A project this big means a lot of little details.
Explore these tabs for answers to frequently asked questions.
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About the ASC and about SNC
About the American Shakespeare Center
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.
How can I see what you do?
As part of the Playwrights Welcome program, we are happy to offer Dramatists Guild of America members two complimentary tickets to our productions. Simply visit the box office or call 1-877-MUCH-ADO (1-877-682-4236). A Dramatist card must be presented at Will Call.
How can I support the project?
- Donate. Access our secure portal to make a contribution today.
- Attend performances of these groundbreaking new plays. Stay tuned for more information about upcoming performances.
- Don’t keep us a secret. Make sure your friends and family know about the magic we’re making (especially if they’re a great playwright).
What’s the prize?
Each winning playwright will receive a $25,000 cash prize, plus travel to and housing in Staunton, Virginia for the workshop and the rehearsal process.
When will you announce the next round of plays?
We will announce the next round of plays approximately 9 months in advance of the deadline for each cycle. If you’re curious to know when we last did the Shakespeare play you’re interested in (and want to guess when it might come around again), check out our production history. Check this site for announcements or sign-up for email updates.
Writing a Play
What are the play qualifications?
The play must be inspired by or in conversation with one of the Shakespeare titles being considered during the given application cycle. Shakespeare titles under consideration for the Year 4 application cycle will be announced at least nine months prior to the application window.
The play must not have had a professional production.
The play should take advantage of and be producible using Shakespeare’s Staging Conditions* (Cast size 10–12; universal lighting; direct address; character doubling and cross-gendered casting; 2(ish) hours; minimal sets; all sound effects created in real time, unplugged, by the cast)
For more information about casting, visit the Producing a Play tab.
*see more below
Tell me more about Shakespeare’s Staging Conditions.
We’re glad you asked. They’re our heart and soul. The best way to understand how we produce is to see our work – either here in Staunton or on the road (and we’re happy to provide tickets to playwrights who want to check us out). We think Shakespeare’s Staging Conditions create an engaging, interactive, and magical theatre experience for our audiences – even if the show isn’t by William Shakespeare. Learn all the ins-and-outs of our unique style, and why we believe using Shakespeare’s Staging Conditions is an exceptional way to create exceptional theatre here.
Does my play need to be written in verse?
No, 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.
Does my play need to take place in Shakespeare’s world or feature his characters?
No, 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. Additionally, 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.
What do you mean by ‘inspired by’ and ‘in conversation with’?
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.
It can be “what if?” What if Mercutio lives. What if Morocco or Arragon open the right casket. What if Cordelia tells her father what he wants to hear. 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). What if Duke Senior has his own play. What if Imogen’s mother has her own play. What if Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have their own play (well, that’s already been done).
You might wish to engage with the theme of a play: the loss, redemption, forgiveness of The Winter’s Tale. You might wish to interrogate a character: Iago and his anger, jealousy, revenge. You might wish to engage with a line in a play: “What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba, / That he should weep for her?” You might wish to explore a moment in a play: Thaisa’s rebirth. The opportunities for inspiration in Shakespeare are vast.
We aren’t looking for translations of Shakespeare’s plays or scene-by-scene retellings of the plots, although you can be inspired by the plot to create new work (e.g. My Own Private Idaho, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, A Thousand Acres, 10 Things I Hate about You, Throne of Blood, etc.).
We want to see what questions Shakespeare’s plays provoke in you and how you are inspired to respond.
What do you mean by character doubling and cross-gendered casting?
Character doubling means that one actor may play a number of different characters in the play; cross-gendered casting means that actors of any gender (cis, trans, or non-binary) may play a fictional character written to be a specific gender. A modern example of this is Angels in America: the actor playing Hannah also plays Rabbi Chemelwitz, Ethel Rosenberg, Henry, etc.
May I submit a collaboration?
Yes, but the $25,000 prize would be split between the collaborators.
Are you accepting musicals?
Yes, but keep in mind that all music must be live and unplugged on acoustic instruments played by the same 11 or 12 actors in the troupe. And neither the voices nor the instruments will be amplified.
May I submit a previously produced play?
The contest is only available to unproduced work. 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.
submitting a play
Who should APPLY?
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 stage 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.
When is the deadline?
Stay tuned for forthcoming details about the Year 4 application cycle!
May I submit more than one play?
You may submit multiple plays.
May I submit the same play to multiple rounds of the Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries Project?
Yes, if your play engages with more than one of Shakespeare’s titles, you are welcome to submit it to any round that is considering those titles.
May I submit a paper copy of my play?
Please submit using our online submission form. We are unable to accept scripts by other methods. If you are truly unable to use an online submission form, please email email@example.com.
Does my script need to be formatted in any specific kind of way?
No. And Yes. You are welcome to format the elements of your script (dialogue, stage directions, etc) in whatever way you feel best suits your story and your way of telling it. That said, we do ask a few things in preparing your script: that your name and contact information (as well as the name and contact information of any agent or representation) be removed from the script and that a character breakdown be included at the start of the script.
May I submit if I am not a US citizen?
Is there an age requirement?
All applicants should be 18 years of age or older. (Under 18 and want to engage? Check out our education programming!)
May I submit a play that is a companion piece to a Shakespeare play that is not included in the current round of titles?
No, 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 4-6 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. 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.
My play is great, but it is ineligible or otherwise is not a fit for Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries. May I send it to you anyway?
Unfortunately, at this time, ASC is unable to consider new plays submitted outside of the SNC application process.
Selecting a Play
What is the selection process?
All scripts that meet our criteria will be read 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 2 plays will be selected as winners. Final selections will be 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.
All writers will be notified of their application status as the selection process moves forward. Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries plays for Year 3 will be selected in 2020 and produced in 2021.
We expect that the vast majority of plays produced through Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries will come through this open submission and anonymous selection process. However, there may be a handful of projects over the course of the 20 years 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.
Who is reading my play?
Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries has a terrific team of volunteer readers. Our readers 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). The entire process is closely managed by the literary department. Find a complete list of the readers for Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries Year 2 here.
When will I hear back?
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. Year 3 selections will be announced in 2020.
If you have any questions regarding the status of your application at any point in the process, please don’t hesitate to email us.
Will I receive feedback on my script?
No. We are unable to provide any feedback on scripts not selected for Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries and believe it would be poor artistic practice to do so, given that we would not be producing the work.
Producing a Play
what happens between selection and production? Is there any kind of workshop or development?
Selected playwrights are encouraged to revise their play as they wish throughout the process. In addition to offering feedback on any new material, ASC will provide each selected play with a staged reading workshop process a few months prior to the start of the production rehearsal process. For the production, the play will receive three weeks of rehearsal.
How are selected plays cast?
Each Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries play will be part of a rotating repertory with three or four 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.)
What about retaining performance rights and restrictions on other performances?
Submitting 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.