Submissions are now open for the September Musical Cafe Showcase!

The May Musical Cafe Showcase was a huge success!

Play Cafe’s second 2015 Musical Cafe Showcase, presented on May 3 at Stage Werx Theatre in San Francisco, was a huge success!  Songs and scenes from four new musicals by Bay Area writers and composers were performed by a cast of 16 talented actor/singers to a sold-out audience. The show featured work in a variety of styles and settings, from classic to contemporary, with music direction by Phil Surtees.

About the Musical Cafe Showcase:

The Musical Cafe Showcase is an afternoon of songs and scenes from new musicals by Northern California writers and composers. A maximum of 20 minutes of material will be presented from each show.

Details about the shows that were presented on May 3 can be found at the Musical Cafe tab.

It takes many hands to make the Musical Cafe Showcases happen. If you’d like to help in any way, please get in touch with Sandy at  We’re particularly looking for a House Manager, and help with box office, social media, and traditional marketing/publicity. Want to participate  in some other way? Maybe direct a 20 minute musical theatre piece?  Are you interested in performing?  Making a donation?  Let us know!

Call for Submissions for September 2015 Musical Cafe Showcase

Submissions will be accepted from April 1 to May 31, 2015

Performance date September, 2015 (exact date and location tbd).

About the Musical Cafe Showcase:

We will provide a pianist. Participating writers and composers must provide their own performers (maximum 6) and arrange for their own rehearsal time and space. There will be a limited number of rehearsal times available with our pianist. Writers and composers will be expected to participate in planning and promoting the Showcase. The pianist’s fee and the costs of venue rental, insurance and limited publicity will be paid by Play Cafe, but there is no additional funding available. Unfortunately we do not have the resources to offer feedback on submissions at this time.


1.  At least one member of writing team must live in Northern California.
2.  The show must be unproduced (other than a workshop production).
3.  The show may be a work in progress, or have been completed within the last five  years.
4.  If the show is an adaptation of another work, you must own the rights to underlying material, unless it is in the public domain.
5.  The music must be original.
6.  Unless book, lyrics and music were all written by the same person, you must have a written collaboration agreement.
7.  Shows of any length are eligible, but the material presented may not exceed 20 minutes.

The submission deadline is midnight Sunday night, May 31, 2015.

Send (1) a short synopsis of the show (maximum 500 words), (2) 10 pages of the libretto in pdf format with a cover sheet giving your contact information, (3) 3 songs in mp3 format, and (4) the written piano/vocal score of one of the three songs in pdf format.  (Formatting guidelines for a musical script and/or score are available at

Send the above materials to  Incomplete submissions will not be considered.




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Musical Cafe Performance Sun, Jan 25

Play Cafe is proud to support the work of Northern California musical creators through our Musical Cafe project. The primary function of Musical Cafe is to gather musical book writers, lyricists, and composers to network and present their work.

In January, Musical Cafe is hosting a one-night event that showcases selected scenes and songs from five new stage musicals by Bay Area writers and composers. Works will be presented in a concert reading format.

Sunday, January 25, 2015, 6:00 p.m.
Musically Minded Academy
5776 Broadway
Oakland, CA 94618

General Admission $15

Purchase Tickets Online

Featured musicals:

THE FOUR IMMIGRANTS MANGA, by Min Kahng. Based on a documentary-style comic book written and illustrated by Henry Kiyama, this show follows the adventures of four Japanese immigrants who came to the USA in the early 20th century.

THE CRICKET ON THE HEARTH, by Richard Jennings and Pamela Winfrey. As Dot and John Peerybingle prepare their happy home for Christmas, a mysterious stranger takes up lodging at their house. Based on a Dickens novella, this musical explores the meaning of love, faith, and trust.

THE MAX FACTOR FACTOR, by Joe Blodgett, Adrian Bewley, and Chana Wise. It’s 1936, the golden age of Hollywood. The leading men from two rival movie studios fall in love. They suddenly find themselves having to navigate a dizzying world of artifice, backstabbing, lavender weddings, double-crossing starlets, and a moral crusader from the Legion of Rectitude.

SCHRODINGER’S CHRISTMAS, by Jerome Joseph Gentes and Jon Rosen. Set in Boston, Schrodinger’s Christmas is a ten-minute “opera” about love and particle physics.

This is the first of a series of Musical Cafe events. Submission guidelines coming soon!

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How to Get Your Work Produced Highlights

By Annette Roman

Twenty-five playwrights gathered on Saturday afternoon of October 27 at the Berkeley Rep’s School of Theatre for the Play Cafe’s inspiring panel discussion “How to Get Your Work Produced.”

The illustrious local panelists were: award-winning playwright Anthony Clarvoe; artistic director of Impact Theater Melissa Hillman; playwright, librettist, and educator Carol S. Lashof; co-founder and executive director of Theater MadCap Eric Reid; and recent president of the Playwrights’ Center of San Francisco and associate artist with Wily West Productions Jennifer Lynn Roberts. The panel was smoothly moderated by executive director of Play Cafe and artistic director of All Terrain Theater Tracy Held Potter.

I took notes, but before I look at them, I’m thinking about what advice stands out most in my mind: “Be nice to everyone.”

The panelists discussed “networking,” but cringed at the terminology. (What a pleasure to attend a panel of writers and performers! Nary a dull inarticulate moment!) The point was, if you’re being smarmy to get something, that’s icky. But if you’re genuinely interested in someone else’s work and in working with them, don’t hesitate to connect. And if you’re shy, Roberts pointed out, social media is a great way to do it.

The panelists are all supportive of others in the theater community…and recommend you be too. Hillman pointed out that promoting others won’t hurt you—anything that promotes theater is good for everyone in theater. So go forth and post about theater you enjoyed.

On the other hand, the panelists reminded us, “Remember, it’s a small community. We’ll talk about your work. And we’ll talk about you.” I think that’s why it’s sometimes hard to get honest feedback from other people in the theater community. They’re afraid of hurting your feelings or inadvertently dissing your secret lover in the backstage crew. Luckily, organizations like Play Cafe give you a safe place to develop your work by giving and receiving critical feedback!

I was left wondering…if you’re not nice, can you learn to be just to better your chances of getting your play produced? Probably not. But since we all have a bit of the drama queen in us (or we wouldn’t be doing theatre), perhaps the best way to implement the panelists’ advice is to reach out generously and be mindful of the context and impact before criticizing or complaining.

On to my notes…

What do producers look for?

• People who know plays (read a lot of them to get the form and format right!).

• When submitting a play, match it to the theatre’s aesthetic, mission, and constraints. If they love the play but can’t use it, they might pass it on to someone else. So don’t be devastated when you’re rejected. Melissa Hillman loves to find a good home for a good play!

• Fun or unfun fact: At Impact, about 99 plays are rejected for every one that is accepted. This rate is fairly typical of other companies as well. So your rejected play is in good…heh, heh…company. (Note to self: puns are bad writing.)

So your play got rejected. Now what? Perhaps it’s time to improve it:

• Lots of great writing advice from Clarvoe, including: See how deep the response of your audience is, how it got under their skin. How does your script give actors opportunities to show their skills? Look at every syllable of your script. Ask yourself, have I attended to every moment? Does everything have a purpose? Or did I just write it because it’s fun to write? Take the time it takes to become the person you need to be to write this play.

• The panelists agreed: Be yourself. That’s what’s unique about you. Don’t try to be somebody else or write for someone or something. Write first, then search for the theater/producer that matches your work.

How do I self produce?

• Roberts: Just do it! Somehow. Get a group of writers together and commit to putting on each other’s plays. Playwright collectives are popping up all over the country are great models to collective self-producing. Check out The Welders; The Orbiters; Boston Public Works; Lather, Rinse, Repeat; and San Francisco’s own, 6 New Plays. These are short-lived commitments, not a theater company. Plus, you’ll gain experience in a few other areas of theater, which is valuable for a playwright. Get funding. Check out Fractured Atlas, who has funded at least two of these collectives. Or, find a sight-specific location for one of your plays. Partner with the business there. Or charity. Say you’ll donate your proceeds to their charity and they can do the marketing, etc. So, yeah. Just do it! And send me an invite so I can come see it.

• Find a space (wayyyy in advance). Rent it. Book it. Borrow it. Bribe it. Consider unusual spaces: your Grandma’s living room? A street corner?

• Pitch the play to a sponsor: a charity, a university with a program related to your topic (bonus: academic institutions have theatre spaces!).

• Don’t be intimidated by Equity rules (new producers get breaks—for a little while at least).

• Don’t be shy about putting your work out there. You are a job creator for theatre people!

• An important PSA from all the panelists: playwriting isn’t for making money.

How do I promote my work?

• Try to get reviewed, but don’t expect to be for the first few productions/years. There are very few reviewers and newspapers left in the area.

• Use social media to get the word out.

• Put yourself on calendars (like the SF Chronicle’s).

• Invite producers/potential collaborators personally, but don’t be offended if they can’t make it. They are busy, busy people. The invitation itself is an opportunity for them to find out that you’re getting your work out there.

What organizations should I join and who should I “follow” online?

• Join Play Cafe; the Playwrights’ Center of San Francisco; the Playwrights Foundation; the Official Playwrights of Facebook; Yeah, I Said Feminist: A Theater Symposium; the Dramatists Guild; Theatre Communications Group; and Theater Bay Area! Community connections may lead to readings and staged readings and productions. Not to mention better writing.

• Read the Playwrights’ Survival Handbook and The Dramatists Sourcebook.

• See tons of shows! Volunteer at theatres!

• On Twitter, follow: #pwops, #howlround, #newplay and @RachelBublitz.

Additional suggestions from Anthony Clarvoe:

• Many theaters only accept unsolicited scripts when they offer a new-play competition (Marin Theatre Co., for example). If you’re interested in submitting to a theatre, check their website for information about submission guidelines, including when in the year they accept scripts.

• Take classes. If you can afford it, consider hiring a dramaturg. A number of writers I know have risen quickly from long-term creative and career plateaus by making this relatively modest investment.

• Look outside the immediate area for opportunities. While many contests have regional residence requirements, many do not. The more often you submit, the more chances you have to win!

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Dec 11: Special Guest Playwright Christopher Chen

On Thursday, December 11, Play Cafe will host its monthly Scene Night for playwrights to bring in their works in progress to be cold-read by skilled actors and to provide an opportunity for feedback in a moderated and supportive environment.

This month, we will meet on Thursday, December 11 from 6:45pm–10pm with our special guest, playwright Christopher Chen at Berkeley Rep’s School of Theatre at 2071 Addison Street, Berkeley, CA, Berkeley, CA (see below for directions).

Please arrive before 7pm to make sure the doors will be open when you arrive.

This meeting will be moderated by Patrick Brennan and will begin with a 30-minute discussion with Christopher Chen about his work. At 7:30pm, we will proceed with reading scenes that attending playwrights have brought in.

We welcome three actors to read scenes for us: Rosie Hallett, Davern Wright, and Loretta Janca (two women and one man). We will formally introduce attending playwrights who would like to volunteer to read parts during the meeting as well. If you are an actor, aspiring actor, or just a person who likes to read out loud, please volunteer your voice talents at the beginning of the meeting.

About Christopher Chen
Christopher Chen is an international award-winning playwright whose full-length works have been produced and developed across the United States and abroad, including at the American Conservatory Theater, Asian American Theater Company, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, Beijing Fringe, Central Works, Crowded Fire, Cutting Ball Theater, Edinburgh Fringe, Fluid Motion, hotINK Festival, Just Theatre, Lark Play Development Center, Magic Theatre, Playwrights Foundation, Silk Road Theatre Project, Sundance Theatre Lab and Theatre Mu.

Chris is the recipient of the 2013 Paula Vogel Playwriting Award and is currently playwright in residence at The Vineyard Theatre. Other honors include: For THE HUNDRED FLOWERS PROJECT the 2012 Glickman Award, the 2012 Rella Lossy Playwriting Award, shortlisted for the 2013 James Tait Black Award, and a nomination for the Steinberg Award; for INTO THE NUMBERS 2nd Place in the Belarus Free Theater International Competition of Modern Dramaturgy and a Ford Foundation Emerging Writer of Color Grant; finalist for the PONY and Jerome Fellowships.

Chris’s plays peddle in the socio-political, the psychological, the absurd and the structurally kaleidoscopic. A Bay Area native, Chris is a graduate of U.C. Berkeley and holds an M.F.A. in Playwriting from S.F. State. He currently lives in San Francisco.

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Tickets On Sale: How to Get Your Work Produced Panel

At least once a year, Play Cafe host a workshop to help playwrights network with theatre professionals and learn more about new play development. Next month, we will bring back a popular panel discussion to gather tips and insights on getting original work produced today.

How to Get Your Work Produced, Oct 18, 2014 (2pm-5pm)
Berkeley Rep School of Theatre

Featuring Advice and Experience from:
Anthony Clarvoe (Playwright)
Melissa Hillman (Artistic Director, Impact)
Carol Lashof (Playwright, Founder, Those Women Productions)
Eric Reid (Artistic Director, Theater MadCap)
Jennifer Roberts (Playwright, President, Playwrights’ Center of San Francisco).

Moderated by Tracy Held Potter (Executive Director, Play Cafe)

Our panel represents decades of experience from Bay Area artistic directors who are committed to working with local and emerging playwrights as well as playwrights who have had their work produced locally and nationally and have experience writing pieces on commission or self-production. See our event page for bios from this diverse and experienced group of panelists.

We will open the discussion with moderated questions to the entire panel, and then we will continue the discussion with an audience-led Q&A. The afternoon will conclude with social time and refreshments.

Our panel will be held at the Berkeley Rep School of Theatre at 2071 Addison Street. We will be in the Bakery Room on the first floor (wheelchair accessible). There is paid parking across the street and our venue is one and a half blocks from Downtown Berkeley BART.

Pre-purchased tickets are $30.00 general admission and $25.00 member (to become a member, visit Door sales are $35.00 general admission and $25.00 for members.

Purchase Tickets Online

For more information, contact Tracy Held Potter, Executive Director, at tracy

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Scene Night Location

A few months ago, we began hosting our monthly Scene Nights at the Berkeley Rep School of Theatre in the Blue Room upstairs (2071 Addison Street, Berkeley, CA, between Shattuck and Milvia). The meetings are a block and a half from Downtown Berkeley BART and across the street from a parking garage.

This venue is wheelchair accessible. Enter through the front door and proceed across the lobby, crossing through the “Bakery” room to the elevator in the rear.

Join us on the second Thursday of every month from 7pm-10pm to have your 10-minute scenes read by professional actors.

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April 10: Special Guest Playwright Lauren Gunderson at Scene Night

Once a month, Play Cafe hosts a Scene Night for playwrights to bring in their works in progress to be cold-read by skilled actors and to provide an opportunity for feedback in a moderated and supportive environment.

This month, we will meet on Thursday, April 10 from 6:45pm–10pm with our special guest, popular and prolific playwright Lauren Gunderson at Berkeley Rep’s rehearsal space at 2055 Center Street, Berkeley, CA (see below for directions).

Please arrive before 7pm to make sure the doors will be open when you arrive.

This meeting will be moderated by Patrick Brennan and will begin with a 30-minute discussion with Lauren Gunderson about her work. At 7:30pm, we will proceed with reading scenes that attending playwrights have brought in, and Ms. Gunderson has offered to stay to listen to and provide feedback for the first one or two scenes read at the meeting.

We welcome three actors to read scenes for us: Steven Menasche, Juliana Lustenader, and Caitlin Evenson (two women and one man). We will formally introduce attending playwrights who would like to volunteer to read parts during the meeting as well. If you are an actor, aspiring actor, or just a person who likes to read out loud, please volunteer your voice talents at the beginning of the meeting.

Lauren is a playwright, screenwriter and short story author from Atlanta, GA. She received her BA in English/Creative Writing at Emory University, and her MFA in Dramatic Writing at NYU Tisch.
Her new play, I and You(Blackburn and Steinberg/ATCA finalist), is a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere that started at Marin Theatre Company and heads to three cities in 2014. Bauer, commissioned by San Francisco Playhouse, will premiere there and in NYC at 59E59 in 2014. Her play Silent Sky (Jane Chambers Award finalist) premiered at South Coast Rep in 2011 and was further developed and rewritten for TheatreWorks, which opened to raves calling it “sheer magic”. Her 2011 3-city rolling world premiere of Exit, Pursued By A Bear, was featured in American Theatre Magazine and The Week, and has reached 20 communities across the US winning “Best Comedy” accolades. Bear is now published by Playscripts, as is her comedy, Toil And Trouble, after premiering in Berkeley to raves.

Her work has received national praise and awards including recognition as a Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award finalist, a Susan Smith Blackburn finalist, a Jane Chambers Award finalist, and winner of the Berrilla Kerr Award for American Theatre, Global Age Project, Young Playwright’s Award, Eric Bentley New Play Award and Essential Theatre Prize. She has been commissioned by South Coast Rep, Crowded Fire, The Alliance Theatre’s Collision Project, Marin Theatre Company, Actors Express Theatre, Dad’s Garage Theatre, Theatrical Outfit, City University of New York and Synchronicity Performance Group.

She has spoken nationally and internationally on the intersection of science and theatre and Arts Activism, and teaches playwriting in San Francisco. She is a Playwright in Resident at The Playwrights Foundation, a Dramatists Guild member, and was a member of Just Theatre’s New Play Lab. She writes for The Huffington Post and The Wall Street Journal, tweets @LalaTellsAStory, and curates For more about Lauren, visit

PROCEDURES The cost is $10 (Play Cafe members are just $5! Register for membership before or at the meeting to receive your discount.). Please bring scenes to read, ten pages or fewer, with enough copies for all the characters and someone to read stage directions. We will have a sign-in sheet beginning at 6:45pm to choose the order that scenes will be read. First priority goes to scenes delayed from the previous month; next priority goes to people who arrived first to the meeting. We do not have people on the waitlist from last month’s meeting. Please arrive by 7pm as the hallway doors will lock and we will not be able to hear you.

LOCATION We are located near Downtown Berkeley BART at Berkeley Rep’s rehearsal spaces on 2055 Center Street, Studio B. Some tips for finding the entrance: 2055 is a large building with two entrances, stay on the east side of the building and look for a large metal gate with a sign that reads “Arts Passage” and a circular design on the sidewalk in front of the door. The building number is on the west entrance with a glass door and a sign reading “Residences” above the door … this is the wrong entrance. We will meet in the studio on the left side of the hallway, called Studio B. This will be our home for the next year.

HEARING QUALITY To accommodate those with difficulty hearing, we will reserve seats directly in front of the actors to people who have limited hearing. If you need one of these seats, please say so at the beginning of the meeting. With the new baffling, hearing quality has improved for all.

Tracy Potter
Executive Director, Play Cafe

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Welcome to Play Cafe’s New Website

As Play Cafe has grown and evolved, we have also created a new website to feature the content that playwrights and other theatre artists are most interested in finding.

In the coming months, this website will feature:

Membership Registration & Donation Links
Board of Directors & Steering Committee Members
Member Biographies
Information about Sponsorships
Special Events Information
Notes and Highlights from Past Workshops
Resources and Links for Playwrights
Occasional articles and posts of interest to playwrights

Please visit again as this site will have a growing reservoir of helpful content.

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