Some £90,000 has been raised to date and twelve playwrights adopted. The Adopt a Playwright Award was launched in 2008 by Sofie and Diana, gathering individual donors together to raise £8,000 per year to help playwrights of quality but of limited means. It seemed to us that there were no schemes that saved penniless playwrights at the beginning of their careers from giving up and getting a ‘proper job’ so we shaped this award to be as close and as supportive as each playwright needs us to be. We start by asking for recommendations in October/November from new writing theatres and theatre companies. The nominated playwrights are then asked to submit an example of their writing, an honest account of their strengths and weaknesses and an idea for a play they wish to write. All submissions are read by 2 or more Panel members and whittled down to a shortlist of 7 who are invited to interview on one day in January/February. Then the fun begins:
- Once the winner is chosen through interview by The Panel, the playwright will sit down with Sofie and Diana to plan the year ahead.
- It is the playwright’s responsibility to work on and deliver a complete play by the end of 12 months.
- It is the playwright’s responsibility to send a monthly update to their family of donors giving them an insight into the ups and downs of a writer’s process as well as to allow donors the chance to encourage, advise and introduce the writer to worlds they would not otherwise have the chance to experience and contacts they would not otherwise have the chance to meet.
- The £8,000 raised is paid in its entirety to the playwright in instalments over the course of their year.
- The award can cover the cost of the writer’s rent, the cost of essentials such as a new laptop or the cost of work-shopping the play with actors.
- In pursuit of research, the award has made it possible for our writers to travel to Romania, Paris, Poland and Grenada.
- Winners have each been matched with someone who can help shape their work as and when required e.g. literary managers Jack Bradley, Pippa Hill and George Aza-Selinger; radio producer Clive Brill; playwrights Richard Bean, Steven Beresford, James Graham and Fin Kennedy.
- They are introduced to previous award winning writers who can advise, befriend and mentor.
- They are offered up to 12 free tickets a year to make sure they can afford to experience current productions.
- They stage two readings (in June and November) of excerpts of their play in progress for feedback from their donors.
- They have a final staged reading of their finished play in front of an invited audience of up to 200 on the main stage at Theatre Royal Haymarket or a similar West End venue.
The award strives to give the winning writer the freedom to write whatever play they wish to write, stretch in any direction they wish to explore, make all the mistakes they need to learn in order to end the year as better writers than when they started with better contacts and a broader network of support to carry them forward – not to mention a polished play to use as a calling card when they resume their search for paid work.