From Prize to Publication by Donya Dickerson

“Write what you want to write,” advises children’s playwright Claudia Haas. Drawing on her background as a teacher, actress and director, Haas quickly learned that incorporating her experience into her writing can be extremely rewarding. Not only have nine of her plays been published, but she also won the Jackie White Memorial Children’s Playwriting Competition for her play, Commedia Delight.

Haas discovered the Jackie White Memorial Children’s Playwriting Competition through careful research. “I work out of the Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market (Writer’s Digest Books) as well as The Playwright’s Companion (Feedback Theatre-Books),” she says. “I also clip contest announcements from magazines like Writer’s Digest.” Intrigued by this particular award, she sent away for guidelines. “I saw that the contest was right for my play, which is a different kind of story.” Haas saved valuable time by finding a contest appropriate for her unique work. Set in 15th-century Italy, Haas’s comedy centers around “a troupe of players that arrives in a town ruled by a heavy-fisted woman, and turns everything upside down.” Using the folktale Stone Soup as the basic story line, Haas added elements borrowed from Shakespeare and the Commedia Del Arte.

Through the guidelines, Haas knew the winning play would be performed by the Columbia Entertainment Company. “I entered the contest because they have a children’s theater program, which is what I write for. They need a large cast, flexible casting in terms of males and females, and different age groups and levels of ability.”

Because this competition was the first she entered, Haas did not expect to win. “I was hoping just to get feedback,” she says. Therefore, she was shocked to receive a call from the contest’s director, Betsy Phillips. Perhaps her surprise was unfounded since she had been successful submitting her work in the past. The first children’s play she sent out, Happily Ever After, was accepted by Eldridge Publishing Co., which she found through Writer’s Market. In four years, Eldridge accepted six more of Haas’s plays. She has also been published by I.E. Clark Publications, and many of her plays have been produced at a local theater, Lakeshore Players in White Bear Lake, Minnesota.

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