First Read FAQ

Call For Submissions:

First Read, a new play development workshop and readings series, seeks first drafts of plays that center queer, trans, and non-binary voices. First Read will be produced by queer/femme theater company The Syndicate at IRT Theater in NYC at 154 Christopher St, the week of September 4th – September 10th, 2018.

To submit a play, please email a PDF of your script to by March 31, 2018 with the subject line FIRST READ SUBMISSION. Please include a character breakdown. You will be notified via email either way no later than April 30, 2018.

Please read on for the answers to all of your questions.

Q: What’s The Syndicate’s deal anyway?

A: The Syndicate is an ensemble theater company that produces new plays by women, queer, and trans artists. As an international network, The Syndicate seeks to expand professional opportunities in the field for both our members and fellow artists. Our work advocates for diversity, both in how we tell stories and whose stories we tell.

The Syndicate has received a 3B Residency at IRT this August-September. We will premiere two new works in progress created by our ensemble. We are also setting aside 1 week of our residency time to produce First Read. (That’s where you come in.)


Q: Why are you asking for queer/trans/nonbinary focused plays?

A: So glad you asked! One of the goals of First Read is to engage a community of artists and audiences that are interested in stories by, for, and about queer, trans, and non-binary people. The Syndicate is not seeing enough plays in the world that tell these stories, or enough artists of these identities that have the opportunity to develop their work and be paid for it. First Read is our effort towards making more of this work happen.


Q: Do I have to identify as queer/trans/nonbinary to submit?

A: We will be accepting scripts from both writers who identify as queer, trans, and/or nonbinary and writers who identify as cis. This is based on the idea that the world we need includes both queer/trans/nonbinary folks getting support to tell their/our own stories, and cis writers who may already have access in the industry creating and advocating for plays that put queer, trans, and nonbinary folks  onstage.


Q: Does my cast have to contain only queer/trans/nonbinary characters?

A: Nope! (But wouldn’t that be epic?)


Q: How is First Read different from all the other festivals asking for my play submission?

A: If your play is selected, The Syndicate will work with you to figure out what you need to get to a reading-ready draft by September 2018.  We can help you find a director and a cast, or if you have folx in mind, you can bring them along! Maybe you already understand the structure of your play really well or maybe you need to chat with someone one on one to clarify some things...we’re available to be your first readers, your dramaturgs, or just a sounding board! We will also handle all the logistics around the reading like scheduling, marketing, and tech needs.

First Read also wants to take a queer and femme-centric, humanistic, community-building approach to the creation of new plays. We will set aside time during the week for roundtable discussions about the questions and challenges that come up for us as queer/trans/non-binary artists in the theater industry. Questions like: How do we cast roles that are written as trans/non-binary? How do trans/non-binary actors approach submitting themselves for roles either within or outside of their chosen identification? What do we need to accomplish in a rehearsal room to make it safe for queer/trans/non-binary artists? How can we approach getting more stories that feature these identities into the mainstream theater industry?


Q: If I’m selected, what’s the time commitment?

You should be available for at least a few meetings either in person or online between March and August. We’ll also need you to be in NYC and available for rehearsals, readings, and discussions from September 4 - 10. The Syndicate is interested in bringing together a group of artists that want to dig in to both the plays themselves and the social, political, artistic context in which they’re made, so we would want you to WANT to hang out with us for as much of the week as possible. That said, we understand people have jobs, commitments, etc, and we wouldn’t require you to be free for the ENTIRE week in order to participate, but we would hope you could be at most events.


Q: How many plays will be chosen to develop?

A: We plan to choose at least 3 plays, pending further funding.


Q: What does “first draft” mean?

Part of the goal of First Read is to help you, as a playwright, figure out what the heck your cool play idea needs to become better. We want to help you do that in a room full of awesome people, so you don’t have to do it alone at your computer. We would like to see scripts that are in their initial stages of development and have not yet been produced. Your idea could be in the roughest-of-rough-draft stage, as long as we get the drift of what you’re up to.


Q: Is there any genre or style of play you are looking for?

Nope! No preference will be given to any “type” of play. Anything is fair game as long as it’s a play.


Q: Will I be paid?

A: YES. The Syndicate believes that your time and creative work are valuable. Each writer will receive at least $150 for participating in the week of First Read. We are currently seeking funding to increase that stipend. We will also pay a stipend to all of our directors, actors, run crew, etc. No one works for free with The Syndicate.


Q: How large can my cast be?

A: As large as you want. No preference will be given to any particular cast size, although we encourage you to consider that we want to pay everyone without selling our personal belongings.


Q: Do I have to be based in NYC to submit a play?

A: No, but The Syndicate unfortunately does not have funding for travel or housing at this time. If your play is selected, you will have to find your own way to NYC to participate in the workshop. We understand this is prohibitive, and we’re working as hard as we can to secure more funding and make this an ongoing project that is accessible to more artists.


Q: If my play is chosen, does that mean The Syndicate will produce it?

A: The goal of First Read is not for The Syndicate to find plays to produce for our own ensemble. Instead, we want to share the resources of space and time that we have through our residency at IRT to help you finish a draft of your script and hear it out loud in front of an audience for the first time.


Q: What qualifies you to judge my play? How is this selection process fair?

A: No judgement here! And honestly, it’s not. The Syndicate acknowledges that art is subjective, that we all come to it with different life experiences, biases, and tastes. We do not consider ourselves the be all and end all of the “worthiness” of a particular script. If you are not chosen, that is not because your script isn’t great, it’s only because we are just a theater company of people doing our best to choose the plays that we want to see developed.


Q: You didn’t answer my question.

A: Our bad. Send us an email. We will respond within 3 business days.