Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Writers Conference to Champion Women Playwrights

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 23, 2011) − The Kentucky Women Writers Conference (KWWC) will award $500 and a full theatrical production to the winner of its new Prize for Women Playwrights. Balagula Theatre in Lexington will produce the winning script as a world premiere in early 2012.

"The purpose of this prize is to bring more scripts by women to the stage, and we hope to award it annually," says Kentucky Women Writers Conference Director Julie Kuzneski Wrinn. "We chose Balagula as our partnering theater because of its impressive track record of producing socially conscious, thematically ambitious plays, both new and classic repertory. We also liked their mission as an actors’ theater, since we are especially seeking new work that creates compelling roles for women actors."

Quality roles for women will be judging criteria, though literary merit and theatrical potential are the foremost considerations for the new prize. A judging panel of theater professionals and representatives from both the Kentucky Women Writers Conference and Balagula will select semifinalists, and the panel hopes to secure a renowned woman playwright to choose a winner.

The Kentucky Women Writers Conference is a program of the University of Kentucky and is the longest running event of its kind in the country. Playwriting has not been a significant focus of the conference since its first decade, when it featured Women’s Experimental Theatre (1983), Split Britches Theatre Group (1984), Theatre Workshop of Louisville (1986), and Spiderwoman Theatre (1990). The Prize for Women Playwrights aims to revive a commitment to professional support for female playwrights. "We view this contest as a return to our roots," explains Wrinn.

"Playwrights often find themselves straddling both the literary and theater worlds, never wholly belonging to one or the other," says Candace Chaney, contributing theater critic to the Lexington Herald-Leader. "The KWWC Prize for Women Playwrights corrects this unintentional marginalization by welcoming women playwrights into the fold of writers it supports and encouraging a unique collaboration with the theater industry."

"What’s more, it is a laudable regional effort to counter a troubling national phenomenon—the theater industry’s dearth of productions by female playwrights," says Chaney. "A New York Times report about a 2009 Princeton study revealed that not only are male playwrights writing more plays than their female counterparts, but they also enjoy more productions and longer runs, even in theaters led by women artistic directors. We still don’t know all of the reasons behind this disparity, but partnerships like KWWC’s and Balagula’s make important inroads toward remedying it."

Natasha Williams, the only female artistic director of adult theater in Lexington, emphasizes the contest’s collaborative nature as an artistic boon for both the winning playwright and the producing theater. "The exciting process of co-creating will start in September after the winner is announced and go through a series of workshops and rehearsals, culminating in the early 2012 production. It is the kind of collaboration that feeds the talent and creativity of the artists’ ensemble in the most inspiring way possible," says Williams. "For an ambitious theater that aims to contribute to the overall development of the art of theater, this is a dream come true."

The competition is open to all women playwrights, with no restrictions on age, residence or experience. One-act or full-length scripts with a running time of between 45 and 90 minutes that have not been published or produced are eligible. Submissions must be postmarked by July 1, 2011, and should be sent to 232 East Maxwell Street, Lexington, KY 40506-0344. For guidelines and entry forms, visit www.kentuckywomenwriters.org. A winner will be announced Sept. 1, 2011.

Balagula Theatre is a professional company dedicated to delivering intelligent, innovative and inspiring theater to audiences in Kentucky and beyond. The company was formed in 2003 from a collective of local actors and artists seeking new direction and autonomy of artistic expression, and it has produced more than 50 plays. For more information, visit www.beetnik.com.