Top Menu

Free Speech Play Contest

2018 Free Speech Announcement!

Nittany Theatre at the Barn

2018 Free Speech Play Contest

Play Format, Rules, Guidelines

Nittany Theatre at the Barn is pleased to announce the second-annual national playwright competition (with a $2,000 cash prize) in search of a theatrical tribute of freedom of speech in the United States.

Submission Period:

To be considered for the 2018 The Free Speech Play Contest Festival, entries must be submitted by June 1, 2018.

Playwright Eligibility:

There are no playwright eligibility requirements for the contest.

Submission Requirements:

The Free Speech Play Contest Festival considers only plays that meet the following requirements:

  1. Submitted work by a single playwright is preferred, collaborations may be considered;
  2. Submitted work must be either a full-length comedy and/or drama or thematically related one acts which constitute a full-length play when performed together;
  3. No conventional book-driven musicals or children’s plays will be considered. However, plays that contain original music used to underscore action or to provide mood may be considered. Plays that contain a limited number of vocals either a cappella or accompanied by musical instruments may be considered as a “play with music.” Submissions that contain copyrighted music not held or secured by author will not be considered; and
  4. Plays must not be professionally produced and/or published. Prior readings and workshops are acceptable. Any play that has been produced for more than one consecutive performance in which admission was charged will not be considered.

Submission Guidelines:

Email your submission to The Free Speech Play Contest Festival, Dave Saxe, Producing Artistic Director ( Submissions that do not follow the submission guidelines will not be considered.

  1. Only one play submission per playwright(s) is allowed;
  2. Within your submission, four SEPARATE attachments are required:
    • The script itself with: character breakdowns/references/ descriptions of gender and age; synopsis of play, stage notes as necessary; descriptions (plot) of sets; lists of necessary props, costumes; and suggested lighting and/or sound effects. This attachment MUST NOT CONTAIN any reference to author;
    • A biography and resume of the author;
    • A history of the play (any staging, readings, workshops); and
    • A brief essay of no more than 150 words that describes how the submitted play is tied directly/indirectly to the notion of freedom of speech as underscored by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. The play may be a fictional representation of a well-grounded freedom of speech issue/principle set in a contemporary or historical context. The play may also focus on a champion(s) of freedom of speech or individual(s) swept up in a freedom of speech issue/principle set in a contemporary or historical context.

IMPORTANT PREFERRED QUALIFICATIONS: We are keenly interested in perspectives that offers an authentic voice to American citizens not currently represented/included in American theatre. While the weight of Free Speech issues avers to drama (and we expect the bulk of submissions will follow that model), however, we are keenly interested in humorous pieces that tackle and challenge the meat of Free Speech without exposing the audience to the heavy hand of drama.

NOTE: If a play contains original music, the submission must contain a scoring of the music with all music and vocal parts noted PLUS an audio recording of the music in a conventional digital MP3 form. As necessary to the play divisions, the music (vocals) must be placed in separate sound files.

  1. All email attachments must be in Microsoft Word or PDF format under the following guidelines:
  • Scripts should be in a standard format (Dramatists Guild Modern Stage Play)
  • Text should be in 12-point type and in a standard font such as Times Roman
  • Script must include page numbers at the bottom of each page
  • The author’s name MUST NOT appear anywhere in the script

Winning Playwright:

  1. The winning play shall be selected by a panel of readers.
  2. The winning play shall be announced by July 4, 2018.
  3. The playwright will retain all copyright to the submitted material.
  4. The winning play may be considered for a fully-stage production on the main-stage of Nittany Theatre at the Barn in a subsequent season.
  5. For a period of two years following the announcement of the winning play, Nittany Theatre at the Barn retains rights to stage and perform the winning play.

Awards for Winning Playwrights

  1. The winning playwright shall receive a transportation stipend plus lodgings and meals during the festival; and
  2. The winning play shall receive a $2,000 cash prize.


Here is some information on our 2017 Free Speech Contest!

The winner of the 2017 National Free Speech Play Contest, Sponsored by The Charles Koch Foundation and Produced by Pro-Am Productions and Nittany Theatre at the Barn was performed in The Villages, Florida AND at the our Barn!

Dates in The Villages, Florida: Thursday, October 26, 5:00pm at the Bradley Theatre, Eisenhower Recreation Center Friday, October 27, 2:00pm at the Lincoln Theatre, Laurel Manor Recreation Center

Professional actors Dave and Laura Saxe, from Nittany Theatre at the Barn, Pennsylvania (and new Villages residents in Osceola Hills) will be joined by TV’s most acclaimed actor and Broadway veteran, Alex Santoriello (star of Man of La Mancha and Jesus Christ Superstar) and Dan Pona, another TV veteran actor (Vince Lombardi and Spencer Tracy) to read James Armstrong’s “Dark Night of the Soul” … the riveting story of the trial of Joan of Arc (running time, approximately 2 hours)


As TV newcomers, we welcome TV’s support of FREE SPEECH and would LOVE add “co- sponsors” to assist in “putting the word out” AND perhaps even donating some light refreshments to add some fun and excitement to the event?

About Us: Dave and Laura Saxe are Actors Equity performers who operate Nittany Theatre at the Barn, a regional summer stock theatre in Boalsburg/State College, PA… in beautiful “Happy Valley”

A Word About the Context for the National Free Speech Play Contest:

Americans argue about a lot of things. Among the latest exchange of difference is the national dispute over 1860s historical statues, where calls to “take it down!” are answered by “leave them where they are!” Applying America’s sacred free speech principles, Americans are free to speak out and speak up as they please, but the statue dispute introduces a new wrinkle into America’s 226-year-old First Amendment: hate speech is not free speech. If these statues

represent hate speech and hate speech cannot be allowed or tolerated even in the form of “silent” stone statues, what does this mean for the Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee?

If we are to abandon the cornerstone of America’s essential freedoms under the “new principle” that hate speech cannot be tolerated, depending upon how the political/cultural winds blow, determining which speech is free and which is hate, is there any hope for any speech? In moving forward with new perspectives, it seems we have returned to a familiar spot, the contested ground that created the First Amendment in the beginning of the nation with this inescapable ideal: if freedom was to ring, it must ring for all… The Constitution’s First Amendment established our essential freedoms, with free speech as a centerpiece.

For theatre, free speech is the rock upon which every theatre stands. If we are not free to create this art, there is no art. While theatre speech is not quite like free speech in the open space of the public square, for theatre, for us, free speech takes place in a barn, where patrons choose to attend, buy a ticket. Theatre here may be a “captive audience,” but it is an audience who volunteers to participate; no one is forced to listen to the dialogue or hear the songs. But what if theatre, like certain statues, is declared hate speech, that a particular play or musical is targeted for action? What then? If we have leveled our Constitutional guarantees that once upheld free speech that have long protected America’s vibrant theatre, what theatre is safe from being branded a temple of hate speech?

Like free speech and statues, if theatre does not have and hold its free speech principles as sacred for all, there would have been no blockbuster musicals like our modern Hamilton, no challenging plays like the ground breaking The Crucible of the 1950s. Deciding to take a stand for free speech, we invited The Charles Koch Foundation to join us, to help us take a stand in theatre, for theatre; to push against the rushing waters of those who may use the torch of hate- speech to silence free speech. It is challenging, but if we do not stand for your right to speak out and speak up, we’ll all soon discover that no one has the right to speak up or out on anything, anywhere.

The historical record is clear; freedom is the one of the sweetest treasures on earth. If you mean to keep yours, you’ll need to take a stand. This play contest is our small step, taken here, in our little Barn. Where will you take your stand?

www.nittanytheatre.orgNittany Theatre at the Barn