NEW YORK — Long a supporter of undiscovered poets, Yale U. Press has now thrown its muscle behind new playwrights, introducing a new competition called the Yale Drama Series. Beginning next spring, a winning playwright will be chosen each year to receive a $10,000 prize for an unpublished, unproduced script in English.
Winners will have their plays published by Yale Press and be guaranteed a staged reading from Yale Repertory Theater. The Rep, whose mission cites a commitment to new work, also will have the option to mount the world-premiere production of the winning YDS play.
The competition was founded when benefactor Francine Horn — head of the David C. Horn Foundation, named after her late husband — approached Yale Press with an offer of ongoing financial support. Senior editor John Kulka explains that drama publishing was the field most obviously in need of the windfall.
“Playwrights, for whatever reason, seem to be not quite part of the literary community,” he says. “They have a difficult time getting published, even more so than poets.” Kulka hopes the series will help elevate awareness of drama as a branch of literature to be taken as seriously as fiction or poetry.
Thanks to the series’ trifecta of honors — publication, reading and cash award (known formally as the David C. Horn Prize) — Kulka feels it can become a major competition. It is also notable for allowing British and Irish playwrights to vie with Yanks, a nod to the fact that Horn’s husband was a Brit.
Noteworthy names on the YDS advisory board include thesp Joanne Woodward and drama critic Robert Brustein, who founded both Yale Rep and Boston’s American Repertory Theater. Edward Albee has signed a two-year agreement to be the competition’s sole judge, selecting a winner from a pool of finalists to be winnowed by a readers’ panel.
Ultimately, Kulka says, he wants all these elements to help the series become as venerable as the Yale Series of Younger Poets, which has been launching new bards since 1919, boosting writers like Adrienne Rich.
Submissions for the first year’s prize will be accepted July 15-Aug. 15.