Wanted: a new play inspired by Shakespeare and Montreal

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Ever sat in English class, reading yet another Shakespeare play, thinking, “I could do this – but better?”

Now is the time to share your wildest take on the Bard: submissions are open for a shiny new play of any form that draws inspiration from William Shakespeare, the city of Montreal and Canada. You have until Thursday to get your pitch in.

Repercussion Theatre (the company behind Shakespeare in the Park) and Playwrights’ Workshop Montreal are working together on this commission, and they say they’re open to “any style or approach.”

Amanda Kellock, artistic director at Repercussion, says it’s about shaking up Shakespeare and injecting some diversity into a 400-year-old canon.

“I’m particularly looking for different kinds of voices. I really love putting on plays by a dead white guy, but it’s really nice to hear other voices, too,” Kellock told me recently in an interview on CKUT Radio.

She’s done her part, having directed and cast an all-lady version of Julius Caesar last summer. “I adore Shakespeare. There’s so much value to still putting on his plays… but I’m also super interested in when we get into dialogue with Shakespeare: when we not only present his plays, but when we talk back.”

Kellock cited some successful theatrical riffs on the Bard: Tom Stoppard’s absurdist Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, which breathed life into two minor characters from Hamlet. There’s also Canadian Ann-Marie MacDonald’s 1988 Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet), in which a young English lit prof, Constance, reimagines two tragic plays as comedies.

When I asked Kellock what she would write about, the AD said she would gravitate towards minor female roles, like Ophelia or Portia from Caesar. “I would pick one of those characters and dig in and see what else they might have to say.”

It being 400 years since Shakespeare exited this worldly stage, there have been countless efforts to modernize his work, like Margaret Atwood’s recent novel Hag-Seed, inspired by The Tempest for Random House’s Hogarth Shakespeare series of retellings.

As for purists who might quibble with bending the canon, Kellock thinks the Bard would probably be delighted. “If Shakespeare was alive now, he’d be trying every trick in the book. At the end of the day, he was a showman. He wanted to entertain and provoke his audience with whatever tools he had at his disposal.”

While the deadline for submissions is this Thursday, Dec. 1, you don’t need to write the whole thing by then: the submission requires a letter outlining your pitch, a short biography, a 10-page writing sample (to get a feel for the style of the play) and any research material or images that served as inspiration.

The selected writer will net a $3,000 commission, plus dramaturgical support and hours of workshopping — a plum prize for a scribe, especially someone starting out.

The chosen play will also get a public reading in the fall of 2018, when Repercussion celebrates its 30th anniversary.

For more details about submitting a pitch, visit the Playwrights’ Workshop Montreal website.

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