Jurors are instructed to judge plays solely on the criteria laid out on the Homepage and the Guidelines page of this website. Knowledge of my book will not increase your chances of winning. In other words, if you’re thinking about entering the competition, you don’t need it. But, having said that, I hope that you will want to read it. My book is a drama manifesto called The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy: Gambling, Drama, and the Unexpected. Thirteen years in the writing, Friesen Press released it in February 2019. It is available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Chapters. It is available in store at Bolen Books and Munro’s Books. My Goodreads page is here. All proceeds from the book go towards funding the playwright competition.
Why would you want to read The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy? If you’ve ever wondered why tragedies—difficult works of drama full of strife and sorrow—are endearing to the human heart, this book is for you. For over two millennia, this question has haunted inquiring minds from Aristotle to Hegel and Nietzsche. Their answers have turned tragedy into a springboard into exploring the most fundamental human concerns.
In my book, I challenge conventional Aristotelian, Hegelian, and Nietzschean theories of tragedy. Instead of looking at tragedy as the interplay between the Dionysian and Apollonian (Nietzsche), the collision between irreconcilable ethical forces (Hegel), or a process to achieve catharsis (Aristotle), I argue that each dramatic act in tragedy is also a gambling act where heroes place delirious bets at the no-limit tables. These heroes, by going all-in, trigger unexpected and devastating outcomes. Tragedy is a theatre of risk.
With numerous examples from well-known plays such as Macbeth and Death of a Salesman to lesser known gems such as Aeschylus’ Seven Against Thebes, I demonstrate how protagonists wager their human assets from dignity to “the milk of human kindness” to achieve their aims, whether it be the American Dream or a Scottish crown. In this way, the book becomes an extended discussion of human value and the precious things that money can’t buy. Tragedy functions as a valuing mechanism.
If this writeup has piqued your interest, I hope that you will support the competition by picking up a copy or asking your local library to consider carrying it. Let’s work together to make the Risk Theatre Modern Tragedy Competition an incredible opportunity for playwrights for years to come.
PRAISE FOR THE RISK THEATRE MODEL OF TRAGEDY
“The author’s passion for his subject comes across in nearly every statement . . . An ambitious, thought-provoking critique of tragedy in the 21st century.” (click here for full review)Kirkus Reviews
*****THE RISK THEATRE MODEL IS A COMPELLING REINVENTION OF DRAMATIC STORYTELLING Edwin Wong has reinvigorated the ancient art of tragedy through his compelling Risk Theatre lens. Bravo! At heart, the book is a call to action for dramatists in our modern era to reinvent tragedy to address our brave new world of mesmerizing cacophony and unfathomable consequences. This is a fascinating read for anyone–but a “must read” for modern storytellers.Roger Walker – Amazon
*****I have just finished reading Edwin Wong’s ‘The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy’ and, although I was initially skeptical of his bold claim of an original theory of tragic drama, I was intrigued at the prospect of reading about this classicist’s main belief. As I turned the pages his theory grew on me and I found myself both convinced and gripped by this new perspective on tragedy. His low- probability, high-consequence outcome theory does indeed resonate with the risk takers of today and I thoroughly recommend this scholarly work to anyone interested in both theatrical and real life tragedy based on risk. As the author himself writes, ‘A working model of tragedy that is both original and rooted in tradition.’David Duncan – Goodreads
A remarkable book in every way. A must for every serious dramatist to read, ponder over and act upon.
*****IF YOU EVER PLAN TO WRITE, READ OR ACT IN A TRAGEDY THIS IS THE BOOK FOR YOU! The author writes that “after two and a half millennia, tragedy is still a term in search of a definition.” He interestingly describes how each age creates its own model. The ancients “assigned the unexpected outcome to the will of the gods” while the Elizabethans established “the first great age of tragedy in the era of probability”. Mr. Wong provides a model for our highly technological time where “the possibility of doing great good or evil has increased” where “the unexpected always prevails”. He makes a very convincing case that the study of tragedy enhances our understanding of life and its value. As did I, readers of this highly stimulating book will undoubtedly ask themselves what they would be willing to wager in their lives and for what. As an actor who has performed in tragedies, and a playwright who has attempted to write one, I know that this is a book to which I will often refer.Alan Thurston – Barnes & Noble
PS: Be sure to read the footnotes which are chock full of good stuff from Wild Bill Hickok anecdotes to the link between tragedy and goats! Tragedy will rise again!!
*****INNOVATIVE, ENGAGING, & VERY THOUGHT PROVOKING! Wong’s insightful and excellently-sourced treatise on “risk theatre” reframes our understanding of tragedy in terms of how hero’s (often flawed) analysis of risks and rewards prompts them to make decisions that set actions in motion leading to their tragic outcomes. He organizes information so effectively, providing relevant examples from classical and modern drama. You are never bogged down in the philosophy- rather, you are encouraged to expand how this new framework will inspire NEW content. Wong is hopeful in his desire to push the bounds of what modern tragedy will look like, and readers of this text and playwrights inspired by it are better for it!Emily McClain – Amazon
****Anyone who has taken a story writing or screenplay class in America has likely come across The Hero With a Thousand Facesat some point. If not the exact book itself, then another author has often either borrowed quotes or elements of Campbell’s classic hero’s journey. Some teachers consider it inseparable to modern cinema and media; it’s just about everywhere.Cavak – Goodreads
But if Campbell’s ideas cause resistance—which is becoming a trend nowadays, in my personal experience at least—Wong’s smooth model may be a wiser introduction. Campbell’s form may get learners lost in the message, the process, and the terminology for understanding a work. Wong’s methodology encourages a focused structure for a character’s thought processes throughout the story. It’s through establishing their personal risks and the consequences of their actions that there can be a real momentum. For me, and I’m sure others, that is the best-if-felt heart. Makes a story beat and dance with life.
Sure, Wong arranges his processes for the tragedy genre in mind, so there are certain constraints that may not apply. Like a fateful mishap tripping the heroes’ supposed victory and leading to a death may not be appropriate for a children’s book. But I believe most of Wong’s proposed techniques can be used for anything that has a story. I’d recommend this for anyone who wants to write or needs a refresher on character building, not just in the theater world too. Useful framing device if you’re feeling stuck.
The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedyis a nimble read. If I were to criticize the writing, it’s close to a dry textbook with cohesive examples. Depending on the type of reader you are, that might mean a fascinating analysis or a snore fest. Several popular Shakespearean examples too, so that might not be up your alley to reread if you’ve already read so much of Shakespeare.
For me though, I enjoyed the overall experience and I learned something. If I lived in LA, I’d be up to seeing it in persontoo. Maybe someday, eh?
I received the book for free through Goodreads Giveaways.
*****A VERY INTERESTING READ Interesting review of risk as related to everyday life.Gordjohn – Amazon
*****AN IMPORTANT WORK ON A FASCINATING TOPIC I loved this book! The author is a fan of my favorite playwright, Eugene O’Neill, and even quotes one of my favorite passages from LONG DAYS JOURNEY INTO NIGHT, where James O’Neill laments sacrificing his career for money, and wonders what is was he wanted.Mike – Amazon
The book itself is an entertaining and insightful reimagining of a model for modern tragedy – Risk Theater – into today’s world of technology and global risk. I think this is an interesting premise, as the modern tragic heroes are not kings but hedge fund managers and tech moguls, playing games of chance that risk the lives of people around the world.
The author has a deep knowledge of the classics which he utilizes to build a guidebook for how playwrights can use the concepts of existential gambles, unexpected events, and “the price you pay.” I particularly liked his theory or counter monetization, a welcome answer to a society that too often worships money at the expense of deeper values, and how that relates to a modern way of looking at tragedy.
The Risk Theater Model of Tragedy offers a fresh perspective not only of the classical theater but more importantly how we can restructure the old paradigms in a way that speaks to modern audiences. It’s an important work, and will hopefully inspire playwrights everywhere to reimagine classical themes in a dynamic and exciting ways.
***** A POWERFUL TOOL FOR WRITERS As an emerging playwright challenged to write high stakes drama that often has tragic consequences, I am grateful to Edwin Wong for his book, The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy. It gives me a powerful tool and template to write modern tragedy. It belongs on every playwright’s desk.Marc Littman (playwright) – Amazon
***** Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! Stunning! I had to re-read the “The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy” by Edwin Wong. It was too good. It is a delight to recreate the possible scenarios exposed by the author in a very original thematic treatment of theater that invites further discussion and analysis. It is also a compendium of high academic and cogent discourse, a complete high level ‘theory’ on how to model and perform stage plays. He couples it with almost a ‘how-to’ reference guide on how to produce compelling theater by presenting the reader with an exhaustive analysis and classification of different facets of prior stage productions, from the Greek classics to modern times’ productions. The book is chock’full of insights and intriguing revelations. Edwin draws a narrative comparing and contrasting different elements of risk and relates these to modern audiences. The author’s vast breadth of knowledge, drawing upon his years of experience as a theatre critic and forward thinker in the performing arts world has crafted together a robust tome with incredible completeness and complexity – which should be on every aspiring playwright’s desk. I can anticipate a wave of theater academics referencing this book in their class syllabus.Conchita – Amazon
***** If you haven’t read a scholarly book in a while and you feel that your brains are getting rusty, I recommend THE RISK MODEL of TRAGEDY. It manages to be highbrow but lucid, free of the cant of so much modern critical theory. The theatrical genre of tragedy was deemed to be needed along with comedy in ancient Greece, Elizabethan England, and should be re-invented in the USA today, if we truly want to be great. What are we afraid of?Daniel Curzon – Barnes & Noble
“A fascinating exploration advocating for the resurgence of the classical art form of tragedy in these tumultuous times . . . A nearly bulletproof argument for tragedy’s rebirth under the name of Risk Theatre.”Editor – Friesen Press