A project this big means a lot of little details.
here are the answers to all of your burning questions.
We are the American Shakespeare Center, Shakespeare’s American Home. We produce world-class performances and educational programming year-round at the Blackfriars Playhouse, the world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s indoor theatre in Staunton, Virginia. Add to that a tour that has visited forty-seven states, one US territory, and five other countries. Our vision is to be a beacon for all to feel more alive through the experience of Shakespeare, changing lives one encounter at a time.
The first two productions will be mounted during our 2018/19 Artistic Year. The first, in the 2019 Actors’ Renaissance Season (January – early-April) will accompany either The Merry Wives of Windsor or Henry IV, Part 1. The second, during the 2019 Spring Season (mid-April – mid-June) will accompany either The Comedy of Errors or The Winter’s Tale.
- 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).
We’re looking for remarkable playwrights from all walks of life. Do you have a great play that vibes off of Shakespeare’s canon? Can you write a great play to be a companion piece to one of Shakespeare’s plays? We want to see it.
Each winning playwright will receive a $25,000 cash prize, plus travel to and housing in Staunton, Virginia for the rehearsal period and opening of their production.
Plays submitted during the first round of applications (now through February 15, 2018) must be inspired by or in conversation with The Merry Wives of Windsor; Henry IV, Part 1; The Comedy of Errors; or The Winter’s Tale. Plays submitted during the second round of applications (June 1 – August 1, 2018) must be inspired by or in conversation with Othello; Henry IV, Part 2; A Midsummer Night’s Dream; or Cymbeline.
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
*see more below
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’s a general overview:
Shakespeare’s actors could see their audience; ASC actors can see you. When actors can see an audience, they can engage with an audience. And audience members can play the roles that Shakespeare wrote for them – Cleopatra’s court, Henry V’s army, or simply the butt of innumerable jokes. Leaving an audience in the dark can literally obscure a vital part of the drama as Shakespeare designed it.
Shakespeare’s Macbeth has more than forty parts; Shakespeare’s traveling troupe may have had fewer than fifteen actors. With a troupe of fifteen or fewer actors, the ASC doubles parts, with one actor play as many as seven roles in a single show.
Because women didn’t take to the English stage until after the Restoration (1660), all the women in Shakespeare’s plays were originally played by young boys or men. Shakespeare had a great deal of fun with this convention. In a performance of As You Like It in 1600, a boy would have played Rosalind, who disguises herself as a boy, then pretends to be a woman. Let’s review: that’s a boy playing a woman disguised as a boy pretending to be a woman. Because we are committed to the idea that Shakespeare is about everyone – male and female – the ASC is not an all-male company. Because Shakespeare wrote so few female characters, women in our troupes will often play male characters; every so often, male actors will play female characters too.
We cannot know the precise running time of a Shakespeare play in the Renaissance, but the Chorus in Romeo and Juliet promises “two hours’ traffic of our stage.” The ASC tries to fulfill this promise through brisk pacing and a continuous flow of dramatic action.
Shakespeare’s company performed on a large wooden platform unadorned by fixed sets or scenery. A few large pieces – thrones, tombs, tables – were occasionally used to ornament a scene. Like Shakespeare, we rely on the audience’s imagination to “piece out our imperfections.”
Costuming was important to the theatre companies of Shakespeare’s day for three reasons. First, the frequently lavish costumes provided fresh color and designs for the theatres, which otherwise did not change from show to show. Second, costumes made it easy to use one actor in a variety of roles. Third, as they do now, costumes helped an audience “read” the play quickly by showing them at a glance who was rich or poor, royalty or peasantry, priest or cobbler, ready for bed or ready to party. Costumes are important to the ASC in the same way. But costumes were NOT important to Shakespeare and his fellows as a way of showing what life used to be like in a particular historical period. They probably performed Titus Andronicus, for example, in primarily garb with Roman-style pieces thrown on top. Sometimes we’ll use contemporary costumes, sometimes Elizabethan, and sometimes a mix of everything in between.
Shakespeare had a soundtrack. Above the stage, musicians played an assortment of string, wind, and percussion instruments before, during, and after the play. The plays are sprinkled with songs for which lyrics, but not much of the music, survive. The ASC sets many of these songs in contemporary style. The result is emblematic of our approach – a commitment to Shakespeare’s text and to the mission of connecting that text to modern audiences.
All scripts that meet our criteria (see above) 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 Ralph Alan Cohen (Co-Founder and Director of Mission), Amy Wratchford (Managing Director), Jay McClure (Associate Artistic Director 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. First-round winners will be announced in June 2018, with the selected plays produced in early 2019. Second-round winners will be announced in January 2019, with the selected plays produced in early 2020.
We expect that the vast majority of plays produced through Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries will come through this open submissions and blind 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.
To be considered for the first year, please submit by February 15, 2018.
Submissions for the second round of Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries will be accepted from June 1 – Augusts 1, 2018.
You’ll receive confirmation of your play’s receipt shortly after you submit. You’ll be further notified as to whether or not your play is selected for the semifinalist round. First round winners will be selected June 2018. If you have any questions regarding the status of your application at any point in the process, please don’t hesitate to e-mail us.
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.
All applicants should be 18 years of age or older. (Under 18 and want to engage? Check out our education programming!)
Yes, but the $25,000 prize would be split between the collaborators.
Yes, but keep in mind that all 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.
The contest is only available to unproduced work. We prefer that submitted plays will remain unproduced through July 1, 2019 (for the first-round projects) or July 1, 2020 (for the second-round projects). However, if you have questions about this, please contact us.
You may submit multiple plays.
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 of Shakespeare’s plays at a time. (For Round 1, those plays are Merry Wives of Windsor; Henry VI, Part 1; The Comedy of Errors; and The Winter’s Tale. For Round 2, those plays are Othello; Henry IV, Part 2; A Midsummer Night’s Dream; and Cymbeline.) 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.
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.
We will announce the next round of plays approximately 1 – 1.5 years in advance of the deadline for each cycle. Check this site for announcements or sign-up for email updates.
We are seeking new plays that will be companion pieces for each of Shakespeare’s plays (e.g. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead to Hamlet or Wittenberg to Hamlet or Shakespeare in Love to Romeo and Juliet,etc.). The American Shakespeare Center will perform each new play in rotating repertory with its companion Shakespeare play.
We are looking for new work that is inspired by and in conversation with Shakespeare. Something in a Shakespeare play that inspires you to write a great play. 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 something that inspires youto create something new. Something wonderful. Something great that will be fun and exciting and beautiful to play in rotating repertory with its companion Shakespeare play.
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 or trans) 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.
Submitting playwrights will retain the rights to their work. The American Shakespeare Center will request acknowledgement 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.
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.