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Congratulations to Karla Jennings and Theroun D’Arcy Patterson, Winners of the 2014 Essential Theatre Playwriting Competition!

ESSENTIAL THEATRE ANNOUNCES TWO WINNERS FOR THE 2014 PLAYWRITING CONTEST
Atlanta, January 2014 – Essential Theatre has just announced Theroun Patterson and Karla Jennings as co-winners of the 2014 Playwriting Competition.  “It’s taken us a long while to come to a decision this year,” observes Peter Hardy, Founding Artistic Director of the theatre, “because of the large number of strong submissions we received.  But we feel that both of these plays are worthy of the prizes and will be excellent contributions to our Festival this summer.” Both playwrights will receive a $600 cash prize and a full production in this summer’s Essential Theatre Festival.
Having two contest winners in one year is not unprecedented, as this was also the case in 2006, when both Valetta Anderson’s “Leaving Limbo” and Larry Larson and Eddie Levi Lee’s “Charm School” shared the prize.  Since that time there has continued to be an increase in both the quantity and quality of plays submitted to this competition.
Karla Jennings’s play, Ravens and Seagulls, is a heartfelt story about four sisters going through the process of losing one of them to illness. “It’s often painful,” says Hardy, “but also has a lot of humor and some hope at the end.”
That Uganda Play, by Theroun Patterson, was written in reaction to Ugandan Parliament Member David Bahati’s “Kill the Gays” bill of 2010. “With the virulent anti-homosexual sentiments and violence in Africa and recently with the legislation signed into law in Russia, this play is timely and sheds light on a very American involvement with such a controversial figure like Bahati,” states Patterson in a 2013 interview. “My hope is that [this play] provokes debate and conversations late into the night long after it’s over.”
Both plays were previously workshopped by Working Title Playwrights, and That Uganda Play was also featured in the Bare Essentials Reading Series during the 2013 Essential Theatre Festival. Both Karla and Theroun have had other plays produced by Essential, Images in Smoke by Karla in 2000 and A Thousand Circlets by Theroun in 2011.
About Essential Theatre
Essential Theatre has been supporting Georgia playwrights and presenting new plays to Atlanta audiences since 1987. Since 2011, the Essential Play Festival has presented all world premieres by Georgia playwrights. Dates and venue for the 2014 Festival will be announced soon. For additional information about the festival, the contest or Essential Theatre, visit www.EssentialTheatre.com.
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For media inquires
Jennifer Kimball, Managing Director
jennifer@essentialtheatre.com

(404) 587-3853
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“Connecting with Deaf Audiences” Final Report

In 2013 for the first time, sign language interpretation was offered as part of the Essential Theatre Festival. This was a pretty big undertaking for us – there’s a lot of work and a lot of money that goes into making this happen smoothly and well – and we were very excited to be bringing this new aspect into our festival.
To help fund the project, we participated in our first ever power2give crowdfunding project. If you’re not familiar with power2give, it’s actually pretty awesome, and you can learn more about it here. We’d started out hoping to raise money, but through our power2give project, we gained so much more. The outpouring of community support and enthusiasm was touching, encouraging and absolutely inspiring to all of us. People we’d known for years contacted us thanking us for the work we do every year, for our years of support of Georgia artists, and for our commitment to sharing quality theatre with anyone and everyone we meet. People we’d never realized had an interest reached out to say thank you for bringing new theatre to Deaf audiences, and thank you for engaging us in conversation. And the support we received from members of Atlanta’s own Deaf community was heartening and inspiring as well. The video you see if you go to our project page would never have been possible without two of our most committed Deaf collaborators, Amy Cohen Efron and AJ Wooddall. And the geographic extent of the response was impressive too: Terp Theatre in Detroit, MI, contacted us and said,  

“You are embarking on a wonderful project, which will greatly enhance your local theatre community’s ability to better reflect the diversity of our world…Your community-centered approach is to be lauded…Our heartfelt congratulations to you, from your friends in ‘The D’.”

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Interview with playwright Theroun Patterson

Interview with playwright Theroun Patterson

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Learn more about actor and playwright Theroun Patterson, winner of the 2011 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award and author of this Wednesday night’s Bare Essential play, That Uganda Play

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therounAbout That Uganda Play: I originally wrote the play in late 2011-early 2012 with a staged reading of the original draft with  Working Title Playwrights and Academy Theatre in January 2012.  The play started as a sort of knee jerk reaction to reading an NPR interview with David Bahati , a Ugandan Member of Parliament that introduced his Anti-Gay Legislation, causing an uproar with Gay Rights groups because the Bill essentially criminalized homosexuality and would have allowed for unprecedented governmental persecution of gays. The article simply made me angry. I started writing to try and understand that type of hatred, to know where it came from, and perhaps to feel better about a my own frustrations about a prejudice that I can’t control; that I can’t stamp out on my own. With the virulent anti-homosexual sentiments and violence in Africa and recently with the legislation signed into law in Russia, this play is timely and a sheds light on a very American involvement with such a controversial figure like Bahati. Not only that, but I wanted to ground the play within two families and show how a global problem works its way down into our most personal relationships. Honestly I hope a theatre with an interest in starting a community dialogue about social issues will produce this play. My hope is that it provokes debate and conversations late into the night long after its over.

About Theroun: I started as an actor, working for eleven years on Atlanta stages. I started seriously writing plays in 2005, producing and directing my own readings with the help of generous peers that donated their time and talents. In 2009, I joined Working Title Playwrights and wrote the first of four plays that year. I’ve written a dozen full lengths since 2006. I’m pleased to be working with Essential again after the production of my play A Thousand Circlets.

On the Bare Essentials Series: The reading series allows me the opportunity to refine the play and find new audiences for it to continue a dialogue generated by art.

What is it like to transition from acting to writing? As an actor, there was always an underlying anxiety about performing, but as a writer I have absolutely no fear. I’m willing to learn in front of others, to continue to grow and experiment with story and structure. Playwriting is the form of expression that fits me best as an artist. Acting is secondary to that.

Next for me, is a production of fugitive:EROS and The Chemicals Between Us with Out of Box Theatre next season, as well as the production of Origin Story with Academy Theatre in their new home. I’m also about to start on a new commission with Pinch N Ouch Theatre as well as Mad Hope Theatre Project.

The Bare Essentials series is free and open to the public. Donations graciously accepted. Complimentary wine before and after the show. For more information on all the readings as well as the other plays in the festival, visit www.essentialtheatre.com

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