The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) has today announced that the chosen 37 Plays selected as part of its nationwide playwriting project, will receive script-in-hand readings across the UK throughout the Autumn of 2023.
Between September – November, script-in-hand readings of all of the 37 plays will take place across the country and in the RSC’s rehearsal spaces in Clapham and at The Other Place, Stratford-upon-Avon.
The readings mark the conclusion of a year-long search to discover the most exciting voices of today and to inspire conversation about what the future of dramatic writing might look and feel like, on and off our stages.
The readings will be performed by regionally-based professional and community actors, from all ages and backgrounds and have been produced in collaboration with theatres across the country including The Grand Theatre, Blackpool; The Alhambra Theatre, Bradford; The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury; Hall for Cornwall; Hull Truck Theatre; Intermission Youth; New Vic Theatre, Stoke on Trent; Northern Stage; Nottingham Theatre Royal; Norwich Theatre; Silhouette Youth Theatre and York Theatre Royal.
Pippa Hill, Head of New Work at the Royal Shakespeare Company, said;
“It has always been vital to the RSC to celebrate, nurture and stage the voices of contemporary writers alongside our house playwright and we feel very privileged to have met and worked alongside so many writers that are new to us over the past 12 months. The writers of the chosen 37 plays have all received bespoke dramaturgical support and are now building strong relationships with the RSC’s network of theatre partners in order to be fully involved in the preparations for the readings of their plays to be held this autumn.
When we embarked on this initiative, we always envisioned this collection of new plays to be read and performed all over the country in collaboration with our partner theatres: on their stages and on community stages, in schools and by both amateur and professional acting companies. We are delighted that this autumn there will be a nationwide celebration of these 37 plays alongside readings of additional plays written as a response to the project. For some of our partners, these celebrations will kick-start annual playwriting festivals, regular playwriting sessions for their communities and future collaborations with the writers, ensuring a strong foundation for the development of further new writing initiatives.”
The search for plays closed on 31 January 2023, attracting 2,000+ submissions from across the UK. Over a six-week period, 24 readers read 31 plays per week to create an initial longlist of 350 plays. From the longlist, a total of 71 plays were shortlisted for commendation with the final 37 coming from locations as far afield as Devon to Edinburgh and from writers aged under 11, from 11 – 17 and over 18+.
Play submissions were divided into three age categories of up to 11 years old, 11 to 17 years old and 18 years old and above. Multi-authored plays were invited to nominate a lead writer or average age of writers.
Submissions were requested to be predominantly written in English, or in British Sign Language, with a translation provided for any text not in English language. Submissions needed to be a complete original story, not a sample of a story or an adaptation of a story and submitted plays should not have had a professional production or have been under commission at the time of submission.
The 37 Plays judging panel was chaired by Erica Whyman and also included Director of The Unicorn Theatre Rachel Bagshaw, actor and RSC Associate Artist Ray Fearon, Theatre Critic and Associate Editor of The Stage Lyn Gardner, RSC Youth Advisory Board members Harry and Ella, best-selling author Sharna Jackson, 2018 Ian Charleson Award-winner Bally Gill, award-winning playwrights Mark Ravenhill and Juliet Gilkes Romero and actor/writer and RSC Associate Artist David Threlfall.
Commenting on the initiative, Lyn Gardner, said:
“Being on the panel was so exhilarating and eye-opening because it revealed the depth and breadth of playwriting in all corners of the UK. It’s such a necessary reminder that there really is talent everywhere, in every community when people are given the opportunity to express it. The selected plays are such a brilliant and revealing snapshot about what it is like to live in the UK at this point in the 21st century”.
Celebrating the final 37 plays is not the end for many new writers around the country. As part of the project, writers also led workshops in partner theatres to get people writing for the first time. Of the 2000 submissions we received, just over 50% were from writers who described themselves as new or relatively new to writing plays. Many plays outside of the 37, (some that weren’t even submitted) are being celebrated in theatres, schools and community venues as part of the project.
All of the 37 plays selected have been awarded a fee for publication, performance and/or broadcast. Any submission subsequently commissioned for production are subject to usual commission processes approved by the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain.