When is a play done?

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You’ve written a first draft, second draft, and so on. You feel you’ve done all you can do with the script, when it’s just you and the script. How do you know when a play is ready to move on to the next phase?

How do you know it’s ready to go out into the world?

You’ve received feedback

It’s not enough for you to think your play is ready, you need to find out if it resonates with others. That doesn’t mean you have to change your play to suit the whim of every respondent, nor should you. But your play will not and should not exist in a vacuum. That means you have to get some reaction.

If you get positive feedback from at least 3 respondents ( don’t put all your eggs in one basket) consider yourself on the right track.

You’ve heard the play

There’s no such thing as silent reading in theatre. Reading your words or hearing the lines in your head will work only up to a point. You need to hear your play read aloud by others. You need to focus all your energy on listening for awkward dialogue, repeated dialogue, sentences that confuse the readers. You’re listening for how long it takes to set up a character or a scene – are you overwriting or is your script sharing just what it needs to keep an audience on the edge of their seat? A text at it’s best is going to be clean, efficient and orally engaging.

I would suggest you plan on two readings during your process. In fact, I would plan a rewrite schedule like this: 1st draft – 2nd draft – feedback – 3rd draft – reading – 4th draft – reading.

If you’ve heard your play and you’re satisfied the dialogue is clean, efficient and engaging, (or the changes you have to make are cosmetic rather than surgical) feel confident that you’re ready to move on.

What next?

A play is not a play until it’s produced. This is the hardest step for so many writers, especially those who don’t have access to theatres, actors or directors. But in order to fully complete your work, it has to be staged in front of an audience. But that’s a whole other adventure…