The Lysicrates Prize is only four years old, but its antecedents stretch back over two millennia. The Prize is a modern incarnation in a different hemisphere of an ancient Greek tradition as old as theatre itself.
The idea is to recreate the concept of a ‘people’s choice’ theatre competition, drawing inspiration from the Dionysia Festival held annually in ancient Greece. This modern competition is for Australian playwrights, who are invited to submit the first act of a new play. A shortlist of three is selected. These three ‘playlets’ are given a rehearsed reading at a free performance and, as in ancient Greece, the audience votes for the winner.
In the first Lysicrates Prize competition in 2015, one of the shortlisted playwrights was Justin Fleming. His play, then called The Savvy Women, was an adaptation of Moliere’s Les Femmes Savantes, set in 21st century Sydney. It didn’t win first prize, but it went on to glory the following year. Renamed The Literati, the completed play was an enormous success at the Griffin Theatre, in a co-production with the Bell Shakespeare Company. The season was sold out and the play is sure to be seen on many other Australian stages.
Justin credits the Lysicrates Prize with making all this happen. Find out more about the 2015 event here.