Category Archives: Risk Theatre Modern Tragedy Competition

NOVEMBER 2019 UPDATE – RISK THEATRE MODERN TRAGEDY COMPETITION

Stats, stats, stats!

THANK YOU assiduous playwrights for all your entries! Here are the vital statistics since the 2nd annual competition began five months ago. Twenty plays have come in from two continents (North American and Oceania) and three countries (USA, Australia, and Canada). Here are the country breakouts:

USA 17 entrants

Australia 2 entrants

Canada 1 entrant

Of the American entries, 13 are from the east and 4 are from the west. There is a concentration of dramatists in New York (11 entrants). Go New York! Australia is also off to a good start, already exceeding last year’s entries. Canada finally woke. A long way to go to hit the 182 entries from 11 countries from last year.

The breakdown between male and female entrants stands at 15 men and 5 woman. While the balance may seem to tilt towards male writers, in a historical context, the numbers are quite progressive: prior to the twentieth century, I only know of one tragedy written by a woman. That play is The Tragedy of Mariam, the Fair Queen of Jewry, written by Elizabeth Cary in 1613. The times, they are a changing!

Last month the https://risktheatre.com/ website averaged 12 hits a day. The top five countries clicking were: US, Canada, Australia, UK, and China. Most clicks in a day was 196 back in June 2018 when the contest launched. Best month was March 2019 with 2372 hits—that was when we announced the 2019 winners. All time views stand at 14,374 and growing. So far, so good for this grassroots competition!

My book: THE RISK THEATRE MODEL OF TRAGEDY: GAMBLING, DRAMA, AND THE UNEXPECTED (ISBN 978-1-5255-3756-1) hit the bookshelves in February 2019. To date, it has sold 940 copies. THANK YOU to everyone for supporting the book—all proceeds help fund the competition. The book won in the Readers’ Favorite Awards and the CIPA EVVY Awards.

Please ask your local library to carry this unique title. To date, the book can be found at these fantastic libraries: Brown University, Pasadena Public, Fargo Public, South Texas College, University of Bristol, University of Victoria, Greater Victoria Public, Richmond Public, Smithers Public, University of Colorado (Denver), Denver Public, McMaster University, Buffalo and Erie County Public, Rochester Public, Wheaton College, South Cowichan Public, Vancouver Public, Hillside Public (Hyde Park, NY), Scarsdale Public (NY), Indianapolis Public, Okanagan College (Penticton), and the Russian State Library. Let’s get a few more libraries on board! Reviews of the book can be found here:

http://theelementsofwriting.com/wong/

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/edwin-wong/the-risk-theatre-model-of-tragedy-gambling-drama-a/

https://www.broadwayworld.com/westend/article/Book-Review-THE-RISK-THEATRE-MODEL-OF-TRAGEDY-Edwin-Wong-20190626

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/the-risk-theatre-model-of-tragedy/

There are the haters as well. Here’s a review that absolutely skewers risk theatre:

https://ormsbyreview.com/2019/11/28/670-goldfarb-wong-a-new-theory-of-tragedy/

Until next time, I’m Edwin Wong, and I’m doing Melpomene’s work.

LA THEATRE BITES Interviews Edwin Wong on the Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy

I sat down with Patrick Chavis, founder of the LA Theatre Bites podcast, to talk about my new book: The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy: Gambling, Drama, and the Unexpected (Friesen Press 2019). Thank you to Patrick and LA Theatre Bites for this fantastic opportunity to talk about risk theatre, a bold and engaging way to both interpret yesterday’s plays and create tomorrow’s classics.

Here’s the link to the half hour podcast. Sit down, grab a coffee, and enjoy! We talk about the playwright competition based on risk theatre (https://risktheatre.com/), last year’s winning play (IN BLOOM by Gabriel Jason Dean), how risk functions in drama, compare risk theatre to other theories of drama, and even attempt a risk theatre read of one of Chavis’ favourite movies: Star Wars. It’s one action-packed interview!

http://latheatrebites.com/interview-with-edwin-wong-the-writer-of-the-risk-theatre-model-of-tragedy-gambling-drama-and-the-unexpected/

Patrick Chavis / LA Theatre Bites Blurb

Patrick Chavis is the creator, designer, podcast/writer and head editor at LA Theatre Bites since its inception in 2016. Because of the massive size of the Los Angeles area and its large theatre presence. Patrick decided to create short review podcasts instead of the traditional written review format allowing reviewers to see more shows and connect more authentically with theatre fans. LA Theatre Bites is consistently ranked as a top ten theatre podcast.

Edwin Wong / Risk Theatre Blurb

In 2018, Edwin Wong founded the Risk Theatre Modern Tragedy Playwright Competition with Langham Court Theatre–one of the oldest and most respected theatres in Canada–to challenge conventional Aristotelian, Hegelian, and Nietzschean theories of tragedy. Visit https://risktheatre.com/ for details.

The centrepiece of the competition is Wong’s book The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy: Gambling, Drama, and the Unexpected. 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), Wong’s drama manifesto argues 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, Wong demonstrates 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 Scotch crown.

From emerging playwrights to Emmy Award winners, in the first year of the Risk Theatre Modern Tragedy Playwriting Competition over 180 entrants from 11 countries have taken up the challenge of reinventing an ancient art for a modern era. The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy is the book that launched an important and exciting new international art movement.

Wong is an award-winning classicist with a master’s degree from Brown University, where he concentrated in ancient theatre. His other research interests include epic poetry, where he has published a solution to the contradiction between Homeric fate and free will by drawing attention to the peculiar mechanics of chess endgames. He lives in Victoria, Canada and blogs at https://melpomeneswork.com/.

Until next time, I’m Edwin Wong and I’m doing Melpomene’s work.

BookLife Review of Edwin Wong’s THE RISK THEATRE MODEL OF TRAGEDY

Wong’s hardy debut book of literary criticism succeeds in presenting a challenge to the famous playwrights of yesteryear while providing a compelling framework for today’s storytellers. Inspired by Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets and drawing on examples from Sophocles, Shakespeare, Ovid, and several other venerated writers, Wong depicts risk—not sorrow or regret—as the peak point of all tragic stories, arguing that setting up one’s own downfall through a misjudged gamble is, in fact, the greatest tragedy of all. Much of the book is devoted to retellings of classic stories, leading to the redefinition of the tragic theater art form. Wong goes beyond considering characters’ risk-taking to examine factors such as meddling from outside forces, external authorities, passion, and the supernatural.

The book’s appeal lies in its novel premise and attention to detail. Readers opening it in hopes of a quick explanation of tragedy in drama may find it initially slow going, but they will be satisfied by Wong’s complete and thorough explanation of a new perspective from which one can view the masterworks of tragic theater. Wong concludes by challenging modern playwriting, viewing it both as a form of art and as a way that playwrights themselves take risks.

Tragedy has long been seen as essential to literature and drama, and much ink has been spilled about what makes it work; the idea of conscious risk-taking being the real source of tragic emotion feels genuinely new and exciting. Though the language is dry, dense, and highly technical—leavened only by the occasional humorous quotation—this is nonetheless an excellent compilation of arguments that will stimulate creative minds.

Takeaway: Playwrights and philosophers will completely devour this deep dive into the idea that tragedy stems from the misjudged gamble.

Great for fans of Eric Bentley, Simon Shepherd, Neil Verma.

Production grades

Cover: B

Design and typography: A

Illustrations: –

Editing: A

Marketing copy: A+

The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy Cover

The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy Cover

October Update – Risk Theatre Modern Tragedy Competition

Stats, stats, stats!

THANK YOU assiduous playwrights for all your entries! Here are the vital statistics since the 2nd annual competition began four months ago. Sixteen plays have come in from two continents (North American and Oceania) and two countries (USA and Australia). Here are the country breakouts:

USA 14 entrants

Australia 2 entrants

Of the American entries, 11 are from the east and 3 are from the west. There is a concentration of dramatists in New York (10 entrants). Go New York! Australia is also off to a good start, already exceeding last year’s entries. A long way to go to hit the 182 entries from 11 countries from last year.

The breakdown between male and female entrants stands at 13 men and 3 woman. While the balance may seem to tilt towards male writers, in a historical context, the numbers are quite progressive: prior to the twentieth century, I only know of one tragedy written by a woman. That play is The Tragedy of Mariam, the Fair Queen of Jewry, written by Elizabeth Cary in 1613. The times, they are a changing!

Last month the https://risktheatre.com/ website averaged 16 hits a day. The top five countries clicking were: US, Canada, Australia, UK, and China. Most clicks in a day was 196 back in June 2018 when the contest launched. Best month was March 2019 with 2372 hits—that was when we announced the 2019 winners. All time views stand at 13,920 and growing. So far, so good for this grassroots competition!

My book: THE RISK THEATRE MODEL OF TRAGEDY: GAMBLING, DRAMA, AND THE UNEXPECTED (ISBN 978-1-5255-3756-1) hit the bookshelves in February 2019. To date, it has sold 916 copies. THANK YOU to everyone for supporting the book—all proceeds help fund the competition. The book won in the Readers’ Favorite Awards and the Colorado Independent Publishers Association Awards.

Please ask your local library to carry this unique title. To date, the book can be found at these fantastic libraries: Brown University, Pasadena Public, Fargo Public, South Texas College, University of Bristol, University of Victoria, Greater Victoria Public, Richmond Public, Smithers Public, University of Colorado (Denver), Denver Public, McMaster University, Buffalo and Erie County Public, Rochester Public, Wheaton College, South Cowichan Public, Vancouver Public, Hillside Public (Hyde Park, NY), Scarsdale Public (NY), Indianapolis Public, and the Russian State Library. Let’s get a few more libraries on board! Reviews of the book can be found here:

http://theelementsofwriting.com/wong/

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/edwin-wong/the-risk-theatre-model-of-tragedy-gambling-drama-a/

https://www.broadwayworld.com/westend/article/Book-Review-THE-RISK-THEATRE-MODEL-OF-TRAGEDY-Edwin-Wong-20190626

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/the-risk-theatre-model-of-tragedy/

Until next time, I’m Edwin Wong and I’m doing Melpomene’s work.

RISK THEATRE Book Launch and Staged Reading of IN BLOOM Opening Remarks

Risk Theatre at Langham Court Theatre

Risk Theatre at Langham Court Theatre l-r: Cam Culham, Gabriel Jason Dean, Michael Armstrong, Steven Piazza, Jason Vikse, Arian Aminalroaya, Edwin Wong, Gene Sargent, Douglas Peerless, Rahat Saini, and Wayne Yercha

Transcript of my opening remarks at the Risk Theatre book launch and staged reading of In Bloom at Langham Court Theatre. Sunday, October 20, 2019. Thanks for reading, until next time I’m Edwin Wong and I’m doing Melpomene’s work.

We have for you tonight risk theatre, a bold new asset to create and interpret literature. With us … Brooklyn playwright Gabriel Jason Dean, the winner of the Risk Theatre Modern Tragedy Competition (https://risktheatre.com/)is in the house! His play IN BLOOM takes $8000 cash, a $1000 travel stipend, and a workshop. I see here competition manager Michael Armstrong and Michelle Buck, Langham Court Theatre’s general manager. They’re the heart and soul of the project. Langham Court board member Keith Digby is in France. He’s a force guiding the project. Our performers: Arian Aminalroaya, Cam Culham, Douglas Peerless, Steven Piazza, Rahat Saini, Gene Sargent, Jason Vikse, and Wayne Yercha. Michael Armstrong directing. Let’s have a round of applause for everyone!

We’re here tonight to see if risk theatre, a new theory of tragedy, can attain proof of concept. The spark of risk theatre came from a book on stock market crashes: The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. He argued that traders, by taking excessive risk, trigger catastrophic low-probability, high-consequence events. When I read it, I thought “Replace ‘trader’ with ‘hero’ and you can give critics and playwrights a model of tragedy that resonates with modern times.”

My new book The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy: Gambling, Drama, and the Unexpected binds tragedy with modernity. Michelle Buck, Keith Digby, and Michael Armstrong saw the potential of making risk the dramatic fulcrum of the action, and we inaugurated an international playwriting competition based on risk theatre. We fed the spark and it became a flame.

Next came the jurors: playwrights and critics of renown: Yvette Nolan from Canada, Armen Pandola from the US, and Sally Stott from the UK. They read the scripts blind. Of the 182 plays from playwrights in 11 countries, they selected Gabriel Jason Dean’s In Bloom to champion the risk theatre concept. We fed the flame. It became a fire.

Tonight we want proof of concept. We’re staging a reading of In Bloom so that you can decide. Does risk theatre work? What happens when you make risk the dramatic centre of tragedy? Do protagonists trigger catastrophic low-probability, high-consequence events by making delirious wagers? Can the risk theatre model ignite a resurgence of interest in tragedy?

We’re starting to gain traction. Theatre departments are launching courses to explore risk theatre. Historians are adapting risk theatre to the writing of history and biography. Theatre suspends disbelief, and, as you watch In Bloom, I want you to suspend your ideas about catharsis, tragic error, the Apollinian and Dionysian, alienation effect, and ethical collisions. Think instead on how the hero’s concentrated position triggers low-probability, high-consequence events. Join us as we transform risk theater into a roaring blaze so that years from now we can say: “We were there with risk theatre in those early days when risk theatre was a green shoot on the fertile soil of theory!” Thank you for coming, enjoy the show!

SEPTEMBER 2019 UPDATE – RISK THEATRE MODERN TRAGEDY COMPETITION

Stats, stats, stats!

THANK YOU assiduous playwrights for all your entries! Here are the vital statistics since the 2nd annual competition began three months ago. Thirteen plays have come in from two continents (North American and Oceania) and two countries (USA and Australia). Here’s the country breakouts:

USA 11 entrants

Australia 2 entrants

Of the American entries, 8 are from the east and 3 are from the west. There is a concentration of dramatists in New York (7 entrants). Go New York! Australia is also off to a good start, already exceeding last year’s entries.

The breakdown between male and female entrants stands at 11 men and 2 woman. While the balance may seem to tilt towards male writers, in a historical context, the numbers are quite progressive: prior to the twentieth century, I only know of one tragedy written by a woman. That play is The Tragedy of Mariam, the Fair Queen of Jewry, written by Elizabeth Cary in 1613. The times, they are a changing!

Last month the https://risktheatre.com/ website averaged 14 hits a day. The top five countries clicking were: US, Canada, UK, Australia, and New Zealand. Most clicks in a day was 196 back in June 2018 when the contest launched. Best month was March 2019 with 2372 hits—that was when we announced the 2019 winners. All time views stand at 13,442 and growing. So far, so good for this grassroots competition!

My book: THE RISK THEATRE MODEL OF TRAGEDY: GAMBLING, DRAMA, AND THE UNEXPECTED (ISBN 978-1-5255-3756-1) hit the bookshelves in February 2019. To date, it has sold 654 copies. THANK YOU to everyone for supporting the book—all proceeds help fund the competition. The book won in the Readers’ Favorite Awards and the Colorado Independent Publishers Association Awards.

Please ask your local library to carry my unique book. To date, the book can be found at these fantastic libraries: Brown University, Pasadena Public, Fargo Public, South Texas College, University of Bristol, University of Victoria, Greater Victoria Public, Richmond Public, Smithers Public, University of Colorado (Denver), Denver Public, McMaster University, Buffalo and Erie County Public, Rochester Public, Wheaton College, and the Russian State Library. Let’s get a few more libraries on board! Reviews of the book can be found here:

http://theelementsofwriting.com/wong/

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/edwin-wong/the-risk-theatre-model-of-tragedy-gambling-drama-a/

https://www.broadwayworld.com/westend/article/Book-Review-THE-RISK-THEATRE-MODEL-OF-TRAGEDY-Edwin-Wong-20190626

https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/the-risk-theatre-model-of-tragedy/

Save this Date: Staged Reading of Gabriel Jason Dean’s IN BLOOM and Risk Theatre Book Launch

SAVE THIS DATE

SUNDAY OCTOBER 20, 2019 6pm

Join us at Langham Court Theatre for one night featuring two special events: the book launch of Edwin Wong’s award-winning debut work of literary criticism, THE RISK THEATRE MODEL OF TRAGEDY: GAMBLING, DRAMA, AND THE UNEXPECTED and a staged reading of playwright Gabriel Jason Dean’s play IN BLOOM. From the 182 entries from 11 countries, an international team of three jurors selected IN BLOOM as the winner of Langham Court Theatre’s inaugural RISK THEATRE MODERN TRAGEDY COMPETITION (risktheatre.com). Dean takes home the grand prize of $8000 cash, a three-day playwriting workshop at Langham Court Theatre, and a $1000 travel stipend.
The aim of the competition is to put Victoria and Langham Court Theatre on the playwriting map by redefining the art form of tragedy. Risk is now the dramatic fulcrum of the action. Tragic heroes make risk run riot with their delirious wagers. Because they wager human assets, tragedy functions as a valuing mechanism. Because they lose all, audiences wonder: how did the perfect bet go wrong?
The staged reading will be directed by Michael Armstrong, a well-known local director, playwright, educator, and actor. Wong will be in attendance, as well as playwright Dean, who will be flying from Brooklyn, New York to talk to you about his exciting new play IN BLOOM.
IN BLOOM tells the story of Aaron, an ambitious, well-intentioned, but ultimately reckless American documentary filmmaker in Afghanistan. While there, Aaron not only risks his own life in pursuit of exposing the truth surrounding dancing boys—a thinly disguised form of prostitution—but his actions also endanger the life of an Afghan boy named Hafiz, a tragedy that Aaron later lies about in his award-winning memoir about his experience in Afghanistan. The play examines what it means to risk all to do good, and looks at a character standing on the crossroads between altruism and imperialism. Is it justifiable to rewrite someone else’s history for the greater good?
Copies of Wong’s book THE RISK THEATRE MODEL OF TRAGEDY will be on sale at a special price of $10. Readers interested in risk management, writing, criticism, and theatre will want a copy. If you love literature—theatre, film, novels, history, biography, opera, whatever—you need to read this extraordinary work. You will never read another work of literature the same way. The book is a winner in the Readers Favorite Book Awards, the CIPA EVVY Awards, and the National Indie Excellence Awards. It has been featured in BC Bookworld, Broadway World UK, The Clyde Fitch Report (forthcoming), The Elements of Writing, Island Writer Magazine (forthcoming), London Review of Books (forthcoming), Monday Magazine, New York Review of Books, Ormsby Review (forthcoming), and The Tom Sumner Program. We are also thrilled to announce that a major MFA program has launched a course on risk theatre, the first of its kind in the world.
Come join us on Sunday, October 20. The book launch will be a casual meet and greet event and begins at 6pm. Complimentary appetizers will be provided by Food for Thought Catering and there will be a cash bar. The staged reading commences at 7pm with audience talkback to follow. Entry by donation, all proceeds will support Langham Court Theatre initiatives. We look forward to seeing you there.
BIOS
Michael Armstrong is an actor, director, playwright, and educator. He has a BA in English Literature and a MFA in Playwriting. He has directed, acted, and led workshops for twenty years. He has written a dozen plays, both comedy and tragedy, most of which have been inspired by actual historical events. He has a deep interest in the role of catharsis in personal growth and explores this theme in much of his writing: how personal tragedy can break us open, strip us clean, and make room for new life. It is a gamble that does not always pay out.
Gabriel Jason Dean is an American playwright whose plays include Terminus (Austin Critic’s Table Award), Heartland (David Mark Cohen New Play Award), Qualities of Starlight (Broadway Blacklist), The Transition of Doodle Pequeño (American Alliance for Theatre & Education Distinguished Play Award, and others. His work has been produced and developed Off-Broadway at New York Theatre Workshop, Manhattan Theatre Club, The Flea, The Civilians, and Cherry Lane Theatre. He received a Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University and earned his MFA from the University of Texas Michener Centre for Writers.
Edwin Wong believes the time is now to reimagine the ancient art of tragedy. After reading Taleb’s Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan, he developed “risk theatre,” a theory of drama which aligns tragedy with the modern fascination surrounding chance and uncertainty. The result is a tragic stage where every dramatic act is a gambling act and risk runs riot. Wong received a MA in Classics from Brown University where he concentrated in ancient theatre. He lives in Victoria, Canada and blogs at melpomeneswork.com.

RISK THEATRE MODERN TRAGEDY COMPETITION – AUGUST 2019 UPDATE

Stats, stats, stats!

THANK YOU assiduous playwrights for all your entries! Here are the vital statistics since the 2nd annual competition began two months ago. Nine plays have come in from two continents (North American and Oceania) and two countries (USA and Australia). Here’s the country breakouts:

USA 7 entrants
Australia 2 entrants

Of the American entries, 4 are from the east and 3 are from the west. There is a concentration of dramatists in New York (4 entrants). Go New York! Australia is also off to a good start, already exceeding last year’s entries.

The breakdown between male and female entrants stands at 8 men and 1 woman. While the balance may seem to tilt towards male writers, in a historical context, the numbers are quite progressive: prior to the twentieth century, I only know of one tragedy written by a woman. That play is The Tragedy of Mariam, the Fair Queen of Jewry, written by Elizabeth Cary in 1613. The times, they are a changing!

Last month the https://risktheatre.com/ website averaged 37 hits a day. Most clicks in a day was 196 back in June 2018 when the contest launched. Best month was March 2019 with 2372 hits—that was when we announced the 2019 winners. All time views stand at 12,646 and growing. So far, so good for this grassroots competition!

My book: THE RISK THEATRE MODEL OF TRAGEDY: GAMBLING, DRAMA, AND THE UNEXPECTED (ISBN 978-1-5255-3756-1) hit the bookshelves in February 2019. To date, it has sold 630 copies. THANK YOU to everyone for supporting the book—all proceeds from sales go back into funding the competition. Please ask your local library to carry this unique title. To date, members at these fantastic libraries have access: Brown University, Pasadena Public, Fargo Public, South Texas College, University of Bristol, University of Victoria, Greater Victoria Public, Richmond Public, Smithers Public, and the Russian State Library. Let’s get a few more libraries on board! Reviews of the book can be found here:

http://theelementsofwriting.com/wong/
https://www.kirkusreviews.com/…/the-risk-theatre-model-of-…/
https://www.broadwayworld.com/…/Book-Review-THE-RISK-THEATR…
https://www.forewordreviews.com/…/the-risk-theatre-model-o…/

2019 Risk Theatre Modern Tragedy Competition – Grand Prize Winner

Thank you to all the hardworking and talented playwrights who participated in the inaugural 2019 Risk Theatre Modern Tragedy Competition. We are thrilled to announce that Gabriel Jason Dean has won the inaugural 2019 Risk Theatre Modern Tragedy Competition with his play In Bloom. Congratulations on winning the $8000 prize, the workshop, and the $1000 travel stipend. Here’s Dean’s bio and a synopsis of In Bloom:

Gabriel Jason Dean is an American playwright whose plays include Terminus (Austin Critic’s Table Award); Heartland (David Mark Cohen New Play Award); Qualities of Starlight (Broadway Blacklist); The Transition of Doodle Pequeño (American Alliance for Theatre & Education Distinguished Play Award); and others. His work has been produced/developed Off-Broadway at New York Theatre Workshop, Manhattan Theatre Club, The Flea, The Civilians, and Cherry Lane Theatre. He received a Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University and earned his MFA from the University of Texas Michener Center for Writers.

In Bloom by Dean tells the story of Aaron, an ambitious, well-intentioned, but ultimately reckless American documentary filmmaker in Afghanistan. While there, Aaron not only risks his own life in pursuit of “exposing a greater truth,” but his actions also lead to the death of an Afghan boy named Hafiz, a tragedy that Aaron later lies about in his award-winning memoir about his experience in Afghanistan. With Aaron, I wanted to craft a complicated protagonist that was willing to risk it all in order to do good in the world, a character that exposed the hypocritical intersection of altruism and imperialism. What does it mean to “do good?” There’s a fine line between good intention and exploitation. And what does it mean to rewrite someone else’s story for the “greater good?”

Congratulations to our four runners-up, in alphabetical order: Michael Bucklin (Signature Photo), Scott McCrea (Mysterious Ecstasy of the Lonely Business Traveler), Phillip Christian Smith (The Chechens),and J. D. Volk (Chrysalis). Each of these hard-hitting plays, full of anticipation and apprehension, could have taken the first place on another day. Each of the runners-up will receive a well-deserved $500 prize. Here are their bios and play synopses:

Michael Bucklin is a graduate of the Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theatre. He attended UCLA’s Graduate Program in Screenwriting. His plays have been produced in both New York City and regional venues. He was a finalist at the Eugene O’Neill Conference of New Plays. He placed third in the Writer’s Digest Competition in Drama, and second in Beverly Hills Theatre Guild, Julie Harris Award Competition. He won first prize in playwriting at the Austin Film Festival. As a screenwriter, Michael received the Burns and Allen Comedy Writing Award, the Harmony Gold Award for Writing Excellence, and the prestigious Samuel Goldwyn Writing Award.

Signature Photo by Bucklin tells the story of a photojournalist who is willing to risk everything in order get the photograph that will launch her career. She makes the dangerous trek to Rwanda, where she finally gets the shot — a picture so brutal and controversial that it becomes an instant sensation. Yet the success of the picture has unintended consequences for the photojournalist, as well as everyone around her, and the repercussions turn devastating when the authenticity of the photograph is called into question.

Scott McCrea lives in Stamford, Connecticut. He received his MFA in playwriting from Columbia University. His plays, short and long, have been presented throughout the U.S. Recently, his play Ripperland won the 2018 Maxim Mazumdar Competition and will premiere at Buffalo’s Alleyway Theatre in January. As an actor, he has appeared in New York off-Broadway, off-off-Broadway, on television, on radio, and in commercials. He teaches acting and dramatic literature at Purchase College, State University of New York. He is also the author of The Case for Shakespeare: The End of the Authorship Question.

In Mysterious Ecstasy of the Lonely Business Traveler by McCrea, a wealthy corporate executive’s memories have been erased and replaced by a copy of those of another man, a doctor named Marko Tirana. Believing he’s Marko, he wagers more than he suspects that he can “regain” the thing he loves most–Marko’s wife, and start a new life, free of the errors of his past. But his gamble has unexpected tragic consequences. The play is a perfect exemplar of Risk Theatre.

Phillip Christian Smith is a 2019 Lambda Literary Fellow, 2019 Finalist for The Dramatists Guild Fellowship, 2019 Semifinalist for The O’Neill (NPC) and PlayPenn. He has been a semifinalist for Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries (ASC), finalist for Trustus, playwright in residence of Exquisite Corpse and founding member of The Playwriting Collective. His work has been supported by Primary Stages (Cherry Lane) ESPA, Fresh Ground Pepper, the 53rd Street New York Public Library, Forge, Matthew Corozine Studio Theatre. MFA in acting Yale School of Drama, University of New Mexico BFA in acting; minor in English.

In The Chechens by Smith, rumors are going around that homosexuals are being held in camps. Can one family go all-in to protect their little brother who may or may not be gay? Or will they turn him in or honor kill him? Whichever way the family chooses, dangerous and irrevocable consequences will be set loose.

J.D. Volk has been writing stage plays and screenplays for a dozen years and has had projects place in the ScreenCraft Stage Play Competition, Blue Ink Playwriting Competition, Campfire Theatre Festival, Traguna Reading Series, Austin Film Festival Screenwriting Competition, and PAGE International Screenwriting Competition. He holds a B.A. in English with Highest Distinction from the University of Kansas and a J.D. with Honors from the University of Chicago. He lives in Los Angeles.

In Chrysalis by Volk, an interracial married couple struggles to come to terms with the role they played in the tragic death of their young biracial son at the hands of a police officer. It examines, through the Risk Theatre model of tragedy, Keri’s wager to transcend cultural norms of being a woman of color in America. She does this by guarding against the unlikely but ever-present threat of violence that may befall Jack, her biracial child, and trying to convince her white husband of the need to take appropriate precautions. Nevertheless, the die of fate has been cast. The unexpected triumphs over the expected. In coping with the loss of her son, Keri must confront her fractured marriage, the interests of her extended family and her own identity. Ultimately, it is her suffering that transcends cultures and binds her to the audience – through her stark reaction to unspeakable loss she comes into focus as unmistakably human.

With 182 extremely talented playwrights from 11 countries participating, the judging process was as delightful as it was challenging. We would like to thank our international team of clear-eyed jurors for giving each play the time it deserves. Here’s a shout-out to Yvette Nolan (Canada), Armen Pandola (USA), and Sally Stott (UK) for rising to the occasion. Here are the juror bios:

Yvette Nolan (Algonquin) is a playwright, director and dramaturg who works all over Turtle Island. Recent works include Shanawdithit (Tapestry Opera), Bearing (Signal Theatre at Luminato), and Henry IV Pt 1 & 2 (Play On! Shakespeare), The Unplugging (Gwaandak Theatre). Her book Medicine Shows about Indigenous theatre in Canada was published by Playwrights Canada Press in 2015, and Performing Indigeneity, which she co-edited with Ric Knowles, in 2016. She is an Artistic Associate of Signal Theatre. She is currently the artist in residence at Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan where she is writing Glory on his Head.

Armen Pandola is a Shubert Fellowship for Playwriting winner. He won the Walnut Street Theatre’s Forrest Award for his play Forrest! A Riot of Dreams which premiered there in 2006. In 2013, his Dino!  Dean Martin at the Latin Casino, a play with music about one of America’s great entertainers premiered at the WST and is the largest grossing show at the WST’s Independence Theatre. His trilogy about post-9/11 America, Terror at the While House, Devils Also Believe (a Smith Prize Finalist for Best New American Play) and Homeward Bound has been produced in Philadelphia and New York. He has had over a dozen new plays produced in the last ten years, including Zelda & Scott! Boats Against the Current, Mrs. Warren’s e-Profession, The Gift of Giving, Hedda Without Walls, Friends for Life, Just the Sky, The Prince (co-written with Bill Van Horn and in which he co-starred) and The Rising. Currently, he is writing the book for a musical about Howard Hughes, and writes reviews for itsjustamovie.com.

Sally Stott is a multi-award-winning writer, journalist and script consultant with over fifteen years’ experience working in film, television and theatre. As a screenwriter, she was selected for the BBC Writersroom 2015 Comedy Room, and featured on the BBC 2016 New Talent ‘hotlist’. She is also a regular judge for the Fringe First Awards for new writing at the Edinburgh Festival and a theatre critic for The Scotsman newspaper, where she has championed the work of many (now) well-known playwrights during in the early stages of their careers. Sally is based in London and has worked as a script consultant for the BBC, UK Film Council and Royal Court Theatre, along with many other companies and individual writers in the UK and abroad. She received a scholarship to study on UCLA’s prestigious screenwriting course, and is two-times runner-up of the Allan Wright Award for journalistic excellence in the arts. Recent writing projects include a series of short films for BBC Ideas: https://www.bbc.com/ideas/playlists/life-in-2039.

Quarterbacking the correspondences between the competition and the playwrights, as well as all the transmissions to the jurors is our tireless competition manager, Michael Armstrong. Kudos to Michael for guiding the good ship Risk Theatre home. Speaking of home, the competition is proudly hosted by Langham Court Theatre which celebrates this year its 90th year of artistic service to the community of Victoria, Canada. Thank you to Michelle Buck and Keith Digby at Langham Court for hosting this unique playwriting opportunity.

As the inaugural 2019 Risk Theatre Modern Tragedy Competition draws to a close, I’d like to personally invite everyone to participate again next year. The 2020 competition is now open and I’m happy to announce prizes have gone up to from $10,000 to $11,100. The winning play will be workshopped in Victoria. And there’s a travel stipend of up to $1020. Let’s do it again next year. If for one year, why not for all years?

Until next time, I’m Edwin Wong, and I’m doing Melpomene’s work.

2019 Risk Theatre Modern Tragedy Competition – Finalists

Then there were five. In our inaugural year, 182 industrious playwrights from 11 countries participated in the bold risk theatre challenge. What a fantastic turnout! The final five plays are (the names of the proud playwrights will be published after the grand prize winner is announced):

In Bloom

The Chechens

Chrysalis

Signature Photo

Mysterious Ecstasy of the Lonely Business Traveler

But there can only be one grand prize winner. It’s like in that movie Highlander: “There can only be one!” How will the jurors choose? In the next few weeks, I’ll be meeting up with the competition manager Michael Armstrong and the jurors. It’ll be through Skype at some odd hour, as we have a Canadian juror, a US juror, and a UK juror.

The jurors have started reviewing the final five plays. To help the jurors come to a decision, I’ve prepared a list of three questions to focus their discussion. They’ll have the questions in advance so that they can start asking themselves: “What makes a play a risk theatre play?” These questions, by the way, are elaborations of the guidelines that are available on the competition website (https://risktheatre.com).

1) risk theatre argues that tragedy consists of a gambling act in which the protagonist wagers all-in. For example, in Macbeth, Macbeth wagers the milk of human kindness for the crown (he can’t have compassion and be the king at the same time, as he has to murder Duncan). The winning play should have a clearly defined wager, where the protagonist antes-up some human asset (dignity, compassion, love, honour, etc.,) for the object of ambition (a crown, the act of revenge, power, etc.,). How do the plays you’ve selected frame the gambling act?

2) risk theatre argues that by wagering all-in, protagonists expose themselves to unexpected and catastrophic low-probability, high-consequence events. For example, in Macbeth, Macbeth finds out that he can’t be a king. The best he can be is a tyrant. In addition, unexpected low-probability and high-cosequence events bring him down: Birnam Wood, against all odds, comes to Dunsinane Hill and he meets Macduff on the ramparts, a man not of woman born. The winning play should contain an unexpected low-probability, high-consequence scenario. How do the plays you’ve selected incorporate the unexpected low-probability, high-consequence event into the action?

3) risk theatre argues that the emotional response of tragedy 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. For example, in Macbeth, the audience anticipates how Macbeth will formulate the wager. Their anticipation is answered when Lady Macbeth tells the audience her husband is ‘too full of the milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way’. And after the Macbeths commit murder, the audience feels apprehension for what must happen: the price they must pay. The winning play should dramatize the cost the protagonist pays. How do the plays you’ve selected instil a sense of anticipation and apprehension over the protagonist’s wager and the price the protagonist must pay?

My friends, we are late into the game in the first ever Risk Theatre Modern Tragedy Competition! I know not what this is the start of, but, let it be the start of a competition to remember!

Until next time, I’m Edwin Wong and I’m doing Melpomene’s work.