Ninety-nine percent of theatres who consider original, scripts or who sponsor play contests, stipulate that submissions must be previously unproduced--- in that one requirement laying down an insurmountable barrier to play development.
These theatres claim to support emerging playwrights, but they, in fact, do not.
Most play publishing services will not consider a play unless it has been produced multiple times. Most nationally recognized theatres will not consider a new play for their season unless it has been produced several times.
This is not an unreasonable requirement. Publishers and prominent theatres are looking for plays that have had multiple trials by fire and have come through those trials with all dross burned away and only pure gold remaining.
A serious playwright's goal, therefore, is to have his or her play produced multiple times, hoping to advance from smaller venues to larger ones, each time making those adjustments that will clear the dross and polish the gold.
How can this happen when almost every theatre or contest limits submissions to only those that have never been produced? If a playwright achieves production in one contest, boom, he is done. Under current standards, by winning once, he has eliminated himself from further production elsewhere.
The time has come to send a unified voice of reason to theatres and contests. I recommend that whenever you encounter submission requirements that allow for only unproduced plays, you send this letter:
For a new play to successfully achieve publication, professional production, and artistic prominence, it first must be produced in multiple venues until it gains perfection and recognition.
When theatres limit submissions to only unproduced plays, they prevent further development of a script, and fail in their support of emerging playwrights.
On behalf of all playwrights, may I respectfully urge you to change your submission requirements to allow previously produced plays? Perhaps your submission requirements could say that only plays "previously published, produced by a professional theatre, or produced within 100 miles of" your theatre, would be ineligible.
In that way you would be supporting the multiple production development of new plays while still insuring that your theatre presents hitherto unseen material in your audience area.
If play contests and theatres that accept new plays begin receiving this request from playwrights throughout the U.S., they will eventually effect a change in their submission requirements, and developing plays will not be dead in the water after one production.