The New York Times reports that Audible, the Amazon-owned audiobook and radio distributor, has announced plans for a $5 million fund that will distribute grants to “emerging playwrights.”
Audible, through its production arm Audible Studios (launched in 2014), will commission works written for one or two voice actors, to be performed as audio plays. The first round — a dozen plays — will reportedly be available later this year.
Audible founder and CEO Donald Katz explained the plan to The New York Times, saying that Audible will be able to bring new, young playwrights to bigger audiences than they might otherwise find, and added, “To celebrate live performance in the theater is one thing, but think of professional sports. There’s the game, but it’s also being projected to millions of other people in a really powerful way.”
The most interesting detail, however, is the impressive amount of established talent that Audible has been able to wrangle into the project. The advisory board, which will select the winners, includes Oskar Eustis, the artistic director of New York’s Public Theater (which staged the original versions of Fun Home and Hamilton), this year’s Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage (Sweat), Tony-winning director Leigh Silverman (Violet), Obie-winning director Trip Cullman (Punk Rock), and actress Annette Bening, among others.
Audible has ambitious plans for Studios. This latest development shows the company taking advantage of the recent popularity enjoyed by podcasts with dramatic arcs and familiar narrative structures, like non-fiction series Serial and S-Town; faux old-school radio show Welcome to Nightvale and the dramatic follow-up Alice Isn’t Dead; viral post-apocalyptic sci-fi The Deep Vaul; or Gilmlet’s Homecoming, a thriller starring Oscar Isaac and Catherine Keener.