The Samuel French Off Off Broadway Short Play Festival started in 1975 and is Manhattan’s oldest, continuous short play festival. In the first 36 years of the Festival, over 500 theatre companies and schools participated. Applicants included companies from coast to coast as well as abroad from Canada, Singapore, and the United Kingdom. The Festival has given emerging playwrights the opportunity to have their work produced with the support of such theatres as The Public Theater, The Royal Court, Ensemble Studio Theatre, The Flea Theatre, The Living Theatre and Naked Angels, and with the backing of prestigious university playwriting programs such as The New School for Drama, Columbia University, University of Iowa, and Tisch School of the Arts’ Dramatic Writing Program.
The Festival has served as a doorway to future success for many aspiring playwrights, and has helped launched the work of notables as Theresa Rebeck, Shirley Lauro, Sheila Callaghan, Bekah Brunstetter, Steve Yockey, Saviana Stanescu, David Johnston, Daniel Pearle. In many cases, Festival participation has sparked agent contracts for Festival finalists and all of the final forty plays selected to be perform in New York are guaranteed to be seen by an Artistic Director of a major theater, a professional playwright, and a theatrical agent. Many past Festival playwrights have gone on to win major playwriting awards and honors, as well as to have major theatrical productions of their works staged.
How the Festival Works
The Samuel French Off Off Broadway Short Play Festival is distinct in two ways: it requires applicants to collaborate with a producing organization and it offers a prize of publication in the notable OFF OFF BROADWAY FESTIVAL PLAYS series. Though many of the works that play in the Festival have been developed under the wing of theatres, universities, and writer’s groups, many of the plays that are produced as part of the Festival are world premieres.
The application period for the Festival begins in mid-February and lasts until late March. Playwrights may submit up to two unpublished plays that may be performed in 30 minutes or less. On their application, playwrights must cite the organization that will produce their play (at this early stage it is often the playwright themselves) and a liaison for Samuel French to contact with Festival information. Submissions are whittled down by the Festival editorial staff, and the Final Forty are chosen to present their play during Festival week.
Festival week consists of 6 performance sessions in which 6 to 7 scripts are presented in front of a judging panel comprised of an Artistic Director, an agent, and a professional playwright. At the end of each session, the judges deliberate and 1 to 2 plays are selected to move on to the Festival Finals. Finals take places of the last of day of the Festival. During the Finals, the Festival staff will watch the final twelve to fourteen plays and select six authors to be a published in a the OFF OFF BROADWAY FESTIVAL PLAYS series, which is published and licensed by Samuel French, Inc.