… what do you actually mean?” That’s the question we’ve continued to receive since we announced the Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries project last month, and it can be a tough question to explain. We’ve been doing our best to get back to each and every one of you, but we thought it would be a good idea to flesh out exactly what we mean.
Like all great playwrights, Shakespeare wrote complex and multifaceted plays. The characters we meet, the stories we experience, the jokes we enjoy, the language we love, and the ideas we encounter all work together to enlighten and entertain audiences across time.
We’re looking for new work inspired by each of Shakespeare’s 38 plays. We want something in Shakespeare to inspire you to create something new. Something wonderful. Something that will be fun and exciting and beautiful to play in rotating repertory with its companion Shakespeare play.
Let’s start with what we aren’t looking for: retellings. We passionately believe that Shakespeare wrote the best Shakespeare and, when performed in the right conditions, his language is already our language. High schoolers ask us all the time who translated the performance they’ve just seen. The joy in discovering they “get” Shakespeare is part of what fuels our engines. So a translation or re-telling doesn’t fit the bill.
So what are we looking for?
Your play could answer a big “what if?” What if Mercutio lives? What if Morocco or Arragon opens 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)?
Your play could be inspired by the theme of a play: the loss, redemption, and forgiveness of The Winter’s Tale; by a character: Iago’s anger, jealousy, and revenge; by a line: “What's Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba, / That he should weep for her?” ; or by a moment: Thaisa’s rebirth. The opportunities are endless.
We want the play you write to tell us something new about a play we already know and love.
We’ve got a year of examples for you at the Blackfriars Playhouse, including one on stage right now, Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet). In the 2018 Actors’ Renaissance Season we pair Hamlet with Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and in the 2018 Spring Season we pair Macbeth with Bill Cain’s Equivocation.
In GD(GMJ), audiences get to see the same actors from R&J reprise their roles. They see the same fight choreography from R&J play out in slow-motion around a scholar’s desk. They find out “what would happen if” a misplaced scholar jumps between hot-headed Tybalt and Mercutio and tells them both that Romeo has married Juliet. They experience the world that’s created in R&J, both on the stage and in the theatre of their minds, in a topsy-turvy, dreamlike, and hilarious way.
The magic of running a companion piece in repertory with the its inspiration is that audiences get to build a world around Shakespeare’s works and bring it to life in ways they never thought possible. We want audiences to travel wholly unexpected paths through his canon, and over the next twenty years we want to take them on thirty-eight incredible journeys.
Won’t you join us?
“Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries” Will Award $25,000 to Playwrights for Companion Pieces to Shakespeare’s Timeless Works
STAUNTON, Va., April 21, 2017 – The American Shakespeare Center (ASC) today is launching an industry-changing international playwrighting competition that will create a modern canon of 38 companion pieces to the timeless work of Shakespeare.
“Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries” seeks to inspire the world’s most talented playwrights to compose original works that serve as partner plays to Shakespeare’s classics. Over the next 20 years, the ASC will select one companion play for each of Shakespeare’s 38 titles and produce two new plays in repertory with their Shakespeare partner each year. The final year of the 20-year cycle will be a retrospective of the best work from the cycle.
The ASC, known as Shakespeare’s American Home, will offer two annual prizes of $25,000 to the winning playwrights as well as funds to support their travel to Staunton for the planning and rehearsal periods and housing while in town.
“There aren’t many plays out there that vibe off Shakespeare,” said Jim Warren, Artistic Director of the American Shakespeare Center. “We’re not looking for a retelling of Shakespeare plays. We’re looking for partner plays that are inspired by Shakespeare, plays that might be sequels or prequels to Shakespeare’s stories, plays that might tell the stories of minor characters in Shakespeare’s stories, plays that might dramatize Shakespeare’s company creating the first production of a title, plays that might include modern characters interacting with Shakespeare’s characters, plays that will be even more remarkable when staged in rotating repertory with their Shakespeare counterpart and actors playing the same characters who might appear in both plays, plays that not only will appeal to other Shakespeare theatres, but also to all types of theatres and audiences around the world.”
For the first year of the competition, playwrights will draw inspiration from a choice of four plays: The Merry Wives of Windsor or Henry IV, Part 1 in the 2019 Actors’ Renaissance Season and The Comedy of Errors or The Winter’s Tale in the 2019 Spring Season. The deadline for submissions, which will be accepted through agents or directly from playwrights and kept anonymous to reviewers, is February 15, 2018.
Submissions should consider the following criteria:
The ASC is hiring a full-time Literary Manager, who will manage submissions and facilitate a readers’ circle of ASC executive leadership, ASC trustees, ASC artists, and two literary interns. The final winners, whose plays will debut in early 2019, will be made by the ASC’s Warren.
“With a repertory troupe of about a dozen actors, a playwright’s full-range of creativity can be on display rather than being restricted to two- or four-character plays,” Warren said. “We envision that the annual prizes – in addition to the opportunity to see the plays come to life at our one-of-a-kind theatre – will encourage a diverse group of playwrights to partake in what ultimately will produce contemporary views on Shakespeare’s brilliance.”
The American Shakespeare Center, through its performances, theatres, exhibitions and educational programs, seeks to make Shakespeare, the joys of theatre and language and the communal experience of the Renaissance stage accessible to all.
The American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, VA, recovers the joys and accessibility of Shakespeare’s theatre, language, and humanity by exploring the English Renaissance stage and its practices through performance and education. The ASC Blackfriars Playhouse, the world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s indoor theatre, is open year-round for productions of classic and modern plays, which have been hailed by The Washington Post as "shamelessly entertaining" and by The Boston Globe as "phenomenal…bursting with energy." Founded in 1988 as Shenandoah Shakespeare Express, the organization became the American Shakespeare Center in 2005 and can be found online at www.americanshakespearecenter.com.