Edwin Wong calls on playwrights worldwide to submit plays to the 6th annual 2024 Risk Theatre Modern Tragedy Competition, juried by an international panel of professionals, anonymous to each other and the public until the winners are announced.

The Premise of Risk Theatre:

There’s an undercurrent of interest in risk and uncertainty for theatre to capitalize on. We live in an increasingly complex world where unintended consequences abound. More than ever, we have a moral imperative to understand risk. What is risk? What can go wrong? The best place to simulate risk is on the tragic stage. This belief informs risk theatre, which is based on the following premises:

1) tragedy consists of a gambling act in which protagonists wager all-in
2) by wagering all-in, protagonists expose themselves to unexpected and catastrophic low-probability, high-consequence events
3) as the dramatization of a gambling act, the emotional reaction of risk theatre is anticipation and apprehension: anticipation for what the protagonist wagers and apprehension for the price the protagonist, the protagonist’s friends and family, and the community must pay

Examples of Risk Theatre:

In the risk theatre interpretation of Macbeth, Macbeth wagers the milk of human kindness for the crown and is struck down by a low-probability event: Birnam Wood. In Oedipus rex, Oedipus bets against the gods and does quite well. Until the Corinthian messenger comes out of nowhere. In Death of a Salesman, Loman stakes his dignity on the American Dream, only to find that he is worth more dead than alive. And in The Cincinnati Kid, the Kid is on the verge of defeating the Man. But then the Man makes “the wrong move at the right time.” Audiences emerge from risk theatre with a heightened awareness of how low-probability, high-consequence events impact us, both in life and on the stage. We had thought it was an error or a tragic flaw. But really, it’s chance. Just like how Pablo finds out in Sartre’s The Wall.

The Challenge of Risk Theatre:

To write new 90 – 120 minute plays where downside risk is the dramatic fulcrum of the action.

The Rewards of Risk Theatre:

1) Cash prizes of $10,500 for the winner and five $700 prizes for the runners-up (total $14,000).*
2) The winner gets to meet and collaborate with risk theatre founder Edwin Wong in an online playwriting workshop. The workshop will culminate in a staged reading of the winning play which will be streamed online to an international audience. This one-of-a kind workshop will explore how the winning play makes risk palpable by considering unconventional playwriting topics such as the all-in wager, the edge, complexity, unexpectation, feedback, n(n-1)/2, black swans, and fat tails.  There’s nothing like it.

The Deadline of Risk Theatre:

Electronic submissions will be accepted until 9PM, May 31, 2024 Pacific Time (PT) . The winners will be announced on the Competition website late August 2024. The workshop will take place on mutually agreeable dates coordinated with the winner.

The Price of Risk Theatre:

Each entry $49.*

Jurors Sought for the 6th Annual Risk Theatre Modern Tragedy Competition:

We seek experienced playwrights, critics, directors, and academics to serve on an internationally representative jury panel for the 2024 competition. All interested should acquaint themselves with the Risk Theatre model, then contact Edwin Wong at tragedycompetition@gmail.com. Please include a CV and cover letter stating why you are interested in the risk theatre model of tragedy. Adjudication will take place from June to mid-August 2023. Potential jurors will be contacted in March 2023.

*all figures in Canadian dollars

Illustration ‘The Dead Man’s Hand’ by Silvia Boriani, 2015. Concept by Thornapple Productions. The scene was staged at Cenote Restaurant and Lounge by courtesy of the owner.