The next crop of Wendy Wassersteins and Charles Evereds may have a shot at the kind of publicity — and money — most of their colleagues can only dream of.
Any playwright from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland now has the chance to win such support through the Yale Drama Series, a major new annual playwriting competition.
The competition is co-sponsored by the Yale University Press and the Yale Repertory Theatre and is a new venture to support emerging playwrights. The winner’s manuscript will be performed in a stage reading at the Yale Rep and published by the Yale University Press, and he or she will receive a $10,000 prize.
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee will select the winners for the first two years of the award. Albee is an American playwright known for notable works such as “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”
Jacques Lamarre, associate director of marketing and communications at the School of Drama, said he believes Albee to be an inspired choice to be the first judge.
“Almost 50 years ago, one of America’s most accomplished playwrights was unpublished, unproduced and couldn’t get an American theater to give him a break” Lamarre said.
A German theater company gave Albee’s first mature play a chance. The result was “The Zoo Story,” which revolutionized modern drama.
Since Albee’s work has always been ahead of its time, Lamarre said, Albee will select a winner who will represent the next generation of theater. John Kulka, senior editor at the Yale University Press and founding editor of the Yale Drama Series, said he has high hopes for the potential of this new competition. Kulka said that he wanted to create a publication prize that would be as distinguished and long-lived as the Yale Series of Young Poets, an annual poetry competition.
The Drama Series is in part modeled on the 90-year-old poetry contest, one of the oldest and most distinguished literary prizes in North America. It jump-started some of the most famous careers in contemporary poetry, such as those of poets M.S. Merwin, John Ashbery and Adrienne Rich.
But the drama competition has some important differences from its prototype. For instance, the Yale Drama Series is an international competition open to playwrights of all ages, whereas only American citizens under the age of 40 are eligible for the Yale Series of Young Poets.
“It’s a tricky thing when you say emerging writers — people like to use that term a lot,” said Jennifer Kiger, associate artistic director at the School of Drama. “In this day and age you have to be careful because it does not necessarily just mean young.”
Kiger said she sees this competition as an opportunity to support and celebrate the work of an unknown writer — regardless of age — who has not yet had much exposure.
Sarah Treem, the instructor of a residential college seminar on playwriting, said that given that playwriting is not particularly lucrative, the $10,000 prize — and the months of unadulterated writing time it buys — are invaluable.
“This is the best prize you can give to a young writer,” she said.
The winner of the 2007 competition, chosen from over 500 submissions, will be announced on April 26 at Lincoln Center.