Thursday, 11 April 2013

Acquiring rights to perform Connections plays

By Katie Town, General Manager, NT Learning

The Connections back catalogue

National Theatre Connections began in 1995 in response to teachers and directors telling us that they wanted exciting and challenging new plays for young actors. Since then we have commissioned more than 130 plays, which form a great resource of new writing for young people to perform. The NT is rightly proud of this back catalogue, so we are always delighted when Connections plays go on to have a life outside of the Connections cycle.

It is not unusual for Connections plays to be performed after being in a Connections cycle. For example, the NT produced professional productions of Mark Ravenhill's Citizenship and Enda Walsh's Chatroom (originally part of Connections 2005) and Chatroom went on to become a film. DNA by Dennis Kelly is now a set text for GCSE English and had a national tour in 2012. Bassett by James Graham (Connections 2011) was been re-staged at Bristol Old Vic for the tenth anniversary of 9/11, and, this summer, The Grandfathers by Rory Mullarkey (Connections 2012) will be performed in the NT Shed. We also know that plays from previous Connections cycles continue to be performed by schools and youth theatres across the country.

I want to perform a Connections play but don’t know how to get the rights...

For Connections plays from previous cycles (2012 or earlier), the NT no longer holds any rights in the plays, these rights have reverted to the writers. The NT therefore can’t help you secure the rights. If you want to perform a play from one of these cycles, you should get in touch with the writer’s agent directly. They’ll be glad to hear from you and the Connections writer will be really pleased to hear that their play is going to be performed again.

A quick internet search will give you contact details of the agent (for instance for Too Fast search “Douglas Maxwell writer agent”). Alternatively, a free online guide to modern playwrights and theatre plays, is a great resource for finding details of agents. Finally in recent editions of the Connections anthologies you can also find details of the writer’s agents. As well as the scripts, the anthologies also include notes about how to get the most from staging the production and details on how to gain the rights for each of the Connections plays. Visit the NT Bookshop to buy previous Connections Anthologies.

Once you know who the agent is, you should contact them with details of the performances you are planning. It is usually best to email agents, rather than calling them directly. The agent will generally want to know whether it is an amateur production, how many performances, between what dates, and at which venue. The agent will then be able to tell you whether the rights are available and tell you the terms of the licence.

When you stage a past Connections play, the NT asks that you use the following credit:

[TITLE OF PLAY] by [WRITER] was first commissioned and produced by National Theatre Connections in [YEAR OF PRODUCTION]

What about plays from the 2013 Connections cycle?

If you are interested in performing a current Connections play (outside of the Connections programme), you are going to have to be a little bit patient. The NT holds the performance rights to the current Connections plays up until two months from the end of the NT Connections Festival (this year from 8 July 2013). The NT keeps these rights as during this time we decide whether or not we will produce a professional production of the play. We’re sorry to say that without exception, until that decision is taken the NT cannot release these rights.

We know that schools and youth theatres are keen to perform Connections plays, so we take this decision as quickly as we can; the option period runs until 8 September 2013, but we will often make the decision sooner.

We then release rights back to the writers and their agents, either immediately or at the end of the professional run. As soon as the rights have been released, you can contact agents to obtain performance rights in the usual way.

Tell us about your production

The NT is always delighted to hear about Connections plays being performed again, so tell us about your production on Facebook ( or Twitter @NTConnections #NTConnections 

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