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):
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.