August 3, 2018 10 AM
TheaterForms is now offering TheaterForms Play Submission Review, a new service designed to help theaters find and evaluate new works for production. It was designed with one act festivals in mind but could also be used to help theaters select original full length plays.
Putting together a high quality one acts festival can be a lot of work. Producers can rely on published plays from established playwrights in hopes that that will ensure high standards, but they still have to buy a lot of scripts, or rely on personal libraries, or public libraries. And to get them reviewed by multiple members of a selection committee, they need to physically pass around books in order to respect copyrights.
Choosing a festival’s plays from unpublished works can eliminate a lot of these problems, especially by doing so using TheaterForms’ Play Submission Review service. It’s true, when selecting from unpublished works, you have to “kiss a lot of frogs” to find your best collection of plays. But TheaterForms makes wrangling the frogs and princes easy. A theater just needs to enlist a group of volunteer reviewers from among their ranks and establish submission and reviewing guidelines and reviewing criteria. TheaterForms can help with the call for submissions, reviewer management, tracking and communications, managing reviewing assignments, handling multiple round eliminations, communicating with submitting playwrights, and dealing with issues like plays that don’t meet stated requirements, conflicts of interest among reviewers, and bad play files.
One of the first things a selection committee needs to decide is what kind of scale they can handle for the reviewing project. This is largely determined by how many reviewers are available for the project and how much time there is to complete the review. A current submission review opened submissions to 200 plays, enlisted 19 reviewers, and planned to complete five rounds of reviews in four months to come up with a list of list of 15 finalists. (We recommend making final selections after live table readings of a set of finalists.) Other reviews we’ve managed have had as many as 300 submissions or as few as 100, all resulting in successful, well-received one acts festivals.
TheaterForms manages eliminations, so there might be 200 reviews in the first round, 100 in the second, 50 in the third, and 25 in the fourth. If desired, a producer can decide to give every play at least two readings, or three, but this significantly increases the number of reviews needed. It's also possible to set a maximum of five rounds and a minimum of four, for example, and this also affects how eliminations are computed.
Reviewers are the most important resource in this project. Depending on how the theater organization is structured, reviewers can be recruited from board members, regular directors, or the company’s frequent actors.
Some reviewers will have more time for the project than others, and TheaterForms accommodates those varying levels of commitment. Reviewers can work at their own pace. Whenever one is ready to review a play, they just visit the reviewers’ homepage for the project and get an assignment, which will be in the form of a PDF file they can read right in their browser. Once they read the play, they fill out a form rating the play on a scale of 0 to 10 on a set of criteria that the selection manager has selected. There is also a field for comments and a popup for flagging the play as unsuitable or having possible issues. Each theater defines what might make a play unsuitable in their reviewing guidelines. After submitting a review, a reviewer can ask for another play to review immediately or wait until later.
The reviewers’ homepage also keeps reviewers up to date on the status of the project. To keep reviewers on task, they are sent a weekly progress update, with both the project progress and their own participation status, and reminded where they can return to review plays.
Producers get a detailed view of the project. They can monitor the productivity of the reviewers and read their reviews. They can see the whole list of plays, sorted by their ratings, and look at the reviews of each one. When there are reports of plays that are not eligible or seem to be unsuitable, they can evaluate the complaint and, if they choose, remove them from consideration. If they get a report of a bad PDF file from a reviewer, they can verify the problem then send off an email to the playwright, who is given a link to upload a replacement file.
When the minimum reviewing goals have been met, producers have the option of ending the review there or proceeding to the maximum number of rounds. When the maximum number of rounds has been completed, reviewing automatically stops. Either way, when reviewing is complete, the producer gets a list of finalists (the number requested in the initial setup, or possibly some more if there are ties for that last position). There are options to download all of the scripts for further evaluation, such as a table reading or final review by a selection committee, download a spreadsheet of information about the finalists, and email all of the finalist playwrights.
TheaterForms Submission Review service has a huge number of features designed to help a theater select a great collection of one acts, and covers all the angles for providing options that suit their particular needs, and handling issues that might arise. We are currently offering theaters the use of this service at an introductory price of $50.
David Durkee, the creator of TheaterForms, has over thirty years of professional experience in software development. He was a software engineer at Adobe for twelve years, where he worked on Edge Animate, Flash Professional, Encore DVD, and other projects. Before Adobe, products he developed or lead the development of include MultiAd Creator, HyperSpeller, and Comic Strip Factory, a unique graphics application for the original Apple Macintosh, published in 1986. Prior to that he was an editor and contributor for Softalk, a pioneering magazine for Apple II enthusiasts.
David has always preferred to work in areas where technology can support creativity. When he left Adobe in 2014 to start up DWDurkee, LLC, he had two projects in mind: a modern version of Comic Strip Factory for the Mac, and online audition forms for theaters. He is a board member of the Eden Prairie Players community theater, and he worked on prototypes of his theater services for that group’s productions. Eden Prairie Players has been producing a Collection of One Acts in the Fall for fourteen years now, and their recent success transitioning to all unpublished works, and adding a second one acts production in the Spring, were made possible in part by the development of this new service.