The Blackfriars Playhouse at the American Shakespeare Center.

American Shakespeare Center Launches Playwriting Competition

The international competition will create a new canon of work inspired by Shakespeare’s 38 titles.

STAUNTON, VA.: The American Shakespeare Center (ASC) has announced the launch of an international playwriting competition called “Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries,” which will create a modern canon of 38 companion pieces to the works of Shakespeare.

Over the next 20 years, the ASC will select one companion play for each of Shakespeare’s thirty-eight  titles and produce two new plays in repertory with the company’s Shakespeare partner each year. The final year of the 20-year cycle will be a retrospective of the best work from the cycle. The ASC will offer two annual prizes of $25,000 to the winning playwrights, in addition to funds to support their travel and housing in Staunton for the development and rehearsal periods.

“There aren’t many plays out there that vibe off Shakespeare,” said artistic director Jim Warren. “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 theatres, but also to all types of theatres and audiences around the world.”

For the inaugural year of the competition, playwrights can submit works inspired by The Merry Wives of Windsor or Henry IV, Part 1 as part of the 2019 Actors’ Renaissance Season. The 2019 Spring Season will include works inspired by The Comedy of Errors or The Winter’s Tale. The plays should be written for 11 or 12 actors, and take Shakespeare’s staging conditions into consideration. Submissions will be accepted through agents or directly from playwrights and kept anonymous to reviewers. The deadline is Feb. 15, 2018.

“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,” said Warren in a statement. “We envision that the annual prizes—in addition to the opportunity to see the plays come to life at our one-of-a-kind theatre—will encourage a diverse group of playwrights to partake in what ultimately will produce contemporary views on Shakespeare’s brilliance.”

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