January 13, 2000: Twenty years ago this week, a reader wrote in to urge theatres to “get their act together” regarding the cost of submitting new writing.
In our January 13, 2000 issue, Tom O’Brien wrote: “As a struggling playwright, I was appalled when two well-known theatres informed me that it was now their policy to charge for reading unsolicited scripts and could I send them the appropriate fee (£12-£15) in order that they could process my script. This script-reading service as it was referred to was apparently introduced because of the ‘high costs of reading scripts’.
“More likely it was seen as a way of extracting money from easy targets, ie, vulnerable writers. Time was when theatres read the first few pages of a script and knew straight away whether it was crap or not. If a theatre really likes your play the one thing you can be sure you won’t get is a reader’s report. Upwards of £100 to send his or her work out?
“It is madness. Writers won’t do it. New plays will not get produced, perhaps not even written. Theatres like to boast that they support new writing, but many of them are only paying lip service to the idea. Some of them are trying to screw writers to the floorboards with this new display of greed. Come on theatres, get your acts together.”
If you’d like to read more stories from the history of theatre, all previous content from The Stage is available at the British Newspaper Archive in a convenient, easy-to-access format. Please visit: thestage.co.uk/archive