Responding to the lack of produced plays written by California women playwrights, the Ebell of Los Angeles has revived The Ebell Playwright Prize and announced this year’s winner, Michele Carter, for her work “20 Friends.” A staged reading of the play with live music by award-winning composer Gunner Madsen will be performed Sunday at the Ebell, followed by supper.
Originally established in 1928, and called The Ebell Drama Contest, the early Ebell prize lay dormant for the next 85 years. According to Cynthia Comsky, Chairman of the Ebell Playwright Prize Committee, “we revived the contest to encourage, inspire, and celebrate our California women playwrights.”
“What fun to be putting together a reading in which the play’s protagonists are women, and the majority of the actors are women, directed by a woman and written by a woman, flying in the face of the longtime trend of unproduced plays written by women in American theater,” winning playwright Michele Carter told the Buzz.
To be eligible for the contest, playwrights were required to be women residents of California and all submitted plays had to be full length, unpublished and unproduced. To maintain anonymity of the submitting playwrights so that decisions were made solely on the basis of the playwright’s writing craft, play titles and the names of the playwrights were removed from each of the 55 submissions before they were submitted to readers for evaluation. All plays were read at least twice and evaluated on a rubric scale before advancing to the next level. Ultimately nine semi-finalists were read by the final judges: Jeanie Hackett, Ellen Sandler, Jane Kaczmarek and Kamala Lopez Dawson.
The winning playwright, Michelle Carter, is a two-time recipient of the PEN USA Award in Drama (2012, 2003), a published author with Penguin Books, and a professor at San Francisco State University. Ms. Carter has held international residencies and had her plays produced and developed at notable theaters. Carter said that in addition to the $6,000 prize, another “unexpected bonus” of winning the contest has been the opportunity to work on her 20 Friends play with producer/director/dramaturg Ellen Sandler, whose “suggestions are strengthening the script tremendously.” Carter added, “I’m learning a lot from her that I can apply to future plays.”
Ellen Sandler, best known for her work on Everybody Loves Raymond (Emmy-nominated and Co-Executive Producer), The Mommies, and Coach will direct Sunday’s reading of 20 Friends. The play is about a dysfunctional family told in three parallel lines, bringing together a mother and daughter who have not spoken in 15 years. Actors reading are: Christina Pickles, Robin Riker, Catheryn Brockett, Michael Campbell, Hayley Hirsch, Evangeline Kelly, and Patrick Mackellan.
The staged reading of “20 Friends” will be held Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 5:00p.m. with supper immediately following at the historic Ebell of Los Angeles Club, 743 S. Lucerne Blvd., Los Angeles, 90005. Tickets are $35 for Ebell members, $40 for non-members“20 Friends” Sunday, May 4, 2014 5 pm followed by supper Tel: 323.931.1277 ext. 131