For 10 years, University of Lethbridge alumnus Terry Whitehead (BA ’94) has generously supported emerging writers through the Play Right Prize Competition, inspiring and motivating young playwrights to pursue the written craft.
The 2017 Play Right Prizes will be awarded to three passionate young playwrights on Saturday, March 18 at 7 p.m. in the David Spinks Theatre at the 10th annual Play Right Prize Gala. First place receives $1,500, second prize is $750, and third is $250, making these the most lucrative awards in the country for undergraduate student writing competitions.
Michelle Howe, an undergraduate student studying psychology and English, took first place for her play Third Quarter.
The three-member, all alumni jury, said, “Third Quarter was expertly crafted and poignant … a powerful piece. The simple setting of a porch in the moonlight provides the perfect backdrop for a woman, a man, and the inescapable truth of what has become of their relationship.”
Howe set her play during the third quarter moon phase, a time when making changes are encouraged.
“The two characters, Rory and Eric, are in an unhealthy and cyclic relationship and the story revolves around their attempts to understand the pressures that have been keeping them living in this static state for so long, and the ending is left to your interpretation of whether or not they have succeeded,” explains Howe.
Second prize went to drama student Laura Couch for her play All That’s Left, a chilling play that explores perspectives and challenges faced by the LGBTQ community. The jury was impressed by the playwright’s use of theatrical convention to bring genuine focus to the inner lives of the characters.
Alexandra Long, a drama and education student, took third place for her play, If There’s One Thing I Know Is True, a journey through the totality of a flawed relationship. The jury “appreciated the piece’s sense of play and use of varied dramatic devices that were both thoughtful and visually intriguing.”
In honour of the 10th anniversary of the award and the 50th anniversary of the University, this year’s jury was made up of all alumni, and all multi-award winning Play Right Prize recipients. James Wade (BFA ’11) was recognized in 2010 and 2011, Makambe Simamba (BFA ’13) was recognized in 2012 and 2013, and Chelsea Woolley (BA/BEd ’14) was recognized in 2012 and 2014. All three have continued in the play writing field, winning additional awards and recognition nationally for their work.'
The impact of being acknowledged through the Play Right Prize competition is not lost on these successful playwrights.
“Participating in the Play Right Prize Competition legitimized and fueled my first true attempts at being a writer,” says Woolley. “My involvement with the competition became the foundation for dialogues with artists who would ultimately become instrumental to my start as a professional Canadian playwright. Without Terry Whitehead and the Play Right Prize, my early, tentative steps into this world may well have stayed hidden on my computer forever.”
In 10 years, Whitehead has supported 26 young playwrights, financed over $23,000 in prize money, and provided the opportunity for winning plays to be heard publicly through an open public reading. This year's 10th anniversary Play Right Prize Gala will take place Saturday, March 18, at 7 p.m. in the David Spinks Theatre. The Play Right Prize Gala is free and open to the public.