Focus on Drama

Perhaps ebooks aren’t what you’d think of first as a natural home for a playscript. Think again.

The biggest problem is the formatting. Ebooks by their very nature don’t like specific formatting, they like to flow freely.  Stageplays (and screenplays) don’t work like that.

But take that problem out of the equation and there are a lot of really good reasons why stageplays (and screenplays) should find their way onto ebooks.

They are not ‘published’ in conventional formats very often. Because of the expense. And what with theatre being an ephemeral art, most produced and performed plays cease to exist anywhere but on the playwright’s computer once the production is over. Yet plays are good to read. Shakespeare anyone?  Plays are still on the curriculum for school exams and a lot of people can and do (or would like to) read playscripts in their own right whether or not they see a production of the play.

And, ebooks allow you to add all kinds of contextual ‘extras’ into the published document. For example, in my 2004 production Chasing Waves (Amazon) (Epub) 

I added a lot of information about the production process and indeed some explanations about quantum theory. Bill Kirton in his review of the play said

offers the clearest exposition of quantum theory I’ve ever read (and as I write that, it’s important to know that, as a non-scientist, I’ve read countless books which claim to ‘popularise’ science and which have left me as ignorant as when I began).

Altogether, this was an entertaining but also an instructive read. I not only ‘know’ what physicists ‘mean’ when they talk of such things, for the moment at least, I ‘understand’ them.

And I also added an unproduced play in a similar absurdist style written 10 years before. (Benito Boccanegra’s Big Break) So people get a lot for their money and pay a lot less than they would for a conventionally published playscript. That has to be good?

You can watch some rehearsal excerpts from the play HERE 

I have epublished just one play to date. Well, more than one if you count the ‘Five Fair Play Dramas’

which are ‘flexible’ in style to suit performance in a variety of settings when looking at Fair Trade Issues. The plays were performed in 2007 and 2008 all over the country by a variety of groups and while the figures may now be in need of revision, the basic issues are the same. Even if you don’t want to put the plays on, you can get something (maybe even a laugh) from reading them. And they work well as an introduction to fair trade issues.  I will be revising and extending them in time for Fair Trade Fortnight next spring. I can do that with ebooks relatively freely and easily and include links that make the ebook more interactive – added value.  You can find out more about my ebook plays on my Festival Page

Catherine Czerkawska has published three stageplays as ebooks. She shares my frustrations over the formatting ‘issues’ but we have agreed to take some time out (sometime) to think about how best to resolve this and produce consistent texts which are easy on the eye and don’t send the conversion programmes into hysterics! If you have any ideas or thoughts on this we’ll be happy to hear them.


Quartz, The Secret Commonwealth and Burns on the Solway  are all available as ebooks. Go to Catherine’s Festival Page for more detail and the DRAMA REVIEWS feature in an hours time Extras @ 8 gives more information.

Some of Catherine’s plays have been conventionally published and you can find her work in anthologies but they aren’t that easily come by and they are more expensive. Catherine has selected plays which are monologues, poetic or ‘easily read’ for ebook format at the moment. I know she’d love to have Wormwood out there on ebook and I know that some time soon, she will. I’m convinced it’ll be possible to find a standard format that will work for playscripts and doesn’t involve hours of reformatating extant files. It’s just not today’s priority.  However, since I have a number of ‘Anniversary’ (mainly 10th) plays coming up over the next year, it’s something I’m committed to working out before the end of the year.  ‘Men in White Suits, ‘Down the Line,’  ‘Love is an Urban Myth,’ ‘When Time Stands Still’ and ‘The Other Side of the Mountain’ are all there just waiting to be reformatted and published.

When looking at all the reasons why it’s a good idea to publish stageplays as ebooks, I think about how great would it be if theatre companies looking for playscripts start looking at ebooks – a good cheap way to see if they like the script – and then contact the playwright (or his/her agent) for performance rights. I hope the day comes. Not everyone in the world wants to read plays but the people who do, do and that’s the joy of epublishing. You can find and ‘service’ niche markets.

In the Extras @ Eight feature tonight we have pulled together some reviews (of the ebooks and the productions) of our plays for you to have a look at. And hopefully tempt you into downloading one or more of them.

Cally Phillips