Playscripts and Playwrights Learn How to Turn the 'Net into a Network
by Leonard Jacobs, Back Stage
[This article is no longer available online, but it begins like this...]
"Our initial impulse was as playwrights, not money-seeking entrepreneurs," says Doug Rand, co-owner of Playscripts, Inc., a company that has been leading a quiet play-publishing revolution since its inception in 1998.
The company began because Rand's younger brother, Jonathan, started writing plays in high school that enjoyed some success across the United States. In time, he wrote more plays, "but traditional publishers weren't interested. So while he was at the University of Pennsylvania, he learned HTML and began putting up scenes from plays on his free university homepage. Soon he was licensing productions himself -- in Idaho, Ohio, Kyrgyzstan -- 100 productions in 12 countries."
[...and it includes these quotations:]
"[Playscripts has created] a sort of network of different theatres and theatre makers that they reach out to. They're on to something innovative and I think people are responsive to the services they provide. They offer lots of different kinds of plays stylistically, and they put them out there in a very immediate, very effective way. The play ['Language of Angels'] was originally in TheatreForum, published by the University of California at San Diego; you can buy it in bookstores. But there's a limit to what being published that way can do for a play. I don't know if it was Doug or Jonathan that came across the play, but they asked if they could publish it. Another play, 'Tattoo Girl,' was in an anthology -- 'From the Other Side of the Century II: A New American Drama 1960-1995' -- so big that you may not want the whole book. Maybe you want a single play; that's another niche. Working with them is more about dialogues with collaborators than about checks. They talk to writers they publish. It's not an impersonal transaction."
"I first met Doug Rand at the National Thespian Conference -- a high school conference -- when he was a student at Harvard and I was working at a playwriting workshop. [The Rands are] thinking outside the box and actually using the Internet to market [plays] in a way that other publishers don't seem to... It's fantastic when someone gets a new idea about how to do something and then has the smarts and energy to make the idea work. ['Lobster Alice' being published by Playscripts] has led to productions -- in fact, I believe it's resulted in at least three, maybe four, good professional productions across the country, and still counting. It's almost like having another agent out there -- not only do they license, they try for the best theatres in the region. I'm impressed with their writers -- and actually see more adventure and aesthetic diversity in their catalogue than I do in others. I also like that they market to younger markets -- it's imperative that plays get to high schools and colleges."
Jonathan Rand author profile
Naomi Iizuka author profile
Kira Obolensky author profile