Calling all (would-be) playwrights: Horse & Cart introduces the PlayOffs

Horse & Cart, a Denver-based theatrical production and publishing venture, is launching its electronic-publishing branch with a reality-style event fit for a king -- a King Lear, to be precise. Now through June 30, the company is accepting submissions for the first edition of the PlayOffs, a competition endeavoring to discover the next big name in playwriting while simultaneously entertaining audiences world-wide by employing all the delightful elements of good reality TV.

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Horse & Cart co-founders Michael Emmitt and Sean Paul Mahoney can't get enough of reality TV, and that obsession gave rise to the idea of the PlayOffs. Intrigued by the idea of giving playwrights an opportunity to produce new work quickly, the husbands-slash-business-associates tapped into social media to bring together playwriting talent at a global level. "Thanks to the Internet and social media -- Google Plus, Facebook and Youtube, in particular -- we figured out a way to make the whole competition universal and more inclusive," says Mahoney.

To enter the competition, playwrights must submit five to ten pages of unpublished, unproduced work that highlights their talent. Horse & Cart will whittle the possibilities down to fifteen (or so) playwrights who'll be notified by July 14 that they've been accepted into the PlayOffs. Then on Thursday, August 1, the real fun will begin, as the competing playwrights embark on a wacky, reality-style journey involving a series of stage competitions. Think America's Next Top Model meets Top Chef, but with plays.

A stable of directors and actors will direct and perform work that playwrights create on the spot, after receiving prompts designed to test their playwriting prowess. The competition will continue on Thursdays for five weeks straight. "Essentially, the audience will be getting five different performances of original work," Mahoney notes.

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Each week, the playwrights will be judged by Mahoney and Emmitt, as well as a guest panel of local writers, actors, directors, and producers. The audience, too, will play a pivotal role in the judging. "Our hope is that viewers will get really involved," says Mahoney, explaining that the team plans to film the competition and upload videos on the company's YouTube channel. After each production, viewers can vote for their favorites on Facebook. "This way," says Mahoney, "people watching from almost anywhere in the world can vote right along with the 100 or so people attending the live competitions." Mahoney and Emmitt are also considering offering live readings on Google Plus Hangout.

The winning playwright will get a $500 cash prize as well as the opportunity to develop a full-length production with Horse & Cart. "This is the best chance to see new plays come to life right before your eyes," promises Emmitt.

If you're interested in competing, e-mail your submission to horseandcartcompany@gmail.com by 10 p.m. June 30. Put "PlayOffs Submission" in the subject line, and don't forget to include your contact information; no submission fee is required. Horse & Cart prefers a script or play, but will consider other submissions (please, no photographic renderings of the taxidermy emu you found while camping in Guadalajara last summer).

The company is still deciding where to hold the PlayOffs, but "it will definitely be right here in Denver," Mahoney says. Tickets to the PlayOffs, which will start Thursday, August 1, will be available through Horse & Cart's website. For more information, contact Sean Paul Mahoney at 303-565-6754.

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