How to write a cover letter
Good cover letters are essential, unless a theater doesn’t want you to send one. I’ve been interviewing artistic directors and literary managers around the country, asking them what they like about new plays and what they wish playwrights knew about submitting their plays.
Here’s what Vance Smith, the artistic director of Stage Left Theatre in Chicago, told me about the benefit of cover letters:
“If your submission is accompanied by a thoughtful cover letter that tells me why your play is a Stage Left play, that’s going to get my attention. Because I’m looking for something I can use.”
So. I’m going to write a thoughtful cover letter that tells Theatre Three why my play is a Theatre Three play, why it is something they can use.
What do I put in a cover letter
I found a great blog post by a literary manager, with excellent tips on how to write a cover letter. If I still had the URL I would put a link in here. If I ever find it again, I’ll add it.
First paragraph of the cover letter: essential info
The essential info about your play: title, type of play, running time, number of intermissions (if any), cast requirements, set requirements, and costume requirements.
“Lessons from Moonshine” is a long one-act comedy/drama running 80 minutes. The cast includes five women, ages 20s to early 60s. The play uses a unit set and simple costuming.
Second paragraph: why produce the play
A short, introductory synopsis, with some information about why the play is timely and worth producing.
“Lessons from Moonshine” is set during Prohibition, about a small convent of nuns who keep their convent in business by running a still. Just like in the recession we’re in now, these women face hard economic times. And like many current social services, the Sisters are trying to reduce the harm caused by poisoned bootleg moonshine, with the addition moral dilemma of having to break the law to do it.
Third: why their audiences will love it
Why their audiences, in particular, would love your play.
I’m sending “Lessons from Moonshine” to Theatre Three because it would do well in a city that has a substantial Catholic population. Also, it has good roles for women, so you can cast the wonderful women actors you see that you don’t always have enough roles for.
Fourth: a little about you
As for me, I am a playwright, actor, and director. I studied playwriting and acting at Freehold Theatre in Seattle, and writing at Richard Hugo House, also in Seattle. I’ve written plays on various subjects, frequently about loss of inheritance, property, and home.
Fifth: what you’re sending them
List everything they say they want; show that you’re paying attention.
I’m enclosing a synopsis, cast requirements, an overview of the settings, sample dialogue scenes, and a production history. And, for your convenience in letting me know you received the script, an SASP.
Sixth: contact info
You can reach me at (e-mail address, phone number).
What do you put in cover letters?
What have you found that makes a great cover letter?