“Third time’s the charm,” they say. But honestly, I’ve found the first and second application cycles for Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries pretty charming already. We are well underway in development and preparation for our SNC Year One productions of Anne Page Hates Fun by Amy E. Witting and 16 Winters, or The Bear’s Tale by Mary Elizabeth Hamilton and the selection process for our Year Two titles is in the semifinalist phase of consideration. With all of this exciting activity, it’s hard to imagine how much more charming Year Three might be.

The Year Three application cycle will be from June 3 – July 13, 2019, and will accept new plays that are inspired by or in conversation with All’s Well That Ends Well, Henry V, The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing, Titus Andronicus, or Twelfth Night. From those applications, two plays will be selected in 2020 and produced in 2021. (The Shakespeare titles that are not “paired up” during this application cycle will rotate through again in future years).

As Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries grows, we continue to learn and refine the process. One change that we are making with Year Three is considering six Shakespeare titles, rather than four. This provides greater programmatic latitude to the ASC while giving more options to writers wanting to engage with the project. And the six Year Three titles have much to offer.

All’s Well That Ends Well has the virtuous Helena, Much Ado About Nothing has sparkling language in the merry war of wits between Beatrice and Benedick, and Twelfth Night has its twins and disguises—but all three comedies present differing perspectives from which to explore questions of gender, love, and sex. The Merchant of Venice continues to provoke heated debate about racism and bigotry more than 400 years after its writing. In its exploration of brutality and retribution, the revenge tragedy Titus Andronicus averages approximately one atrocity for every 97 lines. And the lone history play in the group – Henry V – is perhaps one of Shakespeare’s best-known histories; in its depiction of the young King’s leadership in France the play showcases valorous deeds, characters from all walks of life, and the much beloved St. Crispin’s speech.

While I look forward to seeing how writers chose to engage with these complex dramatic offerings, I am also profoundly interested to see how they might create within Shakespeare’s Staging Conditions. What does it mean to tell a story in a space where you can’t turn off the lights? What kind of world can you build when you have 10-12 performers? I encourage readers to learn more about our space, to come see what we do – either in Staunton or on tour, and to embrace the possibilities that the SNC requirements offer.

As Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries prepares for the application cycle for Year 3, I look forward to being charmed… and provoked and engaged and amused and moved and more… by the plays this project inspires.

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