E-mail Advice and Attestations
What follows are e-mailed letters received from dramatists and other theatre professionals offering their views and experiences on the Internet.
"One way for play producers to find plays is through links from about.com. I just discovered an interesting (and free) online resource playwrights can use to get their work 'out there.' It is called 'Playwrights on the Web' (www.rareplays.com/writers.htm), and it lists playwrights alphabetically with hyperlinks to either an e-mail address or personal web site (which can/should include play synopses and contact info). There are other 'referral' sites as well, if you have a web address to link to. I had a look at some of the other playwrights' sites, and it was illuminating. Most are very simple, but it's really the content that's more important in this case.
"A writer could set up a site with a number of samples of their work, photos of productions (with the permission of the copyright holders, of course), and, perhaps, even downloadable files of full scripts in a popular file format. Adobe's .PDF is a very popular format which retains all formatting and yet is not easily editable on the other end, and the new WordPerfect 2000 is able to save files in the .PDF format. It is probably wise to format any e-script with a copyright notice on each page to discourage theft. The issue of improper use of material on the web, including graphics and other intellectual property, has still not been satisfactorily answered; so it is probably better to screen those who want to download your scripts for your own safety."—Mark E. Lang, web designer, www.TBE design.com
"In December of 1997, I posted four of my plays on the Dramatic Exchange…I have gotten requests and comments on my plays about once a month since then. 'Emil, You're Going To Be a Dog' has been done by 14 high schools or youth groups, three universities, and two community-type theatres. Two of the other four plays have also been done by high schools.
"What is interesting is the many places around the world that have asked to produce 'Emil, You're Going To Be a Dog' It was done in Sioux Outlook, Ontario, which is about 100 miles north of the Minnesota border and is a school for Native Americans. It was done in Dublin, Ireland by a youth group called 'Dun Laoghaire Theatre Group' for a one-act play festival. A teacher in Chiang Mai, Thailand, asked permission to do 'Emil…' And a couple of weeks ago, a teacher in Honk Kong e-mailed me for permission to do this play. She will send me a tape of it, but it is going to be in Chinese.
In June, and on six other dates after, 'Emil…' was performed by Goldfields Repertory Club in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia. This was the first time I collected any royalty. As a result of being produced by the Dutch theatre, Anco Entertainment offered me a contract to publish and represent this play in Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and Austria. So I signed a contract with them. They also asked to see all my plays and I sent them.
The Internet is a good way for a new playwright to get his work noticed and produced: if not in the United States then some place on earth. Who knows where?"—John Blais, playwright, email@example.com
"We launched our own website in 1998. Its function, first and foremost, is to serve as a marketing tool—if we send a query letter to a theatre or prospective producer, they can visit the website without leaving their desks, and get a 'look and feel' for the show that simply can't be conveyed on paper. They can listen to the music, see that the show has a production/development history behind it, and see photos from rehearsals and performances, all with very little effort on their part.
"A happy side effect is that 'Holmes!' [their musical about Sherlock Holmes] is building quite a following, as the website is posted on theatre and 'Sherlockian' bulletin boards and sites throughout the world. We now have an e-mail list of several hundred.
"Additionally, we have recently begun offering our concept CD through amazon.com and the website, after receiving countless e-mails asking where it could be purchased. The response has been terrific. We provide detailed feature stories on the site as the show develops. Past stories have included the recording of the concept CD, a 'Holmes!' two-year anniversary party and cast reunion, and always plenty of 'behind-the-scenes' photos.
"We also used the website to provide audition and performance information for the recent workshops. Visitors could get audition dates and times, and print maps to audition locations. We also provided printable maps to the Disney Institute, for patrons attending the show.
"A couple of weeks before the May performances, a writer from Playbill Online was referred to the website, and he contacted us via e-mail. We subsequently did a telephone interview with him, and the result was a story about the show on Playbill Online. Similarly, a writer from Scarlet Street magazine also visited the site, and after a short news item appeared in their magazine, he traveled from New Jersey to see the May performances and write a review, to appear in an upcoming issue.
"As you can see, the website has become a very valuable tool. It cannot replace traditional marketing methods (query letters/summaries/etc.), but, as we begin our quest to secure a production of the show, we hope the website will play a significant role.
"In the meantime, we thoroughly enjoy receiving and responding to e-mail from all over the world. Designing and maintaining the site is a huge effort, and requires a significant investment of time. However, it is a labor of love, and well worth it. Of the four years we've been developing the show together, we have seen some dramatic developments in the two years that we've had the site online. We look forward to the website and the Internet being an integral part of the future of 'Holmes!' "—Brett Nicholson and Hans Vollrath, creators of "Holmes!"