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BWW Interview: Scranton Shakes' Scratch Night is Calling All Playwrights!

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Submissions are currently open through November 27 (5pm EDT).

BWW Interview: Scranton Shakes' Scratch Night is Calling All Playwrights!

Calling all playwrights! Pinkhouse Productions is adapting the "Scratch Night" tradition popular in the UK to offer playwrights a new platform. This is an international opportunity for emerging, unrepresented writers to have their work performed in the Scranton Shakespeare Festival (Scranton Shakes) socially distanced summer season next year.

The theme for submissions is Ghosts - this can be literal or figurative, please note that we are not encouraging horror genre scripts. Writers will be asked to send an extract of a full-length play for our first round of submissions. Shortlisted candidates will then be asked to send the full script. Our literary team will narrow the playwrights and their submissions down to just four finalists.

This final four will have the opportunity to stage ten minutes of their piece for a remote viewing audience and a panel of industry professionals in February 2021. The winning show gets a slot at the Scranton Shakes, taking place Summer 2021 in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Submissions are currently open through November 27 (5pm EDT).

BroadwayWorld recently chatted with Scranton Shakes founder Michael Bradshaw Flynn and Pinkhouse Productions' Lawryn LaCroix to find out even more about the exciting opportunity!


How/when was the idea for Scratch Night born?

Scranton Scratch Night was born as most good ideas are: over margaritas.

L: We were discussing what the final show of the 10th anniversary season could be. Michael wanted the festival to engage up-and-coming creatives in a new way.

M: Lawryn pitched the idea of a scratch night, very popular in the UK for writers, and it felt like a perfect fit! We wanted to create something that could progress in these uncertain times and transition to what 2021 could be.

And where did the idea for the 'Ghosts' theme come from?

M: You cannot just ignore the year we've lived through... or didn't. Not only as a country, but as a world, we are enduring devastating losses that will haunt us for quite some time. It would have felt trite to program work that didn't allow for some catharsis. The theme also coincided with a big Shakespearean work that we always knew we would program for this landmark season.

What's your biggest piece of advice for submitting playwrights looking to make it to that shortlist? And who is a part of making that selection?

For us, the most important thing is to make sure that each script on that shortlist speaks for the writer. We're looking for works that have a certain, undeniable authenticity of voice. We have assembled a great literary team, who are having fun reading countless scripts in order to make those short list selections. We also have an amazing panel of industry judges, who will be announced after submissions close, that will use their years of experience to help us pick the winner for full production!

Are you excited so far by the submissions you've already received?

L: Yes! The project has become international, and we love seeing where each writer is from and how they even heard about our scratch night. Our team of readers is having a really good time sorting through material. We estimated a certain number of submissions, and while we aren't there yet, we're loving what we've seen so far. I think, by the end of our submissions process, our selection team has their work cut out for them!

The winner's work will be presented as a part of the 2021 summer season- do you have any concept of what that will look like yet in terms of social distancing, etc?

M: Our 10th Anniversary Season is planned at a beautiful, historical site. The season will be completely outdoors. This venue boasts the space we need to abide by all CDC and local guidelines, whilst celebrating one of Scranton's most historic spaces, safely.

We hope Joe Biden shows up!

Why do you think it's important to give this kind of platform to new writers AND why do you think it's important for theatre-goers to be exposed to new writing?

Giving a platform, an opportunity, to those who are just starting out is key to developing a future for the art and the artist. We all started somewhere. Having the space to explore what it is we want to do and who we want to be is vital to bringing new life into our industry. Broadway might be dark, but the glow of creativity must burn on. Many of us are still hustling and seeking opportunities to share, and that is exactly what we are looking to cultivate.

New writing often allows for us to reflect on ourselves in a current moment, or as Hamlet says, "to hold, as 'twere, the mirror up to nature." Work that has yet to be commercialized will have the meat on its bones to get us through this moment. I think theatre is an experience we are hungry for right now.

Scranton Shakespeare Festival will celebrate its 10th anniversary next year. What has been the most rewarding part of watching it grow?

M: When this idea germinated in my 22 year-old mind, there were those who thought it was doomed from the start. Shakespeare? Scranton? Free? I'm beyond humbled and encouraged that we've made it to this mark, and it has everything to do with the countless community supporters, company members, and staff. It is hard to hold high, professional standards whilst operating on a budget that doesn't charge admission, in a city that has faced economic hardship (per our president elect's Scranton vs Wall Street comparison). Yet here we are, ten years later, having cultivated the talents of some of the most exciting actors on stage and screen and having premiered shows that are en route to Broadway!

Go to our website to find out more.

While we all navigate this unprecedented time, can you speak to why it's important for people to support their local theatres/artists?

This time has shown us that we must practice empathy to survive. Our world feels like it's in a tale spin. Neighborhoods have been polarized, and local establishments we used to count on to bring us together are closed. Some will never return without local support. For those of us that work and create in this industry, the idea of "supporting art" can seem odd because it's already second nature. It's important for communities to remember, amidst all of this, the arts have continued to offer support and joy and communion where it can in people's lives. We are here to help each other.

How can producers be influential right now in a time of little to no work?

L: Now, more than ever, we need to listen: to our friends, our neighborhood, our larger communities, our instincts, and our own spirit. We need to shift from just producing work to producing voices and deeper connections. We have to make art that is a touchstone for all, not just for our own careers. The point of developing Scranton Scratch Night has been building our community of creatives and experiencing other voices. We're lucky that we get to experience so much joy in that work as well.

BWW Interview: Scranton Shakes' Scratch Night is Calling All Playwrights!

Submissions are currently open through November 27 (5pm EDT).

Founded by Michael Bradshaw Flynn in 2011, Scranton Shakes proudly provides a space in which artists and company members can develop original work. Offering a supportive community for its artists as well as unique opportunities for audiences to see developing work. Many productions were conceived, developed and programmed at Scranton Shakes before enjoying further development and performances elsewhere. For more information, visit: https://www.scrantonshakes.com/


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