Samuel French has been in the play publishing business since 1830. Like many publishing houses, Samuel French Ltd. has a long, rich history. Today, they are renowned for their enormous catalogue of highly successful plays, both modern and classic.
Samuel French has several target markets. Most of their income is generated from high school and junior high school performances. However, they also cater to community, regional, and off-Broadway theater. Basically, if you’ve ever been involved in a school play, there is an excellent chance the script was purchased from Samuel French.
Resources for Performers:
Though much of the company’s income comes from royalties, Samuel French also sells acting manuals, stage-tech guides, and monologue/scene anthologies. Singers and musicians can order selections from such musicals as Grease, Chicago and Fiddler on the Roof. Also, they vend a tremendous assortment of dialects on tape and/or CD. If you have been longing to speak like an 18th century Scotsman, your search is over.
Interested in publishing your play with Samuel French? Check out their submission guidelines.
On the one hand, they are a terrific company for playwrights. They have a highly respected reputation, a wide-scale distribution, and in most circles they are considered the top-notch publishing house for stage plays. However, the editors are looking for plays that have been successfully produced at an established theater. This makes it difficult for brand new writers. Make certain you send along published reviews of your script, the more prominent the newspaper, the better your chances.
Royalties and Script Fees:
To use a Samuel French show, the average royalty runs around $75 a performance. The more popular shows might cost as much as $150 per show. Individual scripts run about $8.
However, drama teachers and artistic directors should be aware that some of their plays come with restrictions. For example, the popular comedy Noises Off comes with lots of strings attached. If your theater is not the right size and does not possess certain qualifications, Samuel French may not grant your request.
Large Selection of Plays and Musicals:
No doubt about it, Samuel French offers some of America's best loved dramas. Here's just a brief sample:
- The Miracle Worker
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
- Same Time, Next Year
- Talk Radio
- The Odd Couple
And the list could go on. Classic authors such as George Bernard Shaw, Eugene O'Neill, and Arthur Miller have also found a home with Samuel French. Yet, the company is still cutting edge. Every month, new plays flock to their catalog and website. They also showcase winners from various writing competitions.
If there is one drawback to Samuel French, it might be their website. (Originally when I wrote this article in 2008, they had a rather primitive website compared to their competitors. However, since 2011 Samuel French has added links to Facebook and Twitter feeds. They also have started to sell ebook version of their plays in the itunes Store. Big steps for this formerly old-fashioned company!) Their search engine functions adequately; however, it is not easy to find their most popular plays. I found it helpful to type in "Tony Award" into the search engine to find some of their more well-known selections.
Also, they do not offer playwright profiles or script samples. Although many other play publishers have one-upped them in terms of website usability, Samuel French makes up for it by presenting an unparalleled catalog.