… 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?