Plays submitted to the Essential Theatre Playwriting Competition go through a three-phase evaluation process that spans almost nine months. The evaluation timeline is as follows:
April 23 – deadline to submit for the following year’s playwriting award
Round 1: Early summer – Literary management interns and volunteer readers from the community evaluate each of the plays submitted in the past year. Founding artistic director Peter Hardy uses the readers’ evaluations and conducts follow-up conversations and readings as needed, to determine which plays continue to Round 2.
Round 2: Fall – Plays that make it to Round 2 are evaluated by invitation-only volunteer readers, literary management interns and Peter.
Round 3: November to January – Peter personally reviews each of the plays that proceed to Round 3 and narrows the selections down to six or fewer scripts. These scripts are shared with Essential’s board and staff, along with a brief statement from Peter detailing strengths of the play, challenges it may present, and any other information of note. Feedback is offered to Peter through in-person meetings or via email and a winner or winners are selected. The ultimate decision rests with Peter, but this final round is a heavily collaborative process, with extensive in-depth conversations throughout.
February 1 – Winner or winners are notified and offered a Letter of Agreement regarding the upcoming premiere of their play. Once the Letter of Agreement has been signed and returned, the remaining competitors are thanked for their participation and notified that the winner has been selected.
March 1 – Festival Announcement Event