NJ Young Playwrights Festival and Contest

Contest OverviewCategoriesLiving with DisabilitiesHow to SubmitReading ProcessIf You Are SelectedRehearsal/PerformanceContest and Festival TimelineReaders' CommentsDisclaimers
Now in its 34th Year, the New Jersey Young Playwrights Contest and Festival is open to New Jersey Playwrights, Grades 4-12.

Submission is through an online form and script upload. Submission criteria and instructions can be found at the menu bar on the right.

You can find here an overview of how the contest works. Writers entering the contest should read this information prior to submitting a play. Click on the tabs below for more information.

For all the latest news and program updates, like our Writers Theatre of New Jersey and New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival Facebook Pages. 

Information on entering the New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival can be found in the sidebar menu bar at the top-right of this page.

Plays are considered in three divisions and one special category:

  • Elementary (Grades 4-6)
  • Junior High (Grades 7-9)
  • High School (Grades 10-12)
  • Living With Disabilities Category*
    • Primary Division, grades 6-7
    • Junior Division, grades 8-9
    • Senior Division, Grades 10-12

*Living with Disabilities is a special category designed to find plays either written by an author with a disability, or a play with themes or characters dealing with disabilities. Click on the Living with Disabilities tab for more information.

Part of the New Jersey Young Playwrights Contest, and inspired by its contract with VSA Washington to teach playwriting to people with disabilities, we are looking for plays written by people with disabilities or about people with disabilities. The writer does not have to be living with a disability to submit to this category. This category is intended to encourage the creation of plays that can be sent to the National VSA Playwright Discovery Program.

The three divisions in this category correspond to the national contest submission guidelines: Primary (grades 6-7), Junior (Grades 8-9) and Senior (grades 9-12).

This is not an exclusive category, students can submit to both the NJ Young Playwrights Contest and the Living With Disabilities Category.


  • The author can be a person with or without a physical or other disability.
  • All scripts must incorporate the subject of disability. A disability is defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of an individual. An impairment is a physiological disorder affecting one or more of a number of body systems, or a mental or psychological disorder. The disability may be visible (e.g., a character who is blind or uses a wheelchair) or invisible (e.g., a character with a learning or developmental disability). Again, plays meeting this criteria do not have to be written by an author with a disability. The Playwright Discovery Program criteria states the following: “Writers may craft scripts from their own experiences and observations, create fictional characters and settings, or choose to write metaphorically or abstractly about the disability experience. “

If your play qualifies for this category, please check the appropriate box in the NJ Young Playwrights Application form.

Playwrights Theatre may select one of the submitted plays for performance at the NJ Young Playwrights Contest. For all plays submitted, we will facilitate entry into the National VSA Playwright Discovery Program.

All submissions to the project must be made through the WTNJ website by the posted deadline. If you are a teacher submitting for a class, the submission form will accept multiple entries, including multiple uploads. Classroom teachers who still may want to submit a group of student plays by paper copy should contact the Education office at Writers Theatre to make arrangements.

Click on the appropriate buttons on the menu bar to the right for submission guidelines and the submission form.

Plays are distributed to readers, all of whom are professional theatre artists. First-round readers select scripts to advance to the next round. Depending on the number of scripts to be read, the process continues at least through a second round until roughly 10 to 15 scripts remain in each division. These scripts are sent to a panel of theatre professionals and/or Writers Theatre administrators. The Panel reads each script, meets to discuss each play, and nominate Finalists in each division. First and second-round readers provide written feedback to each playwright.

The playwrights whose scripts reach the Final Round of judging will be given two (2) weeks to revise their plays based, in part, on the feedback provided by the Contest readers. These revised scripts will then be judged by the Selection Panel who will make the ultimate decision about the plays that will be developed during the Festival. This revision request is an important part of the determination process, as it lets us know whether the writer will benefit from the development and rehearsal process.

Finalists will be contacted by email (and confirmed by phone, if necessary). Results will be announced by the end of April 2017.

Selected playwrights will be invited to participate in further revision and development of the scripts in the weeks leading up to the Festival weekend. High School playwrights will be paired up with a dramaturg, who will set further development goals and connect with the writer via phone or on-line.
High school writers should plan to attend all meetings and rehearsals. Once in rehearsal, writers are seen as professionals, and will be treated as the most important collaborator in the room. Writers may consider revisions, as the final reading is script-in-hand, so actors are not burdened with memorization.

Writers are expected to attend the final performance, where each will be honored with a Certificate of Achievement. WTNJ also holds a post-reading discussion with the writers and directors.

Selected playwrights from the High School division also receive a New Jersey Governor’s Award in Arts Education at an event in Trenton, cosponsored by the NJ Arts Education Partnership and the New Jersey Department of Education.

A statewide press release will publicize these student awards.

Submissions for the 2017-2018 New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival are open! To find out about submission guidelines or to enter via our online form, please go to the “Submission Guidelines” or “Submission Form” links in the menu at the top right-hand side of this page. Below is a timeline explaining the timing of various parts of the Festival.

  • January 15, 2017 — Script submission deadline (all grades)
  • March 2017 — Finalists contacted
  • April 2017 — Festival selections announced
  • Late May/Early June — NJ Young Playwrights Festival Performances
  • Summer 2017 — Readers comments distributed

All plays are read twice by professional theatre artists, who provide written responses and recommendations. These are collected and sent to every writer by e-mail. If your play was submitted in a group of plays by your teacher or teaching artist, the comments will be sent to that teacher for distribution.

Writers Theatre reserves the right to not award a winning play and/or reduce the number of winning plays in any category. Festival programming is subject to available funds, and Writers Theatre reserves the right to cancel the Festival should those funds not be available. The Governors Awards are issued by an independent agency, and Writers Theatre cannot guarantee whether that agency will issue awards in any given year.