With a large English-speaking community, it's perhaps surprising that Prague does not have an English-language theatre scene like those that can be found in other major European capitals like Paris and Berlin. Now a new playwriting competition sponsored by The Prague Post could help rectify this situation. Offering a first prize of 20,000 CZK and productions for the three best scripts, it is hoped that this drama contest could boost interest in English-language theatre in Prague.
The Prague Post Playwriting Contest has been launched this year with a view to fostering interest in English-language theatre productions in the Czech capital. It was hoped that the main prize of 20,000 CZK for the winner would help encourage writers from the city's substantial English-speaking community to submit their work for consideration.
Now that the closing date for entries has come and gone, the competition organisers say that interest in the event has surpassed all expectations. Publicist and theatre enthusiast Richard Herstek is one of the people behind this year's competition:
"There's been a tremendous response. We didn't know just how many English-language playwrights there were out there. I think we ended up with somewhere in the neighbourhood of 100 scripts and most of them were really quite good. Our hope was that the responses would be primarily from the Czech Republic and in fact all but one was from this country."
The prize money for the contest is of course being provided by the competition sponsor The Prague Post, which is the Czech Republic's main English-language newspaper. General Manager Dagmar Pikhartova is hopeful that following the success of this year's inaugural competition, the playwriting contest can become a permanent fixture on Prague's cultural calendar:
"We definitely hope that this will evolve into an annual competition. When we came up with the idea, we realised that there had been numerous attempts to set up an event of this nature in the past, but that nothing survived. We felt that The Prague Post with its 11-year history in this country was an institution that could guarantee a competition like this for a number of years to come"
A panel of judges, including former head of United Artists Norbert Auerbach and translator and script editor Barbara Bray shall decide on the three best scripts. These will then be produced at Prague's Minor Theatre in March before the final winner is announced. Open casting auditions will be held for these plays on February 5. People who are interested in helping out with backstage work are also welcome to volunteer their services.
Although only three plays can be picked from those entered, such was the standard of this year's competition, Richard Herstek thinks that other entries may end up being produced some time in the future outside of the competition framework.
"We got a lot of material that - god willing - we would love to be able to produce over the course of the year. Maybe not all of them can be staged at major venues, but there are lots of basements in bars, bookstores and other places that might serve as a home for a lot of these different plays."
Anyone interested in finding out more about the Prague Post Playwriting Contest should check out the paper's website at www.praguepost.com/events/playcontest.