“Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries” Will Award $25,000 to Playwrights for Companion Pieces to Shakespeare’s Timeless Works

The American Shakespeare Center (ASC) today is launching an industry-changing international playwrighting competition that will create a modern canon of 38 companion pieces to the timeless work of Shakespeare.

“Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries” seeks to inspire the world’s most talented playwrights to compose original works that 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 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, known as Shakespeare’s American Home, will offer two annual prizes of $25,000 to the winning playwrights as well as 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,” said Jim Warren, Artistic Director of the American Shakespeare Center. “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 first year of the competition, playwrights will draw inspiration from a choice of four plays: The Merry Wives of Windsor or Henry IV, Part 1 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.

Submissions should consider the following criteria:

  • Plays should be written for 11 or 12 actors (character doubling is encouraged)
  • Plays should be written for Shakespeare’s staging conditions
    • The ASC’s Blackfriars Playhouse is the world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s indoor theatre. It 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. The final winners, whose plays will debut in early 2019, will be made by the ASC’s Warren.

“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 theatre – will encourage a diverse group of playwrights to partake in what ultimately will produce contemporary views on Shakespeare’s brilliance.”

The American Shakespeare Center, through its performances, theatres, exhibitions and educational programs, seeks to make Shakespeare, the joys of theatre and language and the communal experience of the Renaissance stage accessible to all.