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  • Writer's pictureMonica Cross

In Praise of the New Play Exchange

From time to time, I see people ask on social media whether the New Play Exchange is “worth it” or some variety of that question. Time and again I find myself responding with similar replies. So I thought I would share some thoughts here.

First of all, What is the New Play Exchange?

A project of the National New Play Network, NPX describes itself as “the world's largest digital library of scripts by living writers.”

Having listened to Gwydion Suilebhan (Project Director of NPX) talk about how this came into being and the thoughts behind the its creation, my understanding is that NPX was conceived in response to the submission model of playwrights sending plays out to theatres, which is very ineffective at getting the right plays to the right hands. NPX is the proposed alternative to submissions.

NPX is a platform where playwrights can curate their own work. As a playwright, I can choose which plays I want to make available on NPX, what order to list them in, and how I want to describe the plays. I can link to publications of my plays, reviews, and video material. While I can also do this, and possibly more, on a personal website (which is where this blog post is being published), NPX is a central location that is growing in popularity making it more accessible than my website which will only ever be found by people who are directly looking for me, unless the SEO gods bless me.

I joined the New Play Exchange very early in my playwriting journey, which was also pretty early on in the life of NPX. So, my craft is very much shaped by its existence. We are sort of growing up together, and I can confidently say that I would not be where I am in my writing today without it. It has been a place where I have found friendship with other writers, external validation (usually, but not always in the form of productions) from students and directors and producers, and a deeper understanding of what is being written right now.

But even with all of that, NPX is not the end all and the be all for playwrights. It is a starting place, a home base. Once I get a script to a place that I feel that I can share it with the world, it goes up on NPX. Then the rest of it begins:

I still submit, and I definitely get more productions from submissions.

But I just ran the numbers. Roughly 25% of my productions last year came from NPX, 75% from submission. However, 85% of my income came NPX, while only 15% came from submissions. That is because 100% of the productions that I have gotten through NPX this last year were paid, while only 10% of the productions that I got through submissions were paid.

I still cultivate relationships with theatres and people in theatre.

This is somewhat assisted by NPX, but I would say that overwhelmingly the connections I have made through NPX were other playwrights, and the relationships I have developed with directors and producers happens through other means. That being said, the relationships I have made with playwrights through NPX has been a huge boost to my writing craft. It was because of reading plays and having my plays recommended by others that I followed certain playwrights on twitter and from there formed a small playwriting collective. That group has been one of the most instrumental parts of my development over the last few years.

Nothing in playwriting is a one stop shop. Just like every aspect of theatre, you have to constantly be putting yourself out there for there to be any progress. And while NPX is part of a larger process of putting yourself out there, it also isn’t just a place where you upload the files and you are done and move on to the other ways you put yourself out there. NPX is a networking platform, designed to create space for producers to find the right plays for them. So you have network on the site in order to make sure your plays are able to be found by producers (and that I think is a whole other blog post).

NPX is definitely still a work in progress. It is growing, and it takes the very small support staff a while to implement changes. I have heard that there is a new roll out coming this year, and I’m excited to see what that brings. In the meantime, I will keep updating my NPX page as I create new work, and you can check it out here:

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