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The Sphinx Lab – Brand New Writers’ Development Programme for Female Playwrights

29 April 2020

Nottingham Playhouse is proud to be a part of Sphinx 30

Sphinx Theatre Company is delighted to announce Sphinx 30, a year-long programme celebrating Sphinx Theatre’s 30th anniversary. Sphinx 30 will include the pilot of the Sphinx Lab, a brand new writers’ development programme for female playwrights, and will conclude with a series of showcase events as a celebration of 30 years of Sphinx Theatre. The company is working with 15 leading theatres in the year.

As Stage One of Sphinx’s 30th anniversary programme, Sphinx 30 is able to offer ten £1,000 seed commissions to emerging or mid-career female playwrights based in the UK via an open call.

Each playwright will take part in the Sphinx Lab, a pilot writers’ programme for female playwrights which has been designed by Sphinx’s Literary Director, inspired by her work at Yale School of Drama, one of the world’s leading playwriting programmes, and by the WP (Women’s Project) Lab in New York.

The Lab is also informed by Sphinx’s recent year long research project and the major Women in Theatre Forum which was run in partnership with The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, Equity, ERA 50:50, University Women in the Arts, Stage Directors UK, Black Womxn in Theatre, The Stage and Trafalgar Studios (with the report from the Forum forthcoming).

The Sphinx Lab will offer advice from leading female playwrights, advice from the industry, craft and business skills, and a chance to write a play and receive guidance on your work, with the aim to equip female playwrights with information, skills and dramaturgy on their work to support their careers.

Playwrights will receive a £1,000 seed commission to write a new short play plus an outline for a new full length play as part Sphinx 30’s anniversary, with the opportunity for the short play to be showcased and published, showcasing some of the best female playwriting talent in the UK as part of the anniversary, and with the opportunity for further development at the end of the year.

The WP Lab in New York has been described as “a beacon of hope for women writers and directors. This theater gave me a community in which to thrive when I was an emerging playwright, and more recently, a home in which to experiment. I celebrate its past and look forward to its future!” (Sarah Ruhl, Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and playwriting lecturer at Yale School of Drama). We hope the Sphinx Lab will provide similar support for the UK’s female playwrights.

Partners on Sphinx 30 are 15 of the UK’s leading theatres, with full details of theatre partnerships shortly to be announced.

Tutors on the Lab draw on Sphinx Theatre’s writers think tank which includes some of the UK’s most senior female playwrights and theatre practitioners including Winsome Pinnock, the first black playwright to be produced at the National Theatre, April de Angelis, whose adaptation of My Brilliant Friend was recently produced at the National Theatre, Timberlake Wertenbaker, playwright and Professor of Playwriting at the University of East Anglia, Sphinx Theatre Literary Director Jennifer Tuckett who trained on the MFA Playwriting at Yale School of Drama and who has most recently been completing a major research project into how to improve the transition for women from studying the arts to working in the arts at the University of Cambridge, and Sphinx Theatre Artistic Director Sue Parrish.

Industry tutors include female leaders in the industry Dame Rosemary Squire, co-founder of the Ambassadors Theatre Group and Trafalgar Entertainment, Toni Racklin, Head of Theatre at the Barbican Centre, Brigid Larmour, Artistic Director at Watford Playhouse, and Stephanie Sirr, Chief Executive at Nottingham Playhouse.

The Lab will run from September 2020 (please note this date may be delayed due to the coronavirus crisis) with four all-day Lab sessions which will take place in hub theatres across the UK, and will finish with a period of mentoring before the showcases, which will take place in 2021.

If you consider yourself an emerging or mid-career woman playwright and would like to be considered for the Sphinx Lab, then please email your CV, a 10 page example of your work, and a maximum one-page document cover letter, telling us why you would like to take part in the Lab to

Applications will close on 15th June 2020 at midnight.

Please note: For the purposes of the Sphinx Lab, ’emerging’ is defined as a female playwright who is at the beginning of their career. This may include (but does not need to include) workshops, readings and winning competitions, but the playwright has not yet had a full production of more than two weeks. ‘Mid-career’ is defined as writers who have had full productions of more than two weeks.

If you have any questions about the project or applications, please email

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