Rob Drummer, the Literary Manager of HighTide Festival (pictured) explains how to submit a play, what makes a winning submission and who will be reading that pile of 1,500 scripts…
There have been some exciting changes to how people can submit scripts to be produced by HighTide. How does this new system work?
This new partnership with IdeasTap is an opportunity for us to get to know new writers, introduce new methods to offer feedback and build a network of playwrights with whom we can keep engaged.
Sending us your play couldn’t be easier. All you need is to start a new, free IdeasTap profile on the site (if you don’t already have one) and go to the Submit A Play To HighTide brief. How to apply is set out in the brief, but you will also need keep your profile up-to-date with more information on you and your writing.
We announce our new season in the February before the HighTide Festival, so that is when we will also announce the winners of the brief. However, before then there may be all sorts of development going on with you and your play: either way we will definitely let you know if the play is being developed by HighTide.
You can apply year round and we accept plays in English from writers of all ages, backgrounds and from around the world. We are also happy to receive plays from writers who have sent work to us before.
What are you looking for in a successful script? Any top tips or advice for new writers?
We are looking for plays that are striking, bold, playful, rich and urgently in need of production now. I think we are committed to contemporary stories, fascinating characters and dynamic, evocative theatricality. Also, I would say that before you think your play is finished, read it out loud and convince anybody you know to read it with you. A play comes to life through constant drafting, so ask people you care about to give you feedback on your characters and the world that they inhabit – this will be worth its weight in gold.
Are there any immediate turn-offs when it comes to new scripts? Certain types of plays that you just won’t commission?
Since I joined HighTide I have been pretty tough on historical plays and biographical drama; we aren’t really keen on producing work at this moment that doesn’t offer us a frame for the contemporary experience. That said, I love The Crucible and would be keen to read any play that is as bold as that and working as hard to talk about a contemporary moment whilst chronicling a moment of history.
We also don’t produce short plays or read anything that isn’t for live performance, so I wouldn’t send those to us either. If you have a question though, do just ask, better that than feeling unsure and sending your script regardless.
The HighTide literary department receives 1,500 plays a year. Who reads all the submissions and how do you judge them?
We have a really dedicated reading, team which includes our Resident Assistant Directors, freelance script readers, Steven and I and in the future a Literary Intern from the IdeasTap community. All of these people are experienced and passionate about new plays and we meet regularly to discuss the plays that are most exciting. These plays then go onto a longlist, which I compile around the year and which forms the basis for all programming decisions that Steven and I make for each festival.
Why should people apply to the Submit a play to HighTide brief? What’s in it for them?
HighTide has quickly established itself as one of the most exciting places to launch your writing career and to share your play with an audience. We have an exceptional group of writers from the past six years, all of whom are still making work for stages around the world. We are passionate about promoting new plays in this country and internationally, all the while bringing artistic excellence and new plays to the East of England. As a writer it is sometimes a lonely experience towards telling a story and we are committed to being a home for playwrights throughout their time with us at the festival and beyond.
For anyone who’s reapplying this year, who may not have been commissioned by HighTide before, do you have any advice or directions on how they can improve their chances?
If you have sent us a play in the past that we haven’t programmed then do send us something new in the future. We believe that time, exposing yourself to as much theatre and life as possible, makes a playwright improve.
If you have received feedback from us in the past, do bear this in mind but with each new play you will be finding new ways to tell stories. Also, I would love to see as many writers at the festival as possible, so make sure you come to the festival and get to know us, we’d love to welcome you.
To submit a play to HighTide Festival, visit the brief.
Photo by Bill Knight.