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American Shakespeare Center

Playwright Contest Seeks Canon Companions

American Shakespeare Center logoThe American Shakespeare Center (ASC) in Staunton, Virginia, is launching an international playwriting competition that will create a modern canon of 38 companion pieces to William Shakespeare's works.

With two annual prizes of $25,000 to the winning playwrights, “Shakespeare's New Contemporaries” seeks to inspire the world's most talented playwrights to compose original works that will serve as partner plays to Shakespeare's classics. Over the next 20 years, the ASC will select one companion play for each of Shakespeare's 38 titles and produce two new plays in repertory with their partner Shakespeare piece each year. The final year of the 20-year cycle will be a retrospective of the best work from the cycle.

In addition to the $25,000 prize, winning playwrights will receive funds to support their travel to Staunton for the planning and rehearsal periods and housing while in town.

“There aren't many plays out there that vibe off Shakespeare,” Jim Warren, ASC artistic director, said in a press release. “We're not looking for a retelling of Shakespeare plays. We're looking for partner plays that are inspired by Shakespeare; plays that might be sequels or prequels to Shakespeare's stories; plays that might tell the stories of minor characters in Shakespeare's stories; plays that might dramatize Shakespeare's company creating the first production of a title; plays that might include modern characters interacting with Shakespeare's characters; plays that will be even more remarkable when staged in rotating repertory with their Shakespeare counterpart and actors playing the same characters who might appear in both plays; plays that not only will appeal to other Shakespeare theaters, but also to all types of theaters and audiences around the world.”

For the first year of the competition, playwrights will draw inspiration from a choice of four plays: The Merry Wives of Windsor or Henry IV, Part One, in the 2019 Actors' Renaissance Season and The Comedy of Errors or The Winter's Tale in the 2019 Spring Season. The deadline for submissions, which will be accepted through agents or directly from playwrights and kept anonymous to reviewers, is February 15, 2018.

Submitted plays should be written for 11 or 12 actors (character doubling is encouraged) and written for Shakespeare's staging conditions. The ASC's Blackfriars Playhouse is the world's only re-creation of Shakespeare's indoor theater and features a simple stage void of elaborate sets. The audience shares the same light as the actors, who address the audience directly and include the audience in the world of the play. Cross-gender casting is frequent.

The ASC is hiring a full-time literary manager, who will manage submissions and facilitate a readers' circle of ASC executive leadership, ASC trustees, ASC artists, and two literary interns.

“With a repertory troupe of about a dozen actors, a playwright's full-range of creativity can be on display rather than being restricted to two- or four-character plays,” Warren said. “We envision that the annual prizes—in addition to the opportunity to see the plays come to life at our one-of-a-kind theater—will encourage a diverse group of playwrights to partake in what ultimately will produce contemporary views on Shakespeare's brilliance.”

April 21, 2017

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