Sponsored by Edwin Wong, Langham Court Theatre calls on playwrights worldwide to submit plays to our second annual 2020 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 popular interest in risk and uncertainty that theatre can capitalize on. We live in an increasingly complex world: consider artificial intelligence, gene editing, leveraged investments, globalization, and weapons of mass destruction, for example. We gamble with the world not knowing how the unintended consequences will play out. Because we act on an unprecedented global scale, now, more than ever, we have a moral imperative to understand risk. What is risk? What can go wrong? The best place to explore 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. In Margin Call, the traders save the company, but at the expense of their careers. 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 shape human life. We had thought it was an error or a tragic flaw. But really, it’s just chance. Just like how Pablo finds out in Sartre’s The Wall.

The Challenge of Risk Theatre:

To write a new 90 – 120 minute play based on the risk theatre model of tragedy which speaks to contemporary audiences.

The Rewards of Risk Theatre:

1) Cash prizes of $9000 for the winner and four $525 prizes for the runners-up (total $11,100).*
2) The winning playwright will receive a travel stipend of up to $1020 to help offset the costs of travelling to Victoria for a professionally led workshop culminating in a staged reading before an audience including invited British Columbia theatre producers at Langham Court Theatre.*
3) At the discretion of Langham Court Theatre, the play could be fully produced during the following season as a special event.

The Deadline of Risk Theatre:

Electronic submissions only will be accepted until 9PM, June 1, 2020 Pacific Standard Time (PST) . The winners will be announced on the Competition website on August 16, 2020. The workshop will take place on mutually agreeable dates coordinated between Langham Court Theatre and the winner.

The Price of Risk Theatre:

Each entry $49.*

Jurors Sought for the 2nd Annual Risk Theatre Modern Tragedy Competition:

Langham Court Theatre is seeking experienced English-speaking theatre professionals, critics, play directors, and academics with ties to the playwriting community to serve on an internationally representative jury panel for the 2020 competition. All interested should acquaint themselves with the Risk Theatre model, then contact Michael Armstrong 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 2020. Potential jurors will be contacted in March 2020.

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.