STAUNTON – All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women may be merely players. But Staunton’s American Shakespeare Center is looking for two playwrights each year who can give the Bard a run for his money – and earn a neat $25,000 along the way.

ASC announced on Friday what it calls an industry-changing international playwrights’ competition that will create a modern canon of 38 companion pieces to the timeless work of Shakespeare.

The prize money of $25,000 to each winning playwright is just the beginning.

“What we’re doing is a competition that will include the world premiere of a play,” said Jim Warren, artistic director of ASC.

And the playwrights will be there in the rehearsal room from start to finish.

The competition — called Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries — seeks to inspire the world’s most talented playwrights to compose original works that serve as partner plays to Shakespeare’s classics. Over the next 20 years, ASC will select one companion play for each of Shakespeare’s 38 titles and produce two new plays in repertory with their Shakespeare partner each year. The final year of the 20-year cycle will be a retrospective of the best work from the cycle.

According to Warren, there aren’t many plays out there that vibe off Shakespeare.

“We’re not looking for a retelling of Shakespeare plays,” he said. “We’re looking for partner plays that are inspired by Shakespeare.”

The plays could be sequels or prequels to Shakespeare’s stories, might tell the stories of minor characters in Shakespeare’s works, or could dramatize Shakespeare’s company creating the first production of a title, plays that might include modern characters interacting with Shakespeare’s characters, said Warren.

Warren added that ASC’s schedule of rotating the new plays with Shakespeare plays in the same season will “be even more remarkable” and encourage “plays that not only will appeal to other Shakespeare theaters, but also to all types of theaters and audiences around the world.”

One well-known scholar of…