Announcing the Winners of the 2016 VSA Playwright Discovery Competition

An image with the text, "2016 VSA Playwright Discovery Award Program Showcase, at the Kennedy Center, September 3, 3:00PM, Russian LoungeThe Kennedy Center’s Office of VSA and Accessibility is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 VSA Playwright Discovery Competition, a Jean Kennedy Smith Arts and Disability Program. This annual competition invites middle and high school students to examine the disability experience and express their views through the art of script writing.

The winners are invited to participate in a weekend of pre-professional activities at the Kennedy Center during the annual Page-to-Stage New Play Festival. The young playwrights engage with seasoned professional playwrights, directors, and actors to refine their scripts and further develop their playwriting skills. The winning plays include: Fish Waiting for Trees by Lukia Artemakis; Madam C.J. Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower by Ella Brett-Turner; Two Scoops of Ice Cream by Sophia DuRose and Katie O’Malley; Missing Pieces by Emma Filosa; Know Your ABC’s by Elijah Gaines and Jaleel Lindsey; Supernova by Andrew Projansky; and Time Stops by Brad Weatherford.

Lukia Artemakis (Fish Waiting for Trees) is a senior at Whitney Young High School in Chicago. She has always loved all aspects of the stage, starting with ballet classes at the age of two. Since then, she has danced in over 100 performances of Ballet Chicago’s The Nutcracker and she has choreographed two pieces for Guys and Dolls Dance Company. Lukia, who has a hearing loss, is an avid writer who is on the youth advisory board of Dave Eggers’ nonprofit writing and tutoring center, 826CHI. She is glad to finally combine her two passions for literary and theatrical arts, and eagerly looks forward to authoring more plays.

Ella Brett-Turner (Madam C.J. Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower) is a high school senior living in Providence, Rhode Island. She began writing plays when her brother told her to stop yelling about bad scripts while watching movies. Her interest in history and public health inspired her to write about Madam C.J. Walker, the first self-made female millionaire, who made her fortune selling medicated hair products at the turn of the century. This is the second play Ella has written about Madam C.J. Walker and she has begun work on a screenplay.

Sophia DuRose (Two Scoops of Ice Cream) is a seventeen year old author from Orlando, Florida. With a steadfast determination to pursue her love for writing, Sophia has attended numerous summer programs in order to improve her skills, including an intensive workshop at Columbia University in New York. She has been selected for various publications across many different genres of writing and is well on her way towards her main ambition of being the best artist she can be.

Emma Filosa (Missing Pieces) is eighteen years old and attends The College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York where she studies Music Industry. Missing Pieces was selected as a winning script at Hartford Stage’s Write On program, in Connecticut, where she studied playwriting and further developed the piece. She co-directed and produced Unified Theatre at her high school for four years and is an advocate for individuals with disabilities. Emma has performed in multiple musicals around Connecticut and plans to pursue musical theater as a career.

Elijah Gaines (Know Your ABC’s) is a sixteen year old high school student from Lindenwold, New Jersey. He enjoys spending time with his mother and two younger siblings, as well as reading books, playing sports, riding his dirt bike, and helping those in need. Elijah hopes to become and engineer and a writer and looks forward to the opportunity to learn new and exciting things by completing his education and exploring the country. His dream is to one day help his mother live out her dream of opening her own business in their community.

Jaleel Lindsey (Know Your ABC’s) is eighteen years old from Newark, New Jersey. He enjoys playing football and writing verses for rap, which has been incorporated into Know Your ABC’s. With an eye on choosing a path to success in life, Jaleel is enrolled in Youth Build Academy pursuing academics and career development training. He looks forward to what his future holds.

Katie O’Malley (Two Scoops of Ice Cream) is a senior creative writing major at the Osceola County School for the Arts in Florida. Her favorite pieces to write are ones which she can infuse with experiences from her many travels abroad. Aside from plays, she enjoys writing short stories, poems, and memoirs. Katie has had multiple pieces of writing published in the past and was even awarded a Gold Key for her short story by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.

Andrew Projansky (Supernova) is a senior at Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Illinois. Since 2007, Andrew has been involved in theater by appearing onstage at his local community theater, and only recently developed his love for playwriting after writing about his experience with depression through Supernova. Andrew is a member of the National Honors Society, International Thespians Society, Tri-M Musical Honors Society, is a freshman mentor, and is part of two acapella groups, and much more at his school. Andrew hopes to continue playwriting into college, as well as become a biomedical engineer.

Brad Weatherford (Time Stops) is a senior student at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, Texas. Time Stops is based on his personal experiences as an actor with a speech impediment. The script started out as a monologue, and then was lengthened into a one-act play and edited to create a female version inspired by two talented twin actresses at his school. Brad is a proud member of the National Honor Society, International Thespian Society, and Young Men’s Service League. He hopes to pursue a BFA in Musical Theatre in college.

Excerpts from the winning scripts will be performed on Saturday, September 3, 2016 at 3:00 p.m. in the Kennedy Center’s Russian Lounge.

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