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Festival 51 Announces Winners of Women's Playwriting Festival

Thursday May 26, 2016

Festival 51 has released the names of the winners of the 2016 finalists, and will present staged readings of the four winning plays over two evenings at the Contemporary Theatre Company.

While women make up 51 percent of the world's population, the fact still stands that only 17 percent of plays produced in this country are female authored. Rhode Island-based Festival51 aims to change those numbers by putting women writers center stage in their 2nd annual Women's Playwriting Festival.
After receiving over 400 short play submissions from female writers all over the globe, (15 times the number of scripts received last year) the producers narrowed the list down to eight semifinalists. The 2016 four finalist winning plays for the 2016 Festival51 are: "Fabulous Monsters" by Diana Burbano; "Birds of a Feather" by June Guralnick; "The Difficult People" by Jean Hartley Sidden; and "Allergen" by Jess Honovich.
"Fabulous Monsters" by Diana Burbano (Long Beach, CA)
When punk rock exploded in L.A., Sally and Lou were there: feminists, Latinas, queens of noise. One went pop, one stayed punk, but sparks from their tumultuous friendship remain. Decades later, can they overcome old wounds, forgive each other, and rock as hard as they ever did? The play was developed in Latino Theatre Alliance/LA's Playwrights Nest Festival. Diana Burbano is an award-winning playwright and a member of the inaugural writer's circle for Latino Theatre Association, for whom she wrote "Fabulous Monsters." Burbano is also an actor at the Laguna Playhouse, South Coast Repertory and Center Theatre in Santa Barbara.
"Birds of a Feather: A Comedy About De-Extinction" by June Guralnick (Apex, NC)
The play has been described as a madcap romp about a time-traveling geneticist who journeys back to 1912 New York City. Combining social satire, slapstick humor, and a comedic love story, "Birds of a Feather: A Comedy About De-Extinction" tickles our funny bone while tackling the debate on nature of progress and the world's disappearing species. June Guralnick's work has been performed at the Kennedy Center, New Federal Theatre, the Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre and the NC Museum of Art.

She has served as executive director of the Theatre Association of Pennsylvania, Inc., artistic director of the Women's Ensemble Theatre, and the NC Arts Council Theatre Arts Director. Awards include a NEA Arts New Forms Grant, a silver medal Pinter Review Prize for Drama, a NC Arts Council Literature Fellowship, a Piedmont Regional Artist Project Grant, and finalist for the America Creates for the Millennium project from the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation. She serves as the current president of the NC Playwrights Alliance and is a member of the Dramatists Guild and the Playwrights' Center.   

"The Difficult People" by Jean Hartley Sidden (Brooklyn, NY)
Placed in modern day Florida, "The Difficult People" dealing with the growing racial tensions that surround the state's Stand Your Ground laws. This funny yet tragic play looks at the viral power of news events and the role of integration as an attempt to put an end to bigotry. Jean Hartley Sidden holds a Ph.D. in Theatre Arts from University of Oregon and a MA in Theatre Studies from University of Arizona. Her work has received received readings and full productions in NY. Sidden is a New York theater reviewer for Front Row Center and lives in Brooklyn, NY.
"Allergen" by Jess Honovich (Pittsburgh, PA)
Bill and Micaela, Bill's son's kindergarten teacher, begin an affair. Eight months later, Bill's son has died from an allergic reaction to a peanut he ingested in school. A non-linear play about picking up the pieces after the damage has been done. Jess Honovich is a playwright, screenwriter and educator from Southern New Jersey. Her work has been produced by Dezart Performs, Longwood University and the Paw Paw Village Players. She is a 2016 Theatre Masters winner for her short play "No More Monsters" which had productions in Aspen and NYC and will be published by Samuel French in the fall of 2016.  She holds a B.S. from New York University in Educational Theatre and a minor in Dramatic Literature. Jess currently resides in Pittsburgh, where she is pursuing her MFA in Dramatic Writing from Carnegie Mellon University.
Co-produced by local actor/directors Leann Heath and Terry Shea, Festival51 has grown in leaps and bounds since Heath conceived of the idea in 2015. She says, "Through Festival51, we are able to give an opportunity to emerging women playwrights and to continue the conversation about why these voices are missing from current American stages. It is also a wonderful way to showcase of the wealth of theatrical talent housed right here in Rhode Island." 

In response to the 2016 call for submissions, 406 women playwrights from all over the globe responded, a 1400 percent increase over the number of submissions last season.
Staged readings of the four winning plays will take place over the course of two evenings at the Contemporary Theatre Company, 327 Main St, South Kingstown on May 27th and 28th. The Festival of staged plays will take place July 15-24 at 95 Empire, Providence, with two shows produced each night in repertory.

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