The Place for Festivals in NPD

The Place for Festivals in NPD

Should I Submit to a Festival?


I’m coaching with a client this week, and we’re discussing the importance of submitting your work on a regular basis to theaters, festivals and other opportunities that are found on places such as, the Dramatist’s Guild website, and on the newsletter.

When we sat down together to create a “best practice” routine, she balked at submitting her play to one of the festivals that I recommended.

“Oh, no,” she said. “One of my friends said to never submit to a festival until you’ve tried absolutely everything else first.”


Well, I get it. Why should a writer self-produce a festival show when maybe someone else could produce it for you? The problem is that finding funding, especially at the beginning of your writing journey, is getting harder all the time.

Welcome to the 21st century American theater.


But I Don’t Want to Self-Produce!


“But I’m a writer, not a producer!” is the common refrain I hear. “It’s hard enough to write the play, much less learn how to produce it. I want to be the writer and let someone else be the producer.”

The reality is that unless you’re already a writer with a proven track record of produced work, no one is going to be lining up, checkbooks in hand, to help you get your work onstage. Sorry, sometimes it’s better to face the truth.

You’re going to have to be the one to jumpstart the process.

I always recommend a proactive approach first: submit, submit, submit. Build your regional portfolio of readings, workshops and residencies as much as possible, since many of these opportunities are funded by a nonprofit theater or theatre company. If your script is good and you submit the suggested 4-8 scripts each week, you’ll start to see some movement forward. But that being said, sometimes it is a long wait, and frustration sets in.

When that happens and I start to hear the frustration of, “but I’m not getting any younger,” then I believe it’s time to start considering self-producing your work in a festival.

With one caveat: to make a festival production count you need to be ready for it – otherwise, without preparation and planning, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment, more frustration, and a whole lot of money “wasted.”


The 3 Main Tasks of Self-Producing


Remember the 3 main tasks of self-producing all start with an “F”:

  1. Finding Your Audience
  2. Funding Your Project
  3. Filling the Seats


Finding Your Audience


Like any other producer, you have to know your show and who your audience is.

  • Who is your typical audience “avatar”? What is your audience demographic? Who will absolutely love your show?
  • Finish this statement: “People who love _____________ will love [name of your show”].
  • What is your show about, thematically and generally? Have a very brief prepared synopsis of 3-5 sentences and then identify its genre (epic musical, dark comedy, etc.). Talk briefly about the journey the audience will take and what they’ll learn at the end.
  • Do your research: what does your avatar do/believe in/desire? How will your show sync with that or reflect that?
  • Have your bio ready to send, as well as the bio for anyone on your creative team
  • Be prepared to share any production history thus far, with images (if available), 5 demo tracks (for a musical) and a formatted full script pdf.
  • Finally, talk about your WHY:
    • WHY did you write this script?
    • WHY does it need to be produced now?
    • WHY does an audience need to see it now?
  • Have a simple webpage available as your online business card for yourself as an author or for your show. You need it available to say, “Take a look at my website.” Don’t self-produce in the 21st century without it.
  • Make sure to have your “elevator pitch” committed to memory, documents saved on your phone and/or laptop, ready to talk about or present to someone at a moment’s notice.

A little reflection here goes a long way. Document your answers to the above in writing and images, ready to send out to anyone who’s interested.

Doing the work before you submit helps you feel like a professional, and creating professional-looking documents makes you look like a pro to the receivers as well.


Funding Your Project


This is where the rubber meets the road.

Know this: no one will believe in your show more than you do. You must “raise” your “child” as best you can until someone else will see what you see in your darling (your script). In order for others to see your work, you may just have to fund it yourself at the beginning, maybe with a little help from friends and family. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees in theater (or in child raising).

Once you’ve decided to go the festival route, it’s best to submit to every opportunity regardless of the expense. Even though if in the end you can’t raise the required “x” amount of money for a specific festival, it’s better to be able to say that a prestigious festival wanted your show than to have nothing to say at all. Any opportunity validates the fact that your script is well-written and sought out.

You will learn some very useful information about your show, the producing process, and yourself. You may also end up networking with other industry people who may be able to refer someone or something to you later on. Hey, you never know when fate will intervene on your behalf, so allow every path to unfold if given the opportunity.

Record every theater that had something good to say about your play, every person who said, “Sounds interesting, let me know when I can see it onstage.” These people will be your first audience and, hopefully, your first fans that will help you raise money.


Filling the Seats


This is why you’ve already done the first two tasks. You know who likes your script, and you’re prepared to invite people them to your festival show.

Failure to plan is planning to fail, especially at this point. Hopefully you have a following on social media, or a newsletter for your show. If you don’t you’ll want to establish one now.

Preparing for a festival show is exciting, so let everyone know what you’re up to and broadcast it everywhere: social media, personal emails, flyers, newsletters. You’re working to increase your audience, to allow them to buy tickets and to let industry theatre producers know that something so special is happening that they shouldn’t miss it.

Marketing is such a big part of the festival process (and all theater) it’s a shame to discuss it last. Once you decide to commit to a festival, realize that 75% of your time should be devoted to marketing and only 25% of your time to the production. Once you have a director on board your primary job will be as a producer, not a playwright. You must get people in to see your show.

This is where all of your previous preparation will show the most.

  • You’ll have a website to share on social media, etc., with a logo and synopsis already prepared.
  • Each day you’ll put out a new piece of content about your show,
  • You’ll ask your network to “share” on their social media, too.

Enlist the help of the actors and entire team now as well, and you should get more traction.

Write up a press release about your show and submit it to the local press. Make sure to capture any publicity on your social feed and on your website.


Use Each Step to Prepare for the Next


If you use this festival step as an experience to document your show’s first production, in essence you’re already preparing for the next step for a larger production to be produced by someone else. You’re creating a path for yourself instead of waiting passively by for someone else to notice how good your show is, and to step up to the plate to produce it.

Waiting sucks. It feels so empowering to make something happen yourself.

A festival production can be a valuable, empowering experience, or a depressing exercise that “proves” how difficult theater is. It’s all in the preparation and in your dedication to doing the work.

Don’t take this step until you’re ready. But if you’re frustrated where you are and need to take action, just make sure you’re prepared ahead of time in order to make the best use of your time, talent and resources possible.

It’s all up to you. Good luck!

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Create More Time

Create More Time

How are you doing so far on your 2019 goals?

Some people regard discipline as a chore. To me, it is a kind of order that sets me free to fly.” – Julie Andrews

January set me back. There’s nothing like life happening to you to keep you humble.

Between the excitement, confusion and work adapting to life with two new puppies (adorable as they are, it is work), teaching two intersession Winter classes at Stony Brook and becoming very ill with the virus du jour that’s going around – well, let’s just say that at the end of January I am very far behind on my January goals.

It’s a good thing I plan my goals out quarterly, or I would be completely discouraged.

Are you anything like me? Are you already so far behind on your 2019 goals that you want to just hit the reset button?


Handling Overwhelm


There are a couple of things that help me to refocus when I’m about to just throw in the towel and give up.

  1. I plan my goals for the year quarterly, not monthly. This allows life to happen to me and keeps me from over-planning the year out in advance. Fewer goals keep the overwhelm in check, and still allows me to feel successful.
  2. I’ve been meditating consistently since the end of 2016. I can’t tell you how much healing and self-discovery it has brought me. When life threatens to overwhelm me, I am able now to step back and recognize that this is a step on the journey and to relax.
  3. My MasterMind group, my entrepreneur Master Class group and my accountability partners keep me on track. I’m able to be honest about my overwhelm with people who have been there and can offer real support and solutions.
  4. Committing to build this community online keeps me honest. I can’t give up, because this is the gritty journey we’ve committed to as artists and entrepreneurs. It comes as part of the package, and I’m right there in the thick of it just like everyone else.


Time Discipline


If I look back at my goals over the last few years the most consistent goal has been “Time Management.” Since I list the same goal year after year, it’s pretty evident that I still haven’t mastered it yet.

As I begin 2019 as a full time entrepreneur-artist, I am solely responsible for how I spend my time. Yikes.

Last week I met the incredible super-productive guru Ari Meisel of Less Doing, who totally inspired me and revealed more productivity solutions than I could keep up with. Some of his  suggestions I’m going to implement immediately, such as using Trello as my CRM and making more use of productivity apps such as IFTT and Zapier, but really, I learned that my time management and productivity problems come down to the need to manage my own mindset.


The Need for Routine


I read somewhere that every successful writer creates time to write. They don’t just sit down and write when inspiration hits, they create a routine every morning or evening to write for a specific amount of time whether they feel inspired or not.

It’s this creation of a routine that I’m finding priceless.

We’re all creature of habit. I’m now creating a habit that works for me instead of against me. Each morning I get my Starbucks coffee and sit to meditate (my Calm app tracks my sessions for me) because that’s just my habit. A painless and easy “check” to start my day off right. In her outstanding book The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp also recounts the necessity of routine, saying, “By making the start of the sequence automatic, [artists] replace doubt and fear with comfort and routine.” For Tharp, her routine jumpstarts her creativity.

It’s not just humans who need this structure and routine. As I research how to raise and house train these puppies, the experts always stress the need to create a daily schedule. Their day should have a consistent flow of eating, going outside and playing to help their little systems adapt to our schedule. A structure frees them and us to coexist more peacefully, something I’m appreciating very much indeed!

Wolves are disciplined not only when they hunt but also when they travel, when they play, and when they eat. Nature doesn’t view discipline as a negative thing. Discipline is DNA. Discipline is survival.”
― Cesar Millan, Cesar’s Way: The Natural, Everyday Guide to Understanding and Correcting Common Dog Problems

In creating that routine to housebreak them, I’m reminded of my own need to discipline my time and activities. It’s not just for the puppies!


Creating a Routine is a Process


So now for 2019, my new schedule flows like this:

  • 6:30 Wake up, get everyone out the door (including walking puppies)
  • 7:00 Feed puppies, household chores
  • 8:00 Morning meditation with coffee
  • 9:00 Writing
  • 12:00 Exercise
  • 1:00  Clients
  • Somewhere between 5-6 I’ll break for dinner
  • After dinner I allow myself some freedom 🙂


How do you feel about this? Do you find that having a disciplined time to write helps keep you on track?

I’d love to hear your thoughts! We’re all in this together.

Share it with us here in the comments as we support each other on this journey.

Are you interested in joining a community that has your back, holds you accountable to you goals and inspires you on the way?

Email me at to know more.


Planning For Your Success Part 1

Planning For Your Success Part 1

We’ve all heard the phrase “Failing to plan is planning to fail.

What does that mean for us as we begin to think ahead for 2019?

I am a spring/summer person. Born in May, spring not only gives us flowers, warmth, sunlight and new life, but brings along the promise of summer. Summer is fun, vacation, endless sunny days with warm weather spent on the beach or on the back porch with a good book. It means barbeques and volleyball and picnics and time spent enjoying yourself with friends and family.

Then there’s fall…..

Fall is glorious, but it’s the last rallying of nature before the final cycle of winter sets in. It’s taken me many years to appreciate the gifts of winter, and I admit I’m still not totally there. If only life could be an endless summer (without moving to FL or CA)! But since I’m speaking metaphorically, winter is part of our life cycle experience. Like sleep, it’s meant for the renewal of life in order to move forward.

I can appreciate that, and incorporate winter’s lessons to rally my own internal resources. I’ve learned to grow as an artist and as a person in the beautiful respite from the daily hustle called “winter break.”

You know what I mean; it’s when everyone seems to shut down regular life to turn their attention to what really matters. The holidays, close friends, family, introspection. Meditation. Winter’s darkness encourages quiet evenings at home in pursuit of comfort, reading, and taking care of ourselves and our loved ones.


What Gifts Are You Giving to Yourself?


Amidst the holiday bustle is a parallel intention of showing and giving love to those we love the most.

Are you on your own love list? What gift can you give to yourself this season to show love to yourself? Do you think about that? For many years I was last on my own list, if I even made the list at all.

My love for my family and friends is so strong that I struggle with what to give them. I never have had the resources to truly give the gifts that would help the most: payment for a year of college, a decent car to drive, a clean bill of health from their doctor. Instead I try to create a beautiful family memory of love and connection, and give what I can to surprise and delight them within my budget.

What “dream gift” could you offer yourself this year? What gift given to yourself could surprise and delight you the most? You have the capacity to envision an amazing year for yourself right now, so that this time next year you can acknowledge the gift with gratitude and love. You have the power to give yourself an amazing 2019!


The Power of Pre-Paving


What if you had the magical ability to write out a scene – and poof! – it would actually happen?

You have that power. Creatively envisioning your future, or scripting out your experience, isn’t exactly magic, but comes darn close.

if you were a character in a play, what would you write for your 2019?

Let’s get to work here and take action.

It may take some time, so I’ve built this series over four blog posts to digest at your leisure over the holidays week by week.


Step 1: Your Stasis


As every writer knows, the “world of the play” needs to be established first in order for the audience to understand the setting, time period, the main characters in the play and their basic motivations at the beginning. We need to see onstage where the characters live and breathe and see their place in their world.

So, where are you right now?

YOU are the main character in your own play. You know where you live, the culture and times within which you live. You understand how you live and breathe and “have your being” within your own world, and understand your basic motivations and needs. You need to live, have a purpose, make money somehow, be connected to a community or family, etc.

BUT your main character (you) also needs a BIG DREAM to propel themselves into the future (and the rest of the story).

What is your big dream?

What is your super-objective that is big enough to overcome tremendous obstacles and give you the internal power to go the distance? What does “go the distance” even mean to you?

Let’s get to work.

This is going to require some homework from you. Most of my script coaching clients love it when I give them homework and deadlines – it keeps them honest to themselves, to do the thing that may not be done if they didn’t need to hand it in to me! So stay true to yourself and actually do the work, not just “think” the work.

Step 1 is to find an hour a day, preferably at the very beginning or very end of the day, to sit with yourself and give yourself a priceless gift – the delivery of your own dream.


Your homework for the week is to understand your hero.

Understand that you are the Hero in your own play.

  • What does your hero look like?
  • How does he or she dress? (I’ll use the feminine going forward since I identify female, but guys, feel free to substitute!)
  • What does their home look like? Where do they work?
  • Do they live alone, or with people? Who are they? What are they like?
  • What do they wake up and do every day?
  • What do they eat on a regular basis?
  • What is their primary emotional experience?
  • Did your hero make certain decisions to arrive where they are at the beginning of the play (now)?
  • Is your Hero living her own life, or a life centered around others?
  • Does your hero experience any pain on a regular basis?
  • When your hero looks into the mirror, is she happy with what she sees? What is her internal dialogue?

Write It Out

Script out your character’s internal dialogue this week, all week, for at least a half an hour each day. Try to keep to the hour as a daily discipline.

  • If you’ve ever tried this exercise you know how much you’ll discover about your characters. Here we’re doing a modified version of the mirror exercise and automated writing techniques in order to get at your Hero’s core.
  • If you resist – and you may – just use this time for quiet meditation (which I swear by myself, since daily meditation has changed my life).
  • At a certain point during the week you’ll switch gears and begin to envision your Hero with her dreams for the future. This is good! You are getting to her DDD (deep driving desires) that will propel her action forward into the rest of the play.

That’s it!

As you explore the external world of your Hero (your own outside world), at some point you’ll click into her own deepest desires. You’ll learn what excites her, what revs up her engines in life and what doesn’t. You’ll see things that she resists, that exhaust her, and that she just doesn’t want to do any more.

Then stop.

Exist in this exercise all week, observing your main character’s world and her participation in it. Get to know her internal world as she looks into the mirror. See what she sees.

Write it down without editing anything out. That’s important – you want your character to be honest with you. Write it all down, the good, the bad and everything in between.

Have fun with this, be disciplined in meeting yourself every day for an hour, and get set for Part 2 next Thursday.

Have a great week!