Theatre Horror Stories

Theatre Horror Story: A Famous Theatre Wasted a Year of My Life

This came from a reader who reached out to us. A former Dramatists Guild member.

I am a successful children’s theatre playwright but I also occasionally write for adult audiences (although not as successfully). I have an unproduced comedy/thriller (in the style of “Deathtrap” and “Sleuth”) that I’ve been submitting wherever I can.

[Glad to see playwrights expanding their craft]

A few years ago, I saw a script call from a well-known, professional company in the Midwest. Long odds but I submitted two adult scripts. In the spring, I received an email from somone (I believe it was the Literary Manager or Literary Associate) saying that one script was rejected but a few days later, received a second email saying they were interested in the other script, the comedy/thriller. They would be doing a company reading in the next few weeks and she would contact me after that. Naturally, I was very excited!

[Well, yeah. The playwright told me which company it was and it’s one I think most serious playwrights in America would recognize. You would be excited too to have this theatre put on your show]

(Now bear in mind that all of the email exchanges following this were initiated by me, I never heard back from them again on their own initiative.)

A few weeks later, I ask about the reading. She replies that the script is so strong and the Artistic Director likes it so much that the reading has been canceled and instead, it will be included in a weekend script slam with three or four other plays in October. Wow! Amazing!

[More good news]

Summer goes by, I’m buoyed by the hope of my script getting closer to production by such a prestigious company (or at least their apparently strong interest in it). As we near October, I contact her to ask if there’s a chance the reading could be skyped as I would love to see it. She replies that the script slam has been canceled and all the scripts that were to be read will now be read individually in front of local audiences at a nearby library to guage audience interest. (Library? Audience interest? Weird, but I’ve never gotten this far before so who knows how big, professional rep companies do things and I’m still over the moon as my script is still definitely moving forward.) She will be directing my reading in February and is hoping to cast it before Christmas so she can begin rehearsals. Merry Christmas to me!

[Beware: Scrooge alert!]

In mid-January, I contact her again, asking how it’s going, can it be skyped, etc. I received back a very short, cold, totally out of character email telling me that my script will not be read, they are not interested in it anymore. What?! If I want details, I can email her back. I respond and her only “detail” is that I have to decide if my story is a comedy or a thriller. What what?! If I want to rewrite it, she is willing to reread it. Uhm, no thanks, I’ve totally lost confidence in you and your company. I clearly labeled it a “comedy/thriller” on the cover page and that’s exactly what it is.

[It only took them nearly a year to worry about the genre. Darf.]

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Some theatres are capable of Boschian torment. Artwork by Maiyal.

This totally crushed me and I lost a whole year of submissions. It was such an unprofessional way of doing things, I have no idea what really went on. Now when I see that theater mentioned and praised, I’m so pissed I could spit.

I seriously don’t blame this playwright for being angry about what that theatre did. Maybe someday it will change.

If you have a theatre horror story, please reach out. You can remain anonymous and still tell your truth. 

Thank you. 



Theatre Horror Stories

Theatre Horror Story: We Changed the Deadline & Didn’t Tell You

This is from an acquaintance who is also a Dramatists Guild member. 

There should be a special circle in hell for theatres that put out calls and then change the deadlines or requirements “because they have so many submissions.” It should be up to the theatres to think their procedures through, be specific about their requirements, and not penalize applicants. In one case a deadline was announced for August 31, and when I submitted in early August I was told that the deadline had been changed to July 31.

Special thanks to Maiyal. Please check out her work here.

[Duh. Look at the stupid playwright following instructions. He must be punished!]

Incidents like this have happened to me three times this year. I keep a file listing upcoming opportunities with all essential information including due dates. I can’t be expected to review the websites every day to determine if theatres have changed their requirements. In another recent case, a [theatre in a far away country] stated they were accepting plays internationally, and they allowed submissions in multiple categories. I submitted one play one day; then when I followed up the next with another play the website said they were accepting only plays from [the far away country.]

An email to the theatre confirmed that they had changed their requirements without notice. Furthermore, they said they could not use my first play because of prior production (not stipulated anywhere in the call). They were very apologetic and I think genuinely mortified, but that’s not the point.

[Often times I hear theatres really don’t know what they want until they find it. In this case the theatre doesn’t know what they want – period.]

My goal is to keep writing these until the level of professionalism in American theatre changes. 

If you have a theatre horror story, feel free to reach out. You can remain anonymous.