Amy E. Witting, Mary Elizabeth Hamilton Awarded $25,000; ASC Will Produce Companion Plays to Shakespeare Classics to Premiere in 2019

The American Shakespeare Center (ASC) today announces that Amy E. Witting’s Anne Page Hates Fun and Mary Elizabeth Hamilton’s 16 Winters or the Bear’s Tale are the first two winners of “Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries,” an international playwriting competition designed to create a modern canon of companion pieces for each of Shakespeare’s 38 plays.

Witting’s Anne Page Hates Fun, paired with The Merry Wives of Windsor, will premiere in the 2019 Actors’ Renaissance Season. Hamilton’s 16 Winters or the Bear’s Tale, partner to The Winter’s Tale, will premiere in the 2019 Spring Season.

The American Shakespeare Center, home of the Blackfriars Playhouse, a recreation of Shakespeare’s indoor playhouse, launched the competition in 2017 to inspire the world’s playwrights to compose original works in conversation with Shakespeare’s classics and in keeping with his staging conditions. The contest attracted nearly 200 submissions that drew inspiration from a choice of four plays: The Merry Wives of Windsor; Henry IV, Part 1; The Comedy of Errors; or The Winter’s Tale.

Through an anonymous, multi-tiered, blind-reading process, 16 finalists emerged before the plays by Witting and Hamilton were chosen as the winners. Each playwright receives a cash prize of $25,000 and travel and housing to be in residence in Staunton, Va., during the workshop and rehearsal periods. Each also will see the world premiere production of her play performed in repertory with its Shakespeare partner at the ASC’s Blackfriars Playhouse.

“I could not be more thrilled to launch Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries with Anne Page Hates Fun and 16 Winters or the Bear’s Tale,” said Anne G. Morgan, literary manager of the American Shakespeare Center. “These two stunning plays represent the strength of contemporary writing while also demonstrating the capacity of Shakespeare’s work for inspiration and provocation.”

Witting said, “I love Shakespeare, but I’m not a scholar. So, when Anne Morgan pitched me the project last December while we crossed paths at the National New Play Network’s Showcase in Orlando, it sounded intriguing. The component of the monetary prize could be career changing for this playwright who took a chance leaving her secure day job three years ago. I love that this project makes it OK to have a complicated relationship with William, because it asks for new plays that are ‘in conversation,’ and that can be interpreted in many different ways.

“It’s amazing what a play written many centuries ago unlocked for me as a contemporary writer. I found this submission call to be a profoundly liberating experience as a writer – one that helped me to connect the past with the present, and my own work with the canon.”

Hamilton said, “The first time I encountered The Winter’s Tale, the gap in time in the middle of the play completely fascinated me. Yes, sure, the play has lots to say about jealousy, loyalty, obsession…But, 16 years! That’s such a long time! That’s like, an entire youth and adolescence. And the queen was just waiting? But what was she doing?

“I became pretty sure that she was doing something – and what if that something was, you know, discovering herself and her power in the world? What if she grew, and changed, and had desires, and…behaved badly sometimes? I hope this play will depict some ungood women (and men, too, sure) who seek something outside the bounds of expectation and obedience.”

Witting, who resides in Sunnyside, N.Y., earned her bachelor’s from Ithaca College and her MFA in playwriting from Hunter College. Her credits include The House on the Hill, The Midnight Ride of Sean & Lucy and Day 392, among others. The recipient of a Jerome Foundation Emerging Artist Fellowship, NEA Grant and The Anne Freedman Grant, Witting is working under commission from The Queens Council on the Arts. Witting, a teaching artist in the New York Public School System when not writing, also is a member of The Dramatists Guild, affiliated artist with National New Play Network, member of Mission to Ditmars Propulsion Lab and founder of aWe Creative Group.

Hamilton, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., earned her MFA in playwriting from the University of Iowa. Her credits include We Three, The Plan, One of the Women and The Quiet Ones. A Lila Acheson Wallace Fellow at The Juilliard School and a Jerome New York Fellow at The Lark, Hamilton is working on a commission from Studio Theatre in Washington, D.C., an NYSCAS commission through Page 73 and is a member of Ars Nova Playgroup. She was the 2005-09 recipient of the Iowa Arts Fellowship and has participated in The O’Neill Theater Conference, Youngblood, I-73, New Georges’ The Jam and Play Penn.

Applications for the second round of “Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries” will be accepted from June 1-Aug. 1, 2018. The Shakespeare titles in consideration will be Othello; Henry IV, Part 2; A Midsummer Night’s Dream; and Cymbeline.

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Anne Page Hates Fun

Anne Page didn’t always hate fun. Now, her New Hampshire hometown wonders why she stopped smiling. Single, content and almost 40, she teaches English at her old high school, hoping to inspire at least one student a year. With her childhood friend Courtney Ash insisting on celebrating life in the face of terminal cancer and her Egyptian immigrant student Alaa Farag starting a marriage protest in the town square, Anne Page and her neighbors in Windsor, New Hampshire are forced to face marriage, love, life and loss. Inspired by Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, Anne Page Hates Fun explores issues of equality, power, and consent challenging one small New Hampshire community and ideals of love that apply to us all.

16 Winters or the Bear’s Tale

16 Winters or The Bear’s Tale takes place during the 16-year gap between the first and second halves Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. After being condemned by her husband for adultery, Her escapes to a small cottage in Bohemia where her attendant, Pauly, cares for her. With nothing to do and little company, the two women do their best to survive the tedium, while the king laments his actions and starts an aging rock band. Meanwhile, their abandoned child, P., takes up with some bohemian artists and rebels against the patriarchy…while also falling in love with one of its better-looking representatives. Full of love, jealousy, mistaken identity, and male privilege gone wrong, 16 Winters explores the effects of reimagining social constructs, and asks whether it is truly possible to create something new in the wake of repression.

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