PORTLAND, ME.: Portland Stage has announced the winners of the 2022 Clauder Competition for New England Playwrights. Benjamin Benne’s Manning has won the Grand Prize, and Mallory Jane Weiss’s The Page Turners has won the Gold Prize.
“Both of these plays are fascinating and hold a hint of magic,” said Todd Brian Backus, Portland Stage’s literary manager, in a statement. “They offer exciting lenses into the modern American moment: asking
questions about grief, masculinity, and what it means to be a woman. One of the most exciting parts of my job is adjudicating the Clauder Competition. We give feedback to each and every writer who submits to the competition and then we workshop our favorite plays. In the following season we go on to a full production of the grand prize winner. Getting to work with a playwright as they nurture their work through readings, to workshops, to a world premiere production is really why I’m in this business to begin with—getting to be a part of that journey.”
Created in 1981 by Jeb Brooks, who continues to underwrite the program, the Clauder Competition celebrates the distinctive voices of the region’s playwrights and brings their work to the attention of the greater theatrical community every other year.
Selected from more than 170 plays penned by playwrights from all over New England, the Clauder Grand Prize comes with a $3,000 cash award, and a workshop at Portland Stage, followed by a full-scale production on the mainstage or in the studio theatre the following season. The Gold Prize includes a $1,500 cash award plus a workshop at Portland Stage. Additional recognition is given to the best play from each of the six New England states. The 2022 state winners include: In The End We All Go to Providence by Julia Jennings (Maine), I Love You Elizabeth Warren by Laura Neill (Mass.), Quietus by Richard Manley (N.H.), The Handless King by Elias Harley (R.I.), and Provenance by Todd Cerveris (Vt.). a.k. payne’s love i awethu further has also received a cash prize and a special commendation. (Benne’s Manning was the winner from Connecticut.)
As part of the 2023 Little Festival of the Unexpected, a staged reading of The Page Turners will be presented on Friday, April 21 at 7 p.m. at the Portland Stage Studio Theatre, and a staged reading of Manning will be presented on Friday, April 28 at 7 p.m. at Portland Stage Storefront Theater. Following each performance will be a talkback with the writer, director, and cast of the show. Manning will also be mounted as Mainstage Season Production in 2024.
Set in a fictitious, kind-of-1844-or-so, The Page Turners is about four somewhat-Victorian women, Kipper, Mary, Sadie, and Alice, whose book club is determined to redeem themselves after their disgraceful showing at last year’s Book Club Conference. The Page Turners questions how to shape our identities as women not by society’s rules but rather by the women we surround ourselves with, the choices that we make, and the books that we read. Mallory Jane Weiss’s plays include Big Black Sunhats, Lights Out And Away We Go, The Page Turners, Pony Up, and Dave and Julia are stuck in a tree. Mallory is an alumna of Clubbed Thumb’s Early Career Writers’ Group (2021-2022), The COOP’s Clusterf**k (2021), Gingold Theatrical Group’s Speakers Corner (2018-2019), and Fresh Ground Pepper’s BRB Retreat (2019).
Manning follows Freddy and his father, Julio, after the death of Julio’s wife and Freddy’s mother, as they spread her ashes in the garden and a giant zucchini sprouts overnight. Freddy’s older brother, Sebastian, soon arrives to witness the miraculous vegetable. Can these three men develop a communal vocabulary to express their grief with each other? Benjamin Benne is a Playwrights’ Center Affiliated Writer, American Blues Theater Blue Ink Playwriting Award winner, Arizona Theatre Company National Latinx Playwriting Award winner, and KCACTF Latinx Playwriting Award winner. His plays include Alma, In His Hands, and What / Washed Ashore / Astray.
Portland Stage is one of Maine’s largest fully professional, non-profit theatres and strives to provide professional productions for audiences in a broad region of northern New England.
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