Calling young playwrights!

Spotlight Playfest 2021-’22 Young Playwrights’ Competition

Spotlight Youth Theatre’s annual Playfest competition is for young adult playwrights to create a one-act (short) play for young actors. Every writer who enters will receive custom feedback from dramatists at SYT about the strengths of their play and challenges to work on.

Up to three winners of the competition will receive a $100 prize! The winning plays will be announced Aug. 14, 2021.

Dream it. Think it. Create it …and see the work of new writers produced on the Spotlight stage in the 2021-2022 season!

Be sure to read all directions and requirements, and then click to enter at the bottom of this page.

Requirements for Entry:

  • The deadline is July 31, 2021.
  • The contest is open to playwrights ages 16-22 (in August 2021).
  • The playwright must reside in the metropolitan area of Phoenix, Arizona (and if they win, be available in person in mid-August for award presentation and publicity).
  • A playwright may enter more than one play in the contest, but each play requires a separate entry.
  • The fee is $5 per entry form. This is treated as a non-returnable donation to Spotlight, and helps manage entries. If you want to enter but are prohibited financially, please contact about your circumstances.
  • Playwrights may work as teams, but only one $100 prize is to be awarded per winning play.
  • By entering, participants agree to allow Spotlight Youth Theatre one production of their play (example: a two-weekend run of Playfest) if they win. This includes workshopping/editing the play as needed with the director. Winners also give permission to Spotlight to create video and photography of the production for promotion, livestream, etc. While agreeing to those permissions, all writers retain ownership/copyright of their work to re-stage, publish, or license to others in the future.

Requirements of the Play:

  • The run time of the play must be no less than 15 minutes, and should be no longer than 35 minutes. Time your play before submitting it, by reading aloud, pacing through action scenes in real time, etc.
  • The play must be written for a cast of no fewer than five (5), and no more than nine (9) actors. There may be more characters, if some of the nine actors can play multiple characters. 
  • Physical set changes must be minimized (beyond small furniture moving). Each play should require no more than a single set that will have to be adaptable for other works in the Playfest production. However, it is acceptable to suggest broad changes of scenery that may be shown in a media projection upstage.

Theme and Content:

  • No licensed material! The play can’t be a new Star Wars chapter. It can’t continue the adventures of Harry Potter. It must not explicitly adapt any other famous franchise, book, show, or characters that are protected by copyrights held by others. (That includes most properties created in the last century. Adaptations of older stories and legends are fair game, but they will be judged on the fresh vision and new life added to these stories.)
  • Musicals are optional, but all songs and music must be original. An exception is if an old piece of music in the public domain is part of the story — such as a character practicing Mozart during a music lesson. Recordings of original music and songs are required for musical submissions; these files may be emailed separately to after completing the regular contest entry.
  • Writers are encouraged to address themes that are important to them. All genres are welcome. Judges will look for a wide variety of works, possibly appealing to different age groups.

Submission and Format:

  • First, commit to finishing the play. If you haven’t written it already, start early and prepare to submit your best.
  • Put the play in .doc, .docx or .rtf format that may be opened, edited, and re-formatted. 
  • Omit your name and by-line from the file that you attach. You will be anonymous to the judges in the contest, at least initially, when they read the play. Obviously, your by-line should be included on your original file kept for yourself. This has no effect on copyright (which you own regardless of copies). We just like to ensure impartial judging of the contest.
  • Formatting the play with picky tabs and margins is not important, but the script must be as easy to read as most published plays. For example, each character’s dialogue should at least appear on separate lines, as in “NAME: Dialogue…” format. But, any version of standard professional formatting is also welcome (here is an example published by City Theatre Company of Pittsburgh, PA).
  • Include a page that lists characters and their descriptions.
  • Include a summary that describes the story, the intended audience of the play, and set description.
  • Aside from basic actions and moods that are required to follow the story, it is best to minimize acting directions in the flow of the script. In-depth explanations of characters and other complex details — if needed — may be provided with the summary, character descriptions, and set description added to the beginning of the script.
  • Click the button below to submit a contest entry and script by July 31, 2021.
  • Email if you have any questions.