I love the New Play Exchange. The New Play Exchange is a website of plays for writers, readers, and organizations. The plays on the website range from short plays (the length of monologues) to full-length plays, and even include musicals. I even have some plays on there that you can read HERE if you have an account. For individuals who would like to sign up, they have four different types of account: writer, writer pro, reader, and reader pro. I have a writer and a reader pro account since I am both a dramaturg and a playwright (side note: if you are a playwright looking for a dramaturg, check out my services page and we can get in touch!). The most expensive of these accounts is $20/year for access to THOUSANDS of scripts. If you’re considering it, it’s worth it. I promise.
One of the features that is available to all four of those accounts is the ability to read and write recommendations for scripts. These recommendations are not “reviews” in the sense that you say what you don’t like about the script, but they are recommendations for other readers to read the script. Writers can read the recommendations that are written, but when I write recommendations I write them to other readers. I’ve read many scripts on the New Play Exchange, but unfortunately I have only written a couple recommendations. I have a goal to begin reading more scripts and writing more recommendations for the playwrights on the New Play Exchange. Here are a few things to consider when writing recommendations:
Summary – Writers and readers do not need your recommendation to be a summary of what you just read. On the New Play Exchange, playwrights are able to write a small summary about their plays when they are uploaded to the website. Your recommendation does not need to be another summary. If you really must write a summary, only make it one sentence long. Recommendations are limited in length and writers and other readers are not interested in your summary of the script.
Feeling – Not to sound too much like a therapist, but how did it make you feel? Everyone has emotions and everyone’s emotions respond differently to stories. As a writer and reader I would love to know how plays make you feel. So much of theatre is watching plays, not reading them as dramatic literature. Although I love reading plays as dramatic literature, I miss the feeling of seeing it performed when I am just reading it. Often, it begins to perform itself in my mind, as my director brain puts it on stage while reading the pages. Feeling is something that is so important to put into your recommendation.
Comparisons – This one is something to think about but also something to be cautious of. As writers we all want our plays to be their own story. It’s something that we wrote. It’s something that we imagined. However, as readers, sometimes it’s hard to read something and not think about what it reminds you of. Stories always have bits and pieces of others that will spark those memories in your mind. If you want to make comparisons, maybe don’t compare to specific shows, movies, or other literature. Make the comparisons to genre, point of view, style. I would even venture to say that it might be okay to compare to another playwright if you hearing a voice that sounds familiar when reading the script.
Next Step – I’ve never seen this done on NPX but something that I think I would like to start doing is including in my recommendations what I would like to see be the next step for the play. Is it ready to be a full produced play? Does it maybe it need a little more workshopping? As a writer, this is something that would be super helpful to me as a writer. I would love to know what others think my play is ready for next in its life cycle.
OMQs – Another way to write a recommendation would be to include OMQs, something that I learned when in my undergraduate dramaturgy classes. My professor never called them OMQs, that’s something that I shortened it to, but OMQ stands for observations, merits, and questions. This is something dramaturgs do when working one-on-one with a playwright because it is never helpful or well received if you simply say, “I don’t like…” Observations are things that you notice about the play, as mentioned above if you really feel the need to put a summary in your recommendation that would be the observations. Merits are things you liked about the play. What did you love so much that is absolutely worth mentioning in your limited space recommendation? This should be most of the recommendation. Finally, questions are questions that you have about the play. These questions are not necessarily directed towards the playwright, but for the purpose of the recommendation, it could be questions that you have after reading and considering the play. How is your life going to be changed? What questions are you now considering about life?
No matter how you write your recommendation, writers are grateful. We love knowing that people are reading and enjoying our work. The most important thing is that you keep your recommendations positive. New Play Exchange is not the place to attack playwrights, it’s the place to celebrate them.