STAUNTON, VA.: American Shakespeare Center has announced the winner of the third cycle of the Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries (SNC) project. L M Feldman is this year’s winner with her play Thrive, or What You Will. Feldman will receive a $25,000 award and see her play produced as part of ASC’s 2020-21 national tour alongside Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.
“I was immediately captivated by this engaging, moving, and timely play,” said artistic director Ethan McSweeny in a statement. ” This dramatization of the life of Jeanne Baret sheds light on the implications of, and possibilities in, disguising oneself as a man to travel to foreign lands. L has created a rich theatrical experience deeply resonant with the themes of Twelfth Night, and we are thrilled to add it to our growing number of Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries productions.”
The SNC project was created to discover, develop, and produce new works inspired by or in conversation with the plays in Shakespeare’s canon. For this third cycle, playwrights had six titles to choose from. (Planning for the fourth cycle is already underway, with Shakespeare’s As You Like It, Romeo and Juliet, Troilus and Cressida, and any or all parts of Henry VI as options for playwrights.) From there, Feldman’s play was selected through an anonymous, multi-tiered evaluation process.
“Both [Thrive and Twelfth Night] draw on a similar performative style, a buoyancy, a comedy, and tropes around love and gender and seafaring and ‘cross-dressing,’” said Feldman in a statement. “But where Twelfth Night stops, Thrive hopefully continues, subverts, and interrogates in terms of gender, feminism, misogyny, transmisogyny, queerness, sexuality, identity, misgendering, miscategorizing, and what the very real historical costs of these are. So though it’s not an adaptation of Twelfth Night, it’s dancing with it. It’s vaulting from it.”
In addition to Feldman’s play, ASC also noted five plays that made the final shortlist: Shakespeare or the Devil by Matt Bird and James Armstrong, 7 Minutes by John J King, Much Undone by David Valdes, The Humorous Adventures of Sir Andrew Auguecheek by Travis Lowe, and Peace: Burial at Sea by Daniel Hasse.
The winners of the second round of SNC will be developed this year with Keene by Anchuli Felicia being part of Red Bull Theater’s Revelation Readings in May and The Defamation of Cicely Lee by Emma Whipday workshopped with Julliard students this month. Both will then be produced at Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton. Cicely Lee will open in May and Keene will open in October.
“These New York opportunities, along with Thrive’s inclusion in ASC’s National Tour, represent the growing national reach of the Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries project,” said literary manager Anne G. Morgan in a statement. “From the exciting ways that our existing projects will reach audiences beyond Staunton to the far-flung applicants each cycle, we continue to prove that the desire to engage in new conversations with Shakespeare’s plays is shared by writers, theatres, and audiences. Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries is on a journey—both dramatically and geographically—and I look forward to discovering who else will join us on it.”