Veterans Repertory Theater (VetRep) has announced winners and finalists from its second playwriting competition. Each will receive a grant to develop their playwriting careers. Each is also eligible to become a VetRep resident artist.
VetRep’s competition consisted of both full-length and 10-minute playwriting categories, with over 200 submissions in each category. The competitors were all military, law enforcement, fire, EMS, foreign service, intelligence service, Department of Defense employee or contractor veterans or immediate family members. The submissions were winnowed down to a top ten by VetRep Artistic Director Christopher Paul Meyer. The winners, runners-up and third-place finalists were decided by a panel of distinguished judges: Fred Graver (four-time Emmy winner, former writer/producer for Late Night with David Letterman, Cheers, In Living Color, and The Jon Stewart Show), dramatist, teacher and author Jeffrey Sweet; award-winning librettist and writer Cheryl L. Davis (Law & Order SVU, As The World Turns); Army veteran and playwright David A. Tucker (ACT, Seattle Repertory Theater), and Broadway playwright Jeremy Kareken.
Meyer said, “The judges were very impressed with the level of competition. The playwrights who made it to the top ten demonstrated a true command of their craft. They provided the latest proof of substantial talent in the veteran community. I think these veteran playwrights have immense potential to move the needle in the theater and bring to life stories, voices, and subject matter that is rarely seen in American theater.”
For the full-length playwriting competition, the winner is Deborah Yarchun for her drama Tectonic Melange. Deborah is the daughter and sister of Air Force veterans. Tectonic Melange is the story of Tara, a petroleum geologist, who surveys for minerals in a small town in North Dakota and uncovers deep community tensions and a darker side of herself. The characters felt real and a world was created by the play, judges said.
Yarchun will receive a grant for $10,000 from VetRep.
The runner-up is Army veteran Christopher Soucy for his soulful comedy Good Mourning. When an unknown woman disrupts a funeral with an outburst of emotions, the grieving family is caught off guard. But when she shows up at the family’s home, the mystery surrounding her deepens. Soucy will receive a grant for $7,500 from VetRep.
The third-place finalist is Marine Corps veteran Francisco Manuel Martinezcuello for his Iraq War drama Salsa Night. About her play, the judges said, “ It’s innovative, adventuresome and totally engaging. We’ve never really seen these types of characters interact before. You brought out those characters beautifully. The ending really hit us.” Martinezcuello will receive a grant for $5,000 from VetRep.
For the ten-minute playwriting competition, the winner is Army veteran Mike Oppenheim for his drama The Side of Caution, a gritty look at the conflict between idealism and realism in the Vietnam War. “It is innovative, sharp and shocking in its depiction of casual brutality,” judges said. Oppenheim will receive $1000 from VetRep.
The runner-up is Denis Meadows for his drama, A Brush Against the Indifference of the Universe. Meadows is the brother of a Vietnam veteran. The play centers on Benjy and Chaim, two paintbrush salesmen trying to deal with a bad economy, and a turbulent time – with poignant, surprising results.
“We were totally intrigued with the interplay between Benjy and Chaim, like Arthur Miller meets Beckett,” judges said. Meadows will receive $750 from VetRep.
The third-place finalist is military daughter Arianna Rose for Sex, Lies and Styrofoam.
The judges said, “We loved the two characters and their off-handed, everyday exchange in the middle of a laundromat.” Rose will receive $500 from VetRep.