The Maine Playwrights Festival is celebrating its 22nd year of nurturing the development of new scripts by Maine writers. The festival is centered on developing and honing short plays, from submission through staged readings, rewrites, and culminating in a series of public performances in the spring. The festival is produced through a collaboration between Maine-based directors, actors, dramaturgs, and designers, working with MPF Artistic Director Daniel Burson and a professional Playwright-in-Residence. For more information on past history of plays developed at the Maine Playwrights Festival, visit our Production History page.
The 2024 Festival will be performed in-person on two weekends of fully staged performances of short plays (8-30 minutes in length). Each 2024 selected script will be performed on every show night during the festival. The plays will be performed at the Studio Theater at Portland Stage (25 Forest Avenue) in Portland, in April 2024 (specific dates to be announced soon).
The Submission Deadline for the 2024 Maine Playwrights Festival is: Monday, November 27, 2023
For the past 21 years, Acorn Productions has produced the Maine Playwrights Festival, an event that nurtures the development of new plays by local playwrights. Each year, playwrights from across Maine submit between 50 and 75 scripts to the festival, and a committee of local theater professionals reads them and selects a small group of plays for production. For many years, the plays were presented in a series of performances in the late spring at the St. Lawrence Arts Center – the past four in-person festivals have been performed at the Studio Theater at Portland Stage (25 Forest Avenue). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 festival was postponed and became the 2021 festival, which was professionally-filmed and presented through on-demand streaming.
The emphasis has been and continues to be on providing playwrights with the opportunity to hear their words come to life in a rehearsal process and rewrite and develop their script with a professional director and actors. In addition to showcasing writers’ work, the Festival also strives to provide opportunities for playwrights to learn and work on their craft through workshops and master-classes with professionals. Over the years, we have worked with scores of Maine playwrights, many of whom have subsequently had their work produced in theater festivals all over the country.
MPF Selection Process
Script selections for each year’s Maine Playwrights Festival are made through a multi-stage selection process aligned with industry standards for impartial evaluation of submissions. From a submission deadline in late November, finalists for the festival are selected by early January and all writers submitting a play are notified of the results by mid-January.
Each year, a reading committee of four individuals from Southern Maine’s theater and literary communities is assembled by Acorn Artistic Director Daniel Burson to read and evaluate submissions. At least two of the four committee members change every year so that the same group of people is not repeatedly evaluating submissions.
All scripts submitted to the festival are reviewed by the reading committee through a “blind reading” process. What this means is that the playwright’s name and any identifying information about their gender identity, race, age, sexual orientation, or background is removed from the script prior to being seen by the reading committee. Readers thus evaluate every script on its own merits, screening out acknowledged or subconscious biases regarding the writer’s identity.
Each script receives a first read from a member of the reading committee. Most scripts then also receive a second read from a different committee member. From the scripts that receive second reads, the committee will select approximately 14-18 scripts which are read aloud and discussed at committee meetings. From these, the committee then chooses approximately 10 semi-finalists.