Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Fringe Festival New Play Contest Returns Ahead of 2022 Festival

Are you an aspiring writer with a play in the works? Or have an original play that is just waiting for the perfect opportunity to be produced?

If so, the Hamilton Fringe Festival is giving playwrights something extra to celebrate this holiday season by extending their New Play Contest deadline to December 15th. The contest boasts a grand prize of $300, plus a coveted 60 minute slot at next year’s Festival. The slot, valued at over $700, gives the winner a venue to transform their script into a full-fledged theatrical production.

For 2019’s winner, Camille Inston, the prize ended up becoming the gift that keeps on giving.

“Professionally, the impact was huge,” says Inston, whose contest-winning play, We All Got Lost, went on to win Best of Fringe and Best of Venue at the 2019 Hamilton Fringe Festival. More recently, the play was a recipient of a Tom Hendry Award from the Playwrights’ Guild of Canada. “We had folks from Stratford and other regional theatres come to see the show…so many people saw and enjoyed the show, especially so many young queer folk in Hamilton, which was the most wholesome thing for me as a writer/director. And I definitely feel more connected to the city because of it.”

For Inston, winning the New Play Contest became a launching point. Since the play’s debut, Inston was commissioned and produced through Allswell Productions for her work Patchface. Her most recent work, JANE, has received support through Femme Folks Fest/Pat the Dog Theatre Creation and the Toronto Arts Council Playwrights Program.

“The Fringe is such a great place to experiment, to play, to try something out in front of an audience and see what sticks,” says Inston. “The spirit of the Fringe is genuinely so beautiful. I could see myself doing it again, for sure.”

The New Play Contest has been offering playwrights a home in Hamilton since it began in 2007. Just as the Fringe Festival itself is non-juried to make creating theatre more accessible for everyone, the contest keeps entries anonymous so all playwrights have an equal shot, even if this is their first time taking a stab at the medium.

“These past few years, many contests are very directed to one type of person or background,” says 2020 contest winner Steven Elliott Jackson, whose winning play, Three Ordinary Men, was set to premiere at the 2020 Hamilton Fringe Festival before being delayed by the pandemic. “And what makes this contest important to me is that anyone can enter. It’s a low cost fee and it’s all about how this particular jury connects with this play.”

Two runners up will be awarded Fringe Binge passes for the 2022 festival, giving those playwrights the opportunity to surround themselves with all the theatre the Hamilton Fringe will have on offer. With over 50 theatre or other performing arts companies hitting the stage each year, there’s a lot of Fringe binging to be done, and absorbing other people’s art can be just as important to playwrights as creating their own, according to Inston.

“For aspiring playwrights, get out of the classroom and devour anything you can: live performance, novels, movies, everything— because you’ll learn something from every story you see being told,” says Inston, who is in the process of writing another new play of her own. “Trust your creative impulses. Be nice to yourself, be free to play, and be free to fail. Also, remember that all writers write badly and that first drafts aren’t supposed to be great. For contest entrants, just press submit. You never know!”

If you’re planning to press submit yourself, make sure to due so before midnight on December 15th. Winners and runners up will be announced at the Hamilton Fringe Festival’s Lottery Party on January 22nd.

Maxie Dara
Maxie is a freelance writer, journalist and award-winning playwright based in Hamilton with a love of theatre and decidedly too many cats.

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