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Essential Theatre Playwriting Competition

Click here for news about previous ET winners and here for comments from previous winners.

We're now accepting play script submissions for the 2015 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award competition. Unproduced plays by Georgia playwrights are eligible; there are no restrictions as to style, subject matter or length (though preference is given to plays with a running time of at least an hour). The winning playwright will receive a cash prize of $600, and the play will be given a full production as part of the 2015 Essential Theatre Play Festival. The script submission deadline is April 23, 2014.

Submissions for the 2015 festival can be e-mailed to Peter Hardy in pdf or MSWord format or sent by regular mail to the address below. Please read the Authors Agreement. If your play is selected, you will be asked to sign and submit a copy of this agreement.

Essential Theatre
1414 Foxhall Lane #10
Atlanta, GA 30316

Please make sure that your contact information is on the front page of the script.

What Our Playwrights Say

Valetta Anderson: "The Essential Theatre was the essential ingredient in furthering my career as a playwright and expanding my voice into film by providing the one thing that is missing from most new play’s development process, namely a full production. Without that essential production, “Leaving Limbo” would be as unrealized as a pre-digital era photograph languishing on a developed but not printed roll of film. "

Karla Jennings: "Most theater groups won't risk producing new plays by unknowns; such productions usually require personal contacts or payments. Essential Theatre's an exception. It's dedicated to choosing new plays solely on merit and giving them professional treatment. It takes a risk so that Southern voices can be heard. Essential's faith in playwrights strengthens their faith in themselves, which keeps them writing. Essential Theatre helps Georgia speak for itself.”

Karen Wurl: "the Festival of New American Theatre a boon to playwrights and audiences alike.”

Lauren Gunderson: "The entire process - from winning the Essential Theater’s Playwriting Award to the wonderful production my play received – was a complete thrill. As a writer it is so important to find theatre artists that want to see the best of your work and your work be its best. The professionalism with which the Essential Theatre handled my work and delivered a beautiful performance allowed me entrance into the world of playwriting. Their work also helped me immensely in rewriting my piece and finding the essence of what I wanted to convey. It was an honor to work with them and a huge boost for my work to have won the Playwriting prize. There is a definite need for groups like the Essential Theatre in Atlanta. As a Southern playwright I can’t thank them enough.”

James Beck: “Peter led the group in a constructive feedback session that allowed me as the playwright to experience my play, to question it and to gather new creative energy to apply in crafting the work. Peter did a great job of understanding that the playwright has to solve the riddle of the play but offered, through open discussion, some really great reflection about the piece."

Glen Slattery:"Essential Theatre provided a setting for several readings of the play that were crucial to its development. Gifted actors brought the roles to life, while feedback from Artistic Director Peter Hardy was invaluable in sharpening the dramatic focus.”

Gabriel Jason Dean: "Peter Hardy and the Essential Theatre were an invaluable help to me. A sharp playwright himself, Peter really knows how to talk to writers. He helped me get to the heart of my big and wild story. They are brave people who take a chance on risky material and Peter and the cast really went full throttle on my play. In the wasteland of unending readings and development conferences that make up the life of a young writer like me, I can't express enough how truly helpful it is to see your work up on its feet--alive and kicking with all its beauty (and flaws). The Essential is committed to the future of theatre in Atlanta. They aren't posers, letting young playwrights eat the crumbs from the table. They're the real deal. They get their hands dirty and live/breathe/eat/sleep your play. Additionally, Peter surrounds himself with good people. His board goes above and beyond to help playwrights. The Essential is Atlanta's best kept theatre secret."

Bill Gibson:"The production of 'Warts' was superb under the wonderful direction of Lee Nowell, and with the performances of a first-rate cast! It was truly exciting to see 'Warts' brought to life on stage. Since the production, ‘Warts’ has been considered for production at several theatres."

Previous Playwriting Competition Winners

Qualities of Starlight
2010 saw the World Premiere production of Gabriel Jason Dean's twisted family comedy about a successful young astronomer who brings his wife home to the north Georgia mountains and the simple country household in which he grew up. And where his parents are now addicted to crystal meth.

Jim Crow and the Rhythm Darlings
A powerful
and provocative drama about an all-female jazz band touring the Deep South during World War II by Vynnie Meli. Winner of the Essential Theatre 2009 Playwriting Award.

West of Eden
Letitia Sweitzer's comedy about the world's first dysfunctional family: Adam and Eve after the Fall. "What if Adam and Eve didn't believe they were the first man and woman?" Winner of the 2008 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award.

Fix Me So I Can Stand
This powerful drama by Jean Sterrett is based on the true story of an African-American man falsely convicted of a double homicide in 1970's Georgia. Other plays by Ms. Sterrett have won the Los Angeles National Repertory Theater Foundation's National Play Award, the Harold C. Crain National Award and the Onassis Foundation's International Playwriting Competition. Jean Sterrett, winner of our 2007 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award competition, was recently named "Best Local Playwright" by Creative Loafing.

Charm School
In 2006 we had two prize-winners, and one of them -- Larry Larson and Eddie Levi Lee's CHARM SCHOOL, went on to a highly-acclaimed, sold-out second production at Atlanta's Horizon Theatre. And just last month, CHARM SCHOOL was named winner of the Gene-Gabriel Moore Playwriting Award, part of the city-wide Suzi Bass Awards for professional theatre. The Essential Theatre's contribution to the development of this important new play was mentioned several times in Larry Larson's gracious acceptance speech.

ET Award Winner Gets "Best of Atlanta" Kudo from the Loaf! Essential Theatre Playwriting Award, Karen Wurl (MISS MACBETH) received the 2005 Critics' Choice for Best Local Playwright in Creative Loafing's annual "Best of Atlanta" issue. Karen was the Georgia playwright we produced in our first annual Festival, back in 1999 ONLY CHILDREN.

And Did We Mention that 2004 CL pick for Best Local Playwright was Lauren Gunderson, winner of Award in 2001 and 2004. "The Essential Theatre is the future of southern writing. I will always credit them with my early success and confidence," says Gunderson. Lauren's new play BABY M was given a staged reading at Actor's Express in November. She's doing very well now, has been produced and received commissions around the country, and is currently in the MFA playwriting program at NYU. Her play, The THE VANGOGH CAFE was produced by Synchronicity Performance Group.

Valetta Anderson, who won the Essential Prize for LEAVING LIMBO, had her newest play, HALLELEUJAH STREET BLUES, produced by Atlanta's Horizon Theatre in July of 2008.

In 2000 we produced IMAGES IN SMOKE by Decatur's Karla Jennings, which was named by Creative Loafing as one of the Fifteen Best Theatre Productions of the year. Since then her work has been produced locally by Push-Push Theater and Working Title Productions, and she recently won the 2005 Playwrights First Award (an $1,000 prize given by New York's National Arts Club) for her technological thriller THE RUBY VECTOR Previous winners include Margaret Edson's WIT.

Essential Theatre Play Festival Productions