have a deadline.)
I still believe what one says is better than a checked number.
found myself in office doing last minute things for a course that starts tomorrow morning at 8:30 (and goes to 12:30 each morning for two weeks, so things have to be in place), and so can get this off.
Here are the rating areas we use for the Heckart Competition:
quality of writing
appropriateness for senior actors
value for senior theatres
then there's a four inch space for comments.
Numerical ratings are obviously not nuanced. But with 506 entries, we need someway to evaluate material efficiently. If we were able to offer critiques and suggestions, we'd do it another way. Can't do that, however, with all-volunteer evaluators and no fees charged to writers. And I'd rather see our limited funding going into the prizes for the winners than to paying the honoraria I'd want to pay evaluators for extended comments.
Tradeoffs and compromises all around, obviously. And I'm always open for suggestions on how to do the job better, more fairly, and more usefully.
Only thing I would like to see is "Value for Theatres" and not just "Value for Senior Theatres."
I never have gotten into genre theatres, but I know there is a value to them for whatever reasons.
I would hate to see King Lear or The Gin Game or On Golden Pond or Cold Storage or The Master Builder or Trip to Bountiful or Duck Variations etc. et al, being considered only for Senior Theatre. The broader the market the better no matter what the theatre target audience is. It would be great to consider what would bring young audiences into a play with senior, or as a friend of mine says, "plays with well-seasoned characters" into a theatre.
Is "Long Day's Journey..." only for Irish audiences? Is All My Sons or Death of a Salesman or Fiddler on the Roof..."only for Jewish audiences? Is Cherry Orchard only for Russian audiences?
alan0198 wrote: As to whether the text should be included in the Heckart Drama for Seniors Collection even if it doesn't make it to semifinalist status. About 25% of the scripts are so recommended.
thanks for mentioning this part. I got an email saying I was not a semifinalist,but that my play was recommended for the Collection. I couldn't tell from that email if all plays were going into the collection or just some of them.
well, I'll have to keep "Value for Senior Theatres" since this is a criterion for a competition for senior theatres--and historically at least senior theatres haven't been considered as 'serious theatres' by many producers and writers, hence this competition! I agree, of course, that I'd hate to see plays ghettoized as being solely appropriate for a particular niche. But surely groups from a particular niche can seek plays using specific criteria? There are lots of good plays that would have no particular value for senior theatres, and would clog up the mailboxes of such theatres needlessly. Spring Awakening is a great play (and a great musical), but I can't imagine a senior theatre wanting to do it. Although Spring Awakening with a cast of performers all in their 60s or 70s would be a fascinating comment on societal preconceptions, come to think of it.
As a side note: when Moon for the Misbegotten was casting for its world premiere production in the late 1940s (the Theatre Guild opened it in Columbus, Ohio, of all places), O'Neill insisted that only Irish-American actors could be cast. Only those with Irish blood in them, he maintained, could properly understand the characters and the issues.
Too bad O'Neill did not live to see Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee in "Long Day's Journey Into Night." Sheer brilliance. May be availabe on DVD. And let's see... O'Neill's father played "The Count of Monte Cristo!" for twenty-five years! Now there is non-traditional casting! O'Neill grew up around it and never even knew it! But his roots were Irish from a much prior era. As a kid, I used to get stones thrown at me because I was a "goddamned Catlick." And my father had to deal with the KKK in Indiana.
But I suppose every ethnic/racial - now even cultural/political/sexual group - originally feels that an ownership of their own pain. There is a hubris in suffering - maybe especially in suffering. You should hear my Greek actor friends who complain about their never getting cast in the great Greek plays. "Hell, we invented theatre! We invented Tragedy!" Let's see, the Greeks wrote 2,500 years ago! I don't suppose August Wilson would have enjoyed a company of Connecticut WASPS originating the great roles in his plays. Christopher Plummer would have been great in "Fences" - heck I describe the play as "King Lear" trapped in a garbageman's' uniform - but James Earl Jones was the absolutely right person to originate the role!
Beckett had problems with casting. Basically O'Neill never felt any actor could truly convey what he had written. (What writer ever does! And I'll bet O'Neill was loads of fun at cast parties!) Neither did Shaw. Shaw used to intimidate the actors by demanding he do the first read for all of them to show them "how it should be done." I have read he was excellent! Hmmm, all Irish. Let's see...Mamet would not allow an all-female Glen Garry Glen Ross. In fact he turned down a ton of money to re-write it for a female cast - not that he needs the money! Ever meet any women in Real Estate? I would have loved to have seen a production like that! It is not about Real Estate...it is not about men...it is about the money and the power.
However, eventually the original artistic hurbris tires from its...well...its own hubris...and gets rounder edges when people realize they are truly theatrical characters and never were "real" people in the first place. They were theatrical characters from the moment of conception/inception. As Richard Schechner so described with great perception, and I must sadly paraphrase and use false quotes only to "set off":
"Theatrical characters are not real. They are Masks of Dramatic Action. They are characters of the theatre existing within their own separate Life System. To think they are real makes as much sense as someone trying to have a picnic on a landscape painting."
I love the idea of theatre as its own "Life System."
Hey, eventually, they even went so far as to allow women to play women's roles in Shakespeare! Now there was a novel idea! There is a great movie specifically about that called "Stage Beauty" which I recommend to everyone starring Billy Crudup/Claire Danes written by Jeffery Hatcher. Netflix it.
And here is an article about a Yiddish production of Gilbert and Sullivan I would loved to have seen! I think it would have been thrilling!
And I'd love to see a revival of "A Couple of White Chicks Sitting Around Talking" played by "house husbands."
You wrote: "Although Spring Awakening with a cast of performers all in their 60s or 70s would be a fascinating comment on societal preconceptions, come to think of it." A great idea! Just have the House Doctor(s) in the wings! Along with a pulmonary, orthopaedic and heart catheterization unit.