Edwin Wong calls on playwrights worldwide to submit plays to the 3rd annual 2021 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 risk is the dramatic fulcrum of the action.

The Rewards of Risk Theatre:

1) Cash prizes of $10,000 for the winner and five $525 prizes for the runners-up (total $12,265).*
2) The winning playwright may receive a travel stipend of up to $1030 to offset the costs of travelling to Victoria for a workshop led by Edwin Wong. The workshop will culminate in a reading either streamed online or before a live audience (the choice of which will be at the organizers’ discretion).* 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 only will be accepted until 9PM, May 31, 2021 Pacific Time (PDT) . The winners will be announced on the Competition website on August 16, 2021. 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 3rd Annual Risk Theatre Modern Tragedy Competition:

We seek experienced playwrights, critics, directors, and academics to serve on an internationally representative jury panel for the 2021 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 2021. Potential jurors will be contacted in March 2021.

For information on the Risk Theatre model, click here.

*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.