Original scripts

What constitutes an original script?

Original script is defined in the FEATS rules. Interpreting the definition at any given FEATS festival is the responsibility of the organising committee of that festival, under the guidance, if required, of the adjudicator. Nothing written here is intended to undermine the authority of the adjudicator, and the suggestions offered below should not be considered to be binding on adjudicators, FEATS organising committees or the FEATS steering committee.

Nevertheless, some help in clarifying the rule may be obtained by considering the aim behind the “Original script” award – that is, examining the spirit of the law rather than its letter.

The award is intended to encourage creativity in the FEATS community. An “original script” must therefore be written by a member of the group. It is recognised that “membership” may not be clearly defined for all groups; but in practically every case it should be easy to tell if an author has a bona fide relationship with the group concerned or if he/she is a jobbing playwright from the other side of the world.

The aim is also to encourage groups to bring new material to FEATS. For this reason the play, if not performed for the first time at FEATS, must at least be in its first incarnation. So it may have been performed previously (within the last two years), but it should be recognisably the same production – same director and essentially the same cast. A certain amount of flexibility is allowed for here, necessitated by the constraints of amateur theatre but, again, common sense should be the main guide.

A more difficult question is how “original” must an original script be if it is derived from a previous work, dramatic or otherwise. Assuming that issues of copyright do not arise (remember, literary works are protected for 70 years after the author’s death within the European Union), what degree of originality must an author bring to, for example, an established story such as that of Robin Hood? Or how far may he/she re-use existing dialogue in transferring to the stage a Dickens classic for the script to be considered “original”?

The questions are so manifold that it is impossible to draw up rules sufficiently detailed to cover all eventualities. Those who have to adjudge the issue of originality must bring their own personal appreciation to bear and be allowed considerable leeway in their interpretation. However, they should not have to do this in ignorance of the origins of a piece. Scripts adapted from an earlier source (dramatic or otherwise) will be accepted in competition subject to the identification of their origins, which will enable a decision to be made on whether they qualify as “original”. This information will be required in the questionnaire addressed to groups.

David Crowe
FEATS Webmaster
April 2010