New Jersey Young Playwrights Contest

Submission GuidelinesWho Can EnterIneligible SubmissionsSelection CriteriaScript FormattingProfessional FormatMultiple Authors?DisclaimersFor More Information
All plays should be submitted through our online process. Scripts are uploaded through the application form.

To insure your play will be accepted into the contest, please read the submission guidelines below. Once you have done that, you can proceed to the submission form, which you can find in the menu bar on the right.

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  • Students in grades 4-12 (or the equivalent) who attend a public or non-public school, or are home schooled, in New Jersey.
  • New Jersey residents who attend schools outside of the state may submit. However, they may not be eligible to receive a NJ Governors Award in Arts Education as per the guidelines of the Governors Awards administration.
  • Plays may be co-written by no more than five (5) authors. All authors must meet participation criteria and be within the grade range of the division being entered. The names of the authors must be included on the submission form.
  • Scripts submitted to previous NJ Young Playwrights Contests.
  • Film scripts, screenplays, adaptations of other authors’ work
  • Plays written by students enrolled in full-time or part-time undergraduate or graduate programs.

Playwrights Theatre reserves the right to disqualify a script, if in the opinion of the theatre or its representatives, the submission violates copyright, or other applicable, laws.

The NJYPF does not look for a certain “type” of play. While we enjoy plays with “realistic” structures, we also strongly encourage plays that challenge ideologies and storytelling structure, plays that are non-traditional and inventive. That being said, here are some questions to ask yourself about your play:

  • Theatrical World– Does your play create its own complete world? Does it stay inside the rules of that world throughout the whole play? If it doesn’t, how does that add to the effect of the play?
  • Characters – Are your characters interesting people you want to know and watch? Do your main characters (especially your central character) grow and/or change? What do we understand from that growth or change? Why is it important for us to understand? Are the characters behaving consistently within the theatrical world you created?
  • Plot/Story/Action –  How does your story tell itself? Does the action unfold in a way different from traditional story-telling structures? Does it innovate on a traditional structure? Regardless of its structure, are the tensions– the opposing forces– in the play driven by your characters’ wants or needs? Do they make you want to keep watching? Do you understand more as you watch?
  • Dialogue –  Do the characters sound the way people should in the theatrical world you have created? When you hear them speak, can you get a sense of who they might be from just their dialogue? Can you distinguish one character from another by how they speak? When you say the lines out loud, does it feel like natural speaking? Can your characters say the same– or more– with less words? Can actions replace words in some instances?
  • Subject/Theme –  What do you want the audience to understand at the end of the play? What do you want them to do after they have seen the play? Is the subject matter new? Is it trying to say something familiar in a new way? Do the characters and the story support your intentions throughout? How does the Theatrical World you have created add meaning to your intentions.

You may also find writing tips, prompts, inspirations, and advice on the New Jersey Young Playwrights blog and the NJYPF Facebook page .

“Definitions… are valuable and essential, but they must never be made into absolutes; if they are, they become obstacles to the development of new forms, experiment and invention.” –Martin Esslin, An Anatomy of Drama

  • Scripts must be no longer than 20 minutes in performance time (approximately 20 typed pages).
  • Scripts must be typed in Times Roman font, size 12, color black, one-inch margins, with page numbers.
  • The Writer(s) name(s) should appear on the first page of the script under the title ONLY. Name(s) should NOT appear anywhere else in the script (no names in headers or footers).
  • Plays must be submitted in one of these formats: .pdf,  .doc, .docx, or .rtf.  We prefer PDF documents, as these preserve the intended formatting and pagination.
  • Scripts must be in the style of the professional format (see Professional Format tab).
An example for correct formatting of a play submitted to NJYPC follows.
As you read the example, note the following:

  • The title and author (see example) on the first page only. They should appear nowhere else in the script.
  • A character listing (see example). Note that character names are all capitals.
  • A Time and Place listing (see example)
  • Font should be set at Times New Roman 12pt.
  • Page margins should be set at 1″.
  • Dialogue begins at the left margin.
  • Character names should be centered and written in all capital letters.
  • All stage directions indented by two lengths and placed in parenthesis.
  • Pagination should be in the upper right hand corner and should begin on page 2; the first page does not have a page number.

THE DAY JENNIFER LOU ELLEN MISSISSIPPI KERBUNKLE CHANGED HER LIFE
by Bernadette Bizer

CHARACTERS
JEN, 10-year-old, in fourth grade
LORRAINE, Jen’s best friend. Wears big round glasses with purple frames and thick lenses.
MRS. KERBUNKLE, Jen’s mother. Pushy, like a drill sergeant.

TIME
Present, early fall

PLACE
Inside a Mini-Van

(MRS. KERBUNKLE sits in driver’s seat listening to a tape with earphones on. JEN, wearing a pink bow in her hair that looks out of place on her and carrying a backpack, gets into the car and sits in the back seat.)

                                                              JEN

(panting)

Sorry I’m late, Mom.

(looks at her stop watch)

MRS. KERBUNKLE

Jennifer Lou Ellen Mississippi Kerbunkle! You should have been here five and 1/2 seconds ago.

JEN

Sorry Mom.

MRS. KERBUNKLE

Sorry, my foot. But time is a-wasting! Let’s get started with our checklist, shall we?

JEN

(JEN unzips backpack and looks into it)

Sure Mom.

MRS. KERBUNKLE

(pulls clipboard and pencil from under the seat)

OK! Pencil case, box of sharpened multi-colored pencils?

JEN

Check, check!

(This excerpt © 2003 Bernadette Bizer, used with permission)

If your play was written by more than one author, the group must designate a lead author to submit the play. That person will fill out the submission form and act as the contact person. There is a field on the submission form to enter the names of the additional authors.

The Festival is typically performed for an audience comprised of students, teachers, and parents. While we encourage writers to explore their creativity, we are all aware that not all plays are for all audiences. WTNJ reserves the right not to present a play selected by the panel, if, in WTNJ’s sole judgment, the play would be inappropriate to the audience attending the reading. We also reserve the right to refer a play to a school administrator, parent or other responsible adult in the event that WTNJ feels a particular play is in need of such attention.
If you need more information on the NJ Young Playwrights Contest and Festival Guidelines, please contact Director of Education Jim DeVivo at 973.514.1787 x14 or at JDevivo@wtnj.org