A project this big means a lot of little details.
Explore below for answers to frequently asked questions.
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Located in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, Virginia’s premiere classical theatre is at once intimate in scale and epic in imagination—creating vital, sophisticated, and accessible seasons built around a company of versatile actors performing in repertory all year round. We are a center for shared discovery by audiences, scholars, and artists of Shakespeare, his contemporaries, and classics old and new.
Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries discovers, develops, and produces new works that are inspired by and in conversation with Shakespeare’s plays. It’s an opportunity for playwrights of every background, perspective, and style to newly illuminate Shakespeare’s plays in the world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s indoor theatre: the Blackfriars Playhouse.
Selected playwrights are awarded a $25,000 prize and the opportunity to visit Staunton, VA to work with ASC company members and actively refine their scripts in anticipation of the play’s world premiere production at the Blackfriars Playhouse.
Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries was launched in April 2017.
The first application cycle considered plays that responded to The Merry Wives of Windsor*; The Winter’s Tale*; Henry IV, Part One; and The Comedy of Errors. Amy E. Witting’s Anne Page Hates Fun and Mary Elizabeth Hamilton’s 16 Winters, or The Bear’s Tale were selected as winners and produced in 2019.
The second application cycle sought plays engaging with Othello*; Cymbeline*; Henry IV, Part Two; and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Anchuli Felicia King’s Keene and Emma Whipday’s The Defamation of Cicely were selected as winners and will be produced in upcoming seasons.
The third application cycle called for work in conversation with Twelfth Night*, All’s Well That Ends Well, Henry V, The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing, and Titus Andronicus. L M Feldman’s Thrive, or What You Will was selected as the winner and will be produced in an upcoming season.
The fourth application cycle accepted plays from October 1 – November 18, 2020, and sought companions to As You Like It, Henry VI, Romeo and Juliet, and Troilus and Cressida. A winner will be announced in 2021.
* Asterisks indicate Shakespeare titles whose partner plays have been selected; we will not invite applications that engage with those titles in the future.
The project seeks original, unproduced, full-length work that engages with Shakespeare’s plays in new ways and embraces the unique theatrical challenges and opportunities of Shakespeare’s staging conditions. Those conditions include a 10-12-person repertory company, universal shared lighting, minimal sets, and unplugged sound effects created live by the cast. For more about Shakespeare’s staging conditions, see below or visit this page.
We will announce the next selection of Shakespeare plays under consideration approximately 9 months in advance of the deadline for each cycle. You can check out announcements and sign up for email updates on the SNC homepage.
We are looking for remarkable playwrights from all walks of life. Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries is an opportunity for writers of every background, perspective, and style to engage with Shakespeare and his staging practices.
Our anonymous reading process ensures that the plays are evaluated solely on the merits of the script itself, not on any information about the playwright.
During the specified application window, playwrights may apply online with plays engaging with select Shakespeare titles. (The Shakespeare plays under consideration and the application window dates will be announced approximately 9 months in advance of the deadline for each cycle.) The application will also ask you to answer a few additional questions about yourself and your play. Please use the online portal when it becomes available; we are unable to accept scripts by other methods.
If you are truly unable to use an online application form, please email email@example.com.
While you are welcome to format the elements of your play (dialogue, stage directions, etc) in whatever way you feel best suits your story and your way of telling it, the Submit a Play portion of the website details how to prepare your script for SNC.
Unfortunately not, we’re very glad that you’re excited about the possibilities of partnering with Shakespeare’s work, but we are only able to consider companions for a selection of Shakespeare’s plays during each application cycle.
We ask that you remain patient until the play you wish to partner with comes around and check back here or sign-up for updates to hear about the next round of plays (we announce the plays under consideration for each cycle approximately 9 months in advance of the deadline). If you’re curious to know when we last did the Shakespeare play you’re interested in (and want to make a guess as to when it might come around again), check out our production history.
We’re glad you asked. They’re our heart and soul. We think that making theater the way Shakespeare did — with a large repertory cast, character doubling, universal lighting, and minimal sets — creates accessible, engaging, and interactive theatrical entertainment for our audiences, even if the play isn’t by William Shakespeare. Learn all the ins and outs of our unique style, and why we use Shakespeare’s Staging Conditions here.
The best way to understand how we produce theater is to see our work, and we’re happy to provide tickets to playwrights who want to check us out. As part of the Playwrights Welcome program, we are able to offer Dramatists Guild of America members two complimentary tickets to our productions. Contact the box office at 1.877.MUCH.ADO for more information.
While there must be roles for at least 10-12 actors in an SNC play, the roles can break down in a number of different ways; the play doesn’t have to have exactly 10-12 parts. There may be 18 named characters that can be reduced to a 12-person cast with doubling (as in the SNC Cycle 1 winner Anne Page Hates Fun). Or there might be a few principal characters surrounded by an unnamed chorus (as in Keene, a Cycle 2 winner). There are many possibilities; feel free to find an arrangement for 10-12 actors that works best for your play.
To find out more about how we cast plays, see below.
We are looking for new plays that engage with Shakespeare’s text while showcasing your unique perspective on the play in question.
Each Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries play will be performed in rotating repertory with the Shakespeare play that inspired it. We are curious to see how the two plays might engage with each other and encourage you to think about how audience members might experience the plays as a pair.
There are many different ways in which writers might respond to Shakespeare’s plays, and our hope is that the Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries canon will highlight this variety. So there is no requirement regarding the linguistic form of the plays: they can be in verse, in prose, in whatever style that best suits you and the story that you’re trying to tell. And while some of the submitted and selected plays may choose to include Shakespeare’s characters – or Shakespeare himself as a character – this is not a requirement. Plays may be set in Elizabethan England, today’s world, or any other time and place. How you chose to engage with Shakespeare’s text is up to you.
It can be “what if?” What if Cordelia tells her father what he wants to hear? What if Duke Senior had his own play? What if Hamlet and his twin sister Judith are shipwrecked off the coast of Bohemia on their way to their father’s funeral and Hamlet is eaten by a bear (and his ghost hangs around for the rest of the play)? Alternatively, you might wish to explore a theme of a play, interrogate a character, or engage with a single moment or line: “What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba, / That he should weep for her?” The opportunities for inspiration in Shakespeare are vast.
What we aren’t looking for are translations of Shakespeare’s plays or scene-by-scene retellings of the plots. Instead, we want to see what questions Shakespeare’s plays provoke in you and how you are inspired to respond.
If you’d like to read more about writing that is “inspired by” or “in conversation with” Shakespeare, we recommend “Write Your Way In: Shakespeare, Hamilton, and the Potential of Remixing and Reimagining” and “So When You Say Companion Piece…” on our blog.
The contest is only available to unproduced work. But if your work has had a script-in-hand reading or was produced by a high school or college, it is still eligible for consideration.
Plays should remain unproduced through any American Shakespeare Center involvement. However, if you have questions about this, please contact us.
You may submit a collaboration, but the $25,000 prize would be split between the collaborators. And we are happy to accept musicals. Keep in mind, though, that all music must be live and unplugged on acoustic instruments played by the actors in the troupe. Further, neither the voices nor the instruments will be amplified. If you intend to send a musical and would like to share audio files with your application, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Yes! You may submit multiple plays to one cycle of SNC.
Further, if your play engages with more than one of Shakespeare’s titles, you are welcome to submit it to any cycle that is considering those titles.
Unfortunately, at this time, ASC is unable to consider new plays submitted outside of the SNC application process.
All scripts that meet our criteria will be read at least once in their entirety. Based on the recommendations of our reading committee, approximately 25% of scripts will move forward to a semifinalist round. 10-20 projects will advance to a finalist round, from which 1 or 2 plays will be selected as winners.
Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries has a terrific team of volunteer readers: they are artists and administrators, scholars and students, performers and patrons. What they all have in common is a familiarity with Shakespeare and his staging conditions and a passion for new plays. Semifinalist plays are read by our Semifinalist Reading Panel, a select group of Shakespeare practitioners and scholars. Final decisions are made by Ethan McSweeny (Artistic Director), Ralph Alan Cohen (Co-Founder and Director of Mission), Amy Wratchford (Managing Director), Jay McClure (Associate Artistic Producer and Casting Director), and Anne G. Morgan (Literary Manager).
In order to support a fair process, all readers will evaluate plays based on the script itself and with no knowledge of the writer’s identity. The entire process is closely managed by the literary department, and you can find a complete list of the readers for Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries Cycle 3 here.
All writers will be notified of their application status as the selection process moves forward. You’ll receive confirmation of your play’s receipt shortly after you apply. You’ll be further notified as to whether or not your play is selected for the semifinalist round.
The selection(s) from the Cycle 4 selection process will be announced in mid-to-late 2021 and produced in an upcoming season.
A further note: we are unable to provide any feedback on scripts not selected for Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries. We believe that, since we would not be producing the work, it would be poor artistic practice to do so.
We expect that the vast majority of plays produced through Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries will come through this open application and anonymous selection process. However, there may be a handful of plays over the course of the project that are selected by invitation or collaboration, as these can broaden and deepen the conversations between Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries, the American Shakespeare Center, and the wider theatre community.
If you have any questions regarding the status of your application at any point in the process, please don’t hesitate to email us.
If your play is selected, ASC will, circumstances permitting, provide a week-long workshop process culminating in a staged reading that will take place a few months prior to the start of production rehearsals. The play will then have three weeks of rehearsal in advance of the production.
You will receive, in addition to the $25,000 prize, travel to and housing in Staunton, Virginia for the workshop and rehearsals. You are encouraged to revise your play as you wish throughout the process, and ASC will offer feedback on any new material.
Each Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries play will be part of a rotating repertory with a few other titles. The repertory company of actors, which ranges from 10-12 performers and is deliberately diverse in ethnicity, race, and gender, is determined by ASC. (For reference, our current acting companies can be found here.)
All playwrights will retain the rights to their work. The American Shakespeare Center will request acknowledgment credit for future performances and publications.
For selected plays, we will request a blackout period from the time the performance agreement is issued through 60 days after the production at the American Shakespeare Center.