James Tait Black awards add £10,000 prize for drama

A new £10,000 award for drama has been added to Britain’s oldest literary awards, the James Tait Black Prizes, in a collaboration between Edinburgh University and the National Theatre of Scotland.

The annual prize will complement the existing prizes given to a new work of fiction and biography. The prize, which will also see the winning play receive a professional reading at the Traverse Theatre, is open to any new work by playwrights from any country, and at any stage in their career.

Announcing the award, Edinburgh university vice principal professor Dorothy Miell said: “This new award will be to reward an original voice in theatre. The winner will be receiving a professional reading of the play in the Traverse.

“One of the things that makes the James Tait Black Prizes very distinctive is that they are judged by scholars and students in our department of English literature. For the drama award the judging panel will include colleagues from the National Theatre of Scotland.”

To qualify, a play must have been originally written in English, Scots or Gaelic, have been first produced in 2011 or 2012, and have been performed by a professional company.

George Aza-Selinger, literary manager at the NTS, told The Stage that the award is for the play, not the production. He said: “It is for an original voice which we feel makes a significant contribution to the art form. We don’t necessarily mean a new writer – it could be a new play by a very established writer that we feel does something new or different.

“What is important is this idea of an original voice. The sense of something which is genre-defining, or which changes the genre or maybe moves a thing which is very recognisable into a new sphere.”

The new partnership has been pulled together by playwright Nicola McCartney who is running the university’s new Writing for Theatre and Performance masters course, which starts this year. It comes as Edinburgh University’s department of English literature celebrates its 250th anniversary.

Nominations for the award are invited from theatre companies or agents, and should be made by February 28, 2013 through the James Tait Black Prizes website. The first winner of the annual award will be announced in August 2013 and receive a public reading at the Traverse by the NTS during the Edinburgh festivals.

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