Conferences & Festivals

It’s a fact of life in the current theatrical landscape: a lot of work finds its way to theatres through conferences, festivals, and contests. Many theatres don’t have the resources to sort through stacks of scripts, but they can afford to send a representative to a festival or conference, which has essentially done the reading for them. Theatre people also tend to be social (even if writers may not), and buzz can build at these events over a particular play or writer. They also afford playwrights a chance to network, and, really, much of this industry operates on like-minded artists finding each other and getting turned on by a project.

Baltimore Playwrights Festival

Original, never-produced plays by writers who have lived in Maryland or Washington, D.C. For details on what the festival’s looking for, see their submission guidelines.

Boomerang Theatre First Flight 

A development series for new plays, serving playwrights and providing opportunities for directors and actors to work on new plays.


Creates original theatrical experiences that “push artistic boundaries to explore critical social issues for a diverse community of Chicagoans.” An ongoing festival and theatre production house. Check their website for submission requirements.

Dream Up Festival

In Summer 2003, Theater for the New City presented a lineup of wide-ranging and original theatrical visions, embracing drama, poetry, music, and dance, with performing artists representing theater and performance companies in its theater complex in downtown New York. In 2010, the inaugural Dream Up Festival offered 25 shows, consisting of 23 world premieres and two American premieres. Check the site for upcoming events.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

The largest arts festival in the world, taking place every August for three weeks in Scotland’s capital city. Thousands of performers take to stages all over Edinburgh to present shows for varied tastes, from big names in entertainment to unknown artists looking to build their careers. The work includes: theatre, comedy, dance, physical theatre, musicals, operas, music, exhibitions and events.

Fresh Fruit Festival

A New York City LGBTQ festival that includes theater, performance, poetry, comedy, spoken word, music, dance, visual arts and other talents. Artists from across the world, the U.S., and the New York area.

The Humana Festival of New American Plays

The Actors Theatre of Louisville sponsors this annual festival, which has produced over 290 plays, representing the work of 182 playwrights. The New Play Program includes a national Ten-Minute Play Contest, started in 1989. A great deal of work staged at Humana finds its way to U.S. regional theatres.

Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival 

A national theater program involving 18,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide, and serving as a catalyst to improve the quality of college theater in the United States.

Kitchen Dog Theatre New Works Festival 

One original script receives a fully staged production as part of Kitchen Dog’s regular season, and the playwright receives paid travel to Dallas, TX, and a royalty stipend. Seven original scripts are selected for staged readings as part of the Festival.

The Last Frontier Theatre Conference

A week-long theatre conference held each summer in Valdez, Alaska. Participants come from all over the U.S. and elsewhere.

Little Festival of the Unexpected 

An annual festival in Portland, Maine, presents workshops and readings of three to five new plays.

The New Harmony Project

Nurtures and promotes writers exploring the human journey by offering hope and showing respect for life’s positive values. Each year, they bring several writers every year to New Harmony, Indiana, where they participate in a two-week, intensive writing experience with directors, actors, dramaturgs, and other artists.

National Black Theatre Festival 

A biannual, six-day event celebrating black theatre, and bringing together black theatre professionals to foster the creation and sharing of new work. Though the festival presents new work in a number of forms, a readers’ theatre comprises one theatrical quotient. Requires a submission fee.

New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival 

Deepens the writing experience of young writers by providing detailed feedback from theatre professionals about students’ plays. Winning plays are presented during the New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival, a partnership between Playwrights Theatre and Premiere Stages at Kean University.

New Professional Theatre Writers Festival 

Supports writers through an annual Writer’s Festival, and through cash grants, staged readings, dramaturgy, and literary support.

Playfest – Harriet Lake

The festival focuses on the playwriting process as well as the finished product. Writers work with top directors and actors in Orlando, Florida. PlayFest partners with regional and national theater companies and new play development organizations, providing audiences with an opportunity to see the work of many groups.

Portland Center Stage/JAW

For two weeks every summer, PCS presents workshops of new plays, drawn from across the country, with writers collaborating with directors, dramaturgs, actors, and other theater professionals to read and revise their scripts. The program includes Promising Playwrights, high school students selected from PCS’s Visions & Voices program, who write and develop their own short plays, working alongside the professionals. All of the playwrights’ works are presented in staged readings for the public. PCS accepts direct submissions only from Pacific Northwest writers; otherwise, they ask plays be submitted by agents. [Full disclosure: My play Lost Wavelengths was produced at JAW. It was a splendid experience.]

The Samuel French Off Off Broadway Short Play Festival

Samuel French receives hundreds of submissions for its Off Off Broadway Short Play Festival, narrowing these down to roughly 30 semi-finalists, who then must produce their plays in New York City. A panel of judges made up of professional playwrights, literary agents, and artistic directors from major theatrical professionals attend each performance and determine the finalists, all of which perform on the Festival’s final day. The editorial staff selects six winners, who are presented with publishing and licensing contracts, and have their plays published in a compilation volume.

Six Women Playwriting Festival

A festival held in April in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Chooses six plays and provides playwrights with monetary compensation, accommodations, and a travel stipend.

Seven Devils Playwrights Conference 

A two-week conference taking place in June, presenting plays free and open to the public. Offers a free playwriting workshop, with all audience members are invited to participate in post-reading discussions. Requires a submission fee, which largely goes to pay the readers.

Theatre Three One-Act Play Festival 

A yearly one-act festival in Port Jefferson, NY. Selected plays receive 10 performances.

Other Playwriting Resources

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