Playwriting 101: What to include with your script

Photo Credit: Oxford Playhouse
Photo Credit: Oxford Playhouse

I’ve been working on getting my two one-act youth plays ready to put up here on the website for people/companies to purchase the rights to.  If you’re writing a script and want to sell it, you’ll need to give potential directors more information beyond just what the characters say.  Here are some things I’m including in my script package that I’ve found useful from productions I’ve worked on in the past.

  • A casting breakdown, listing each character with a short description of that character.  Include the breakdown of number of men versus women versus parts that could be played by either gender.  You’d be surprised how many scripts just make a list of character names, including ones like “Lady #4” or even less useful, “Townsperson” or “Ensemble.”  Give your characters names!  Even “Officer Jones” is better than “Cop #2.”
  • Bonus points for including the number of lines each character has.  I’ve found this very useful for casting purposes.  Especially with youth theatre productions… some kids just can’t handle a lot of lines.
  • A detailed props list.  Even better if it’s on its own separate page that the director can rip out and hand right to their props head.  Leave room for the director to make additions or notes.
  • A general costume overview.  You don’t need to get super-specific (“George: a pair of torn red corduroy pants with a black patch on the left thigh and a yellow muslin shirt”), unless a certain item is absolutely necessary for a character’s personality or a specific plot point.  For example, when I directed Tom Sawyer, the actor playing Tom needed to have pants with pockets to hold all the treasures he receives from his friends after tricking them into painting the fence for him.  Directors and costume heads need to know these kind of details.  Another example would be when I directed Curse of the Cobra’s Kiss.  One of the major plot points involves a character dressing as a mummy, but the audience can’t know who it is, as they are supposed to guess (it’s an interactive show).  So the mummy costume had to completely disguise the actor inside, covering them from head to toe, including shoes and hands (two body parts people tend to forget for some reason!).
  • Set ideas and special effects.  Can you actually do the show in the space you have?  One play I directed assumed that the show would be performed on a proscenium arch stage with a traveller curtain.  I had to get pretty creative with lights and staging to do that show in the Spriet Family Theatre, which is a black box theatre — no curtains!
  • If the play has been produced before, include a list of the original cast and date/location details of the premiere production, for history/archival purposes.
  • And of course, your pricing guide.  How much are the rights?!

What are some things you’ve found useful in your scripts?  Is there something missing that you’ve wished a playwright would have included?  Leave details in the comments!

5 thoughts on “Playwriting 101: What to include with your script

  1. Pingback: Playwriting 101: What to include with your script | Kerry Hishon | Harry's Hotter at Twilight - A Production Blog

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