American Association of Community Theatre Announces Winners of Inaugural AACTNewPlayFest

by Jacob Coakley

 

 The AACTNewPlayFest received more than 200 submissions.
The AACTNewPlayFest received more than 200 submissions.

The American Association of Community Theatres have announced the winners of their inaugural AACTNewPlayFest. The six winning scripts will receive a production at an AACT-affiliated theatre and be published by the Dramatic Publishing Company. The winning plays were: The Boatwright by Bo Wilson, to be produced by Grand Rapids Civic Theatre in Grand Rapids, Mich.; End Papers by Barry Weinberg, to be produced by Little Theatre of Mechanicsburg in Mechanicsburg, Pa.; Exit Laughing by Paul Elliot, to be produced by Springfield Little Theatre in Springfield, Mo.; Jellofish by James Henry, to be produced by Phoenix Stage Company in Naugatuck, Conn.; The Seamstress by CeCe Dwyer, to be produced by Hickory Community Theatre in Hickory, N.C.; The Vanishing Point by Nedra Roberts, to be produced by California Stage Company in Sacramento, Calif. Thanks to a generous donation from Former AACT President Linda M. Lee, AACT will donate $4,000 to help defray production and marketing expenses for the new productions. The next AACTNewPlayFest will take place in 2014. [Full disclosure: As part of my volunteer work with the AACT, I acted as a reader for one of the rounds of judging.]

Dramatic Publishing partners with aact to produce NEW PLAYs

Each year, as theatres begin the process of selecting plays for the upcoming season, they struggle to find a balance between choosing popular shows their audience will love while also providing new works so their patrons won’t get bored. Patrons aren’t the only ones who get bored with the usual theatre fare. A theatre critic was once overheard requesting cyanide capsules if he had to sit through one more production of Annie. The American Association of Community Theatre (AACT) recognizes the dilemma and is taking giant strides in filling the gap through their initiation of AACTNewPlayFest and a promising partnership with Dramatic Publishing Company.

AACTNewPlayFest kicked off more than a year ago with a call for theatres that were interested in producing the winning plays. Then came the invitation for new works. More than 200 scripts were received and read by 32 volunteers. Through a strategic rating system, the scripts were culled down to the top 12. Those 12 were sent to six theatres around the country specially selected by AACT to produce the new plays. Each theatre submitted their top picks, and the final six plays were selected. The winners were announced this past Saturday, June 22, in Carmel, IN at the national theatre festival - AACTFest 2013. The six winning plays of the inaugural AACTNewPlayFest are:

  1. The Boatwright by Bo Wilson, to be produced by Grand Rapids Civic Theatre in Grand Rapids, MI
  2. End Papers by Barry Weinberg, to be produced by Little Theatre of Mechanicsburg in Mechanicsburg, PA
  3. Exit Laughing by Paul Elliot, to be produced by Springfield Little Theatre in Springfield, MO
  4. Jellofish by James Henry, to be produced by Phoenix Stage Company in Naugatuck, CT
  5. The Seamstress by CeCe Dwyer, to be produced by Hickory Community Theatre in Hickory, NC
  6. The Vanishing Point by Nedra Roberts, to be produced by California Stage Company in Sacramento, CA

Being selected as a winner of any playwriting contest is an accomplishment, but a few things set AACTNewPlayFest above other playwriting competitions.

One aspect that makes the AACT playwriting competition unique is the guarantee that an established theatre will produce each play. Other competitions will offer a staged reading of the winning play, but that pales in comparison to having the play produced in full array for a live audience. Typically, new playwrights must work to find a theatre company willing to take a chance on a new, unpublished work.

Another facet that sets AACTNewPlayFest apart is the exciting news that Dramatic Publishing Company has agreed to print an anthology of the winning plays. They will also include the plays in their catalog and license the performance rights. Dramatic Publishing is one of the major licensers of plays and musicals in the United States and beyond. If a playwright is fortunate enough to find a theatre to produce their play, it does not guarantee publication, and the process of getting one’s play published can take years.

AACT is taking the pressure off of these budding playwrights by ensuring not only a full production of each play, but also the honor of being published by one of the most respected publishing companies in the world of theatre.

Accompanying the announcement of the six winning plays and the producing theatres at AACTFest 2013 was an exciting pronouncement by former AACT President, Linda M. Lee. She made jaws drop and a collective gasp flow throughout the banquet room when she informed those present that her late father’s cousin, a Mr. Jack K. Ayre of Sunnyvale, California had recently passed and left a large estate. She and her siblings decided that it would be a fitting tribute to Jack to use a portion of the proceeds from the estate to help finance the new play productions of AACTNewPlayFest. Each company will be receiving $4,000 to aid in the producing and marketing of these new theatrical works - a dramatic legacy indeed.

Due to the success of the first-ever AACTNewPlayFest, AACT is already gearing up for the next contest, set to begin in 2014. All aspiring playwrights should have their pens and computers at the ready.

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The American Association of Community Theatre (AACT) provides networking, resources and support to suit the needs of those involved in community theatre. AACT represents the interests of more than 7,000 theatres across the United States and its territories, as well as theatre companies with the armed services overseas.

For more info about the AACT, please visit www.aact.org