Playwrights Competition


2017 Playwright’s Competition Rules & Info

What If? Productions continues our mission to introduce the ambitious work of new and emerging artists in contemporary American theatre with the launch of our sixth annual regional Playwrights Competition. Since the company's inception in 2010, What If? has continuously encouraged and nurtured the works of emerging artists, not only through the annual Playwrights Festival, but also through its lengthy partnership with sister theatre The New Colony in Chicago by producing East Coast and regional premieres of new works including Five Lesbians Eating A Quiche, Hearts Full of Blood and Kate and Sam Are Not Breaking Up.

Each winner of our Playwrights Competition has received its world professional premiere here in Charleston, exposing their work to a larger and arts savvy audience interested in the diverse works of new and emerging playwrights. Our 2015 winner, Theroun Patterson’s The Cannibals debuted  at last year’s Playwrights Festival in June 2016 to rave reviews and received a Best Actress nomination for one of its lead actors, Beth Curley. Last year's winning play, Julie Zaffarano's The PlayMakers, will makes its world premiere this summer!  

Beth Curley, Steven Cardinal and Daniel Breuer in the world premiere of Theroun Patterson's 2015 winning play    The Cannibals.

Beth Curley, Steven Cardinal and Daniel Breuer in the world premiere of Theroun Patterson's 2015 winning play The Cannibals.

Previous WIP Playwrights Festival winners:
2012: The Practice Child by Tyler Stuart
2013: Accepting Applications for a Muse by Brian Burke Jones
2014: How To Field Dress An Android by Irene Pynn
2015: The Cannibals by Theroun Patterson
2016: The PlayMakers by Julie Zaffarano

Starting Monday March 6, 2017, we will be accepting digital copies only of scripts for our sixth annual Playwrights Competition. A panel of local directors, producers, writers and actors will review all submissions, selecting three scripts to receive staged readings at our Playwrights Festival in June 2017. Following the readings, What If? Productions will select one play that will have the possibility of a full world premiere production as part of our 2017-18 season. Early or late submissions will not be accepted.

All submissions must adhere to the rules and limitations of the guidelines below. Any submissions that do not will be automatically disqualified and eliminated from the competition.


The W.I.P. Playwright’s Competition will be open to residents of the Southeast regions of South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, West Virginia and Virginia. New for 2016 the competition is now open to East Coast residents of the following states: District of Columbia, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Submissions from residents other than these states will be automatically eliminated. 

Submissions will be accepted from March 6 - April 30, 2017.  We will not accept any submissions before or past these dates.

Finalists will be announced and notified by May 31, 2017.

Finalist staged readings to be held during our sixth Annual Playwrights Festival June 2017.

Winning show will be considered for production as part of What If?s 2017-18 season.



1. We only accept digital submissions. Scripts can be submitted digitally via email at as a pdf document. We do not accept mailed hard copies of scripts. Do not mail your scripts! Mailed scripts will be automatically disqualified and NOT RETURNED.

2. Submission must be written in the English language. 

3. Submission must be an original full length play that is previously unpublished. 
(we are not accepting musicals or one act plays this year)

4. The submission must begin with a title page that includes the work’s name and the playwright’s name, address, telephone number, and email.  There should also include a character list and scene breakdown if applicable. 

5. Submissions that have been previously published or produced will not be accepted. Plays scheduled for a future professional production will also not be accepted. 

6. Script must be easy to read in no less than 12-point type and page numbers.

7. We are an eclectic contemporary theatre company with a focus on modern issues (comedy, drama, musicals) with a target audience from ages 20 - 45. Submissions geared toward this area are strongly recommended.

8. Cast size rage from 1 - 10 characters only.

9. Each playwright is limited to one submission per year.  There will be no revisions accepted once a script has been submitted.

10. Submission must include a short paragraph synopsis of the script storyline.

11. There will be no oral or written critique given on scripts submitted. We will only notify the playwrights whose plays have been selected for reading. We will also post the finalist names and titles on this website after the finalists have been notified. We will not individually notify entrants who were not selected as finalists. 

WHERE TO SUBMIT: You can submit your finalized work in PDF form to

For additional questions contact Kyle Barnette, Artistic Director at



All finalists will be invited to attend our staged reading competition in July at the 2016 Playwright’s Festival. Housing and travel will not be provided for the readings. Playwrights are not required to attend the staged readings in consideration of winning the competition and their absence or presence will have no bearing on the final decision.

Finalists will each be asked to provide What If? with a 15 minute cutting or section of their work to represent their piece at our staged readings event on Saturday July 2nd. Each of the three finalist play cutting will be read for a live audience on that day. While audience input is considered and appreciated, final decision of the winning play will be made by the What If? Collective and Play Fest Jury who have will have read each play in its entirety.

Winning playwright will be awarded a $300 prize and will be invited to attend the world premiere production of their work during our 2017-18 season. 

What If? will make efforts to provide housing for the winning playwright for the week of production of their winning play. Travel accommodations are the sole responsibility of the winning playwright.


Contestant, by submission, either physically or electronically, of his/her/their work to What If? Productions agrees and consents to the following terms and provisions:

1.) Contestant’s submission is the sole intellectual property of the Contestant.

2.) Contestant has read and fully understands the terms and conditions of What If? Productions’ Playwright’s Competition

3.) Contestant understands that accommodations of winning playwright are contingent upon availability with every effort made by What If? Productions. What If? does not supply travel.

4.) Contestant consents to What If? Productions’ unlimited use of excerpts from Contestant’s submitted work for future promotion of subsequent What If? Productions Playwright Contests.

5.) In the event Contestant’s submitted work is selected as one of three top entries; Contestant authorizes What If? Productions to produce and present, if it so chooses, to the general public the Contestant’s submitted work in the form of a theatrical performance for a total of three (3) theatrical staged readings. Provided; however, that this grant of authority to produce is limited to and shall not exceed a period of twelve (12) consecutive months from and after the date that What If? Productions publicly announces the winning entries. Further, What If? Productions, in the promotion of any and all theatrical performances, shall adequately and fully advertise the Contestant’s name and the fact that Contestant was one of the top entries in the Contest.

6.) If Contestant’s submission is one of the top three entries selected by What If? Productions and What If? elects to produce and present the Contestant’s work to the public, Contestant agrees that What If?Productions shall not be responsible for any and all costs and/or expenses associated with Contestant’s travel to and from the site selected by What If? Productions for production, technical planning meetings, readings, performances or other associated and/or related events.



Who will be jurying and reading the plays?

What If? Productions will read all submissions in house by a jury of playwright’s, actors and artists who will make the final decision of the three plays selected for the staged readings in July. The winning play will be decided upon the jury’s suggestions as well as audience feedback from the festival.

What is with all of writer’s consent? Do you get to use my play however you want?

Absolutely not. As a company we have a deep and unmovable passion for the playwriting process. We would just like to use pictures from the final production and quotes from the script on our website and in other media forums for future promotional use. We encourage workshopping for writers, but we would never change your words or compromise your artistic integrity.

Are your play submission rules set in stone? What if my play is 91 pages when you have a limit of 90 pages?

We understand that a play is something that cannot necessarily be boxed into such specific limitations. These are guidelines, and while we take them pretty seriously there are always exceptions. When in doubt just email us! We are always available for questions.

Who are you?

We are in the midst of our sixth season and have produced an array of wonderful, innovative theatre productions from the original operetta The Oath to acclaimed productions of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story, Cabaret, The House Of Yes and the East Coast and regional premieres of new works such as Five Lesbians Eating A Quiche, Kate & Sam Are Not Breaking Up, Saucy Jack & The Space Vixens and Hearts Full of Blood.

We produced the world premiere professional production of The Practice Child, winner of our first annual Playwrights Competition in July 2013. We have developed quite a reputation for bringing new and exciting theatre productions to Charleston and plan to continue that with this competition. Our theatre has been nominated as one of Charleston City Paper’s Best Theatre Companies with three of our productions, including The Practice Child, nominated for Best Theatre Production.

We are so excited to be a browning arts organization that produces contemporary work. Our dedication to artistic excellence has aided us along our journey and it will continue to be our number one priority as we grow.