List of Valley Players Playwright Award Winners
2023 Winner: Poet's Choice
by Mary Pratt of Addison County, Vermont
A fallen angel gives a poet a choice between happiness and art.
About the Playwright
Mary Pratt’s first plays were performed in a sixth-grade classroom at Fairfield St. School in St. Albans, Vermont, and in her parents’ garage in Essex Junction. After a few decades branching off into geology, preschool teaching, motherhood, the ministry, poetry, and apple picking, she started writing plays again. Her poetry is published here and there, and her first grown-up play, “Walpurgisnacht,” was produced as a podcast by “A Garden of Voices” in 2022. Mary lives in Addison County with her husband. Their grandchildren put on plays in the living room.
2022 Winner: Without Further Ado
by Kelly Burr of Guilford, Vermont
A modern adaptation of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, the play finds the Shaw family and friends gathering for Emily's wedding at The Haven-By-The-Sea Resort on the Cape. When the bride is accused of cheating on her finace by a jealous cousin, the plans for a perfect wedding weekend get derailed. With some help from the ever-bickering Maid of Honor and Best Man, the nosy hotel staff, and modern technology, the truth might just come to light.
About the Playwright
Kelly Burr is an emerging talent who burst onto the New York playwriting scene in 2021 with ‘Her Mistress,’ a shortlist finalist in the New York Classical Theatre New Visions contest, and her short play ‘On Your Side’ was a finalist in the SOOP to Nuts Short Play Festival. Kelly has been working in the performing arts for over thirty years. While her background is primarily in performance, directing, and producing, she’s also worked professionally as a technical director, stagehand, costumer, lighting and sound technician, carpenter, stage manager and scenic designer. Future 2022 production plans include her full-length play ‘If We Really Were Witches,’ a comedy about the witch hunts, and another full-length comedy, ‘The Losing of Long Lost Cardenio.’ In 2019, she was awarded her M.A. in Shakespeare and Theatre (with a focus on protofeminism and gender roles in Shakespeare) from The Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham, Stratford-Upon-Avon, U.K. She is a proud member of the Dramatist’s Guild and lives on a gorgeous farm in Guilford, Vermont with her musician beau, Kris.
2021 Winner: Dance Again
by Tucker Atwood of Belfast, Maine
The story takes place in the living room of an old house on the border of a warzone between two nations. Though it’s set in a fictional world, it is one that could very well be real. Place and time are intentionally non-specific, but it feels like the early to mid-1900’s. Soldiers from opposing sides arrive at the house seeking refuge from a bitter storm and ongoing battle. The hosts do their best to remain neutral and keep the strangers from learning the true identities of their fellow house guests.
About the Playwright
Tucker Atwood grew up in a small town called Embden, Maine, and is currently based in the coastal town of Belfast, Maine. He is relatively new to playwriting but has spent the last 10 years or so falling in love with theater via acting. He has performed in over 40 productions with five different theater companies in Maine, and in 2019 performed "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare [Abridged]" with the Middlebury Community Players in nearby Middlebury, Vermont. That was his second most interesting feat in 2019; earlier that year, he thru-hiked the entire Appalachian Trail with his brother, successfully walking 2200 miles through the woods in a little under 4 months, surviving primarily on peanut butter and ramen noodles. A year later, he wrote a memoir of his thru-hike titled "No Parents No Horses No Bedtime." He has also written poetry, more plays, a critical analysis of the education system, and two other books: "Lights Up.," a theater memoir, and "Also, I'm an Ant," a novel about an ant who discovers a way to communicate with humans. His plans for 2021 include acting in three shows this summer at Lakewood Theater in Madison, Maine -- including portraying the title role in the satirical British comedy "Bullshot Crummond" -- and riding his bicycle from Maine to Florida this fall along the East Coast Greenway. He is also a math teacher and tutor sometimes, when he needs the money. He would like to thank his family for being his friends and his friends for being his family.
2020 Winner: Unicorn from the Stars
by David John Preece of Manchester, New Hampshire
The play is a fictionalized story about the poet/writer Sylvia Plath during her time living in England,
and her friendship with one of her neighbors. With permission of the playwright, the Valley Players filmed a production of this play in November, 2020. Watch the show HERE
About the Playwright
Preece received education and theatre/film training at University of Wisconsin-Madison, HB Studios and Playwrights Horizons in New York City, American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, and University of California/Los Angeles. His plays Charles Dickens’ Ghost Stories, The House of the Seven Gables, and Tender have all been winners of Best Play given by the New Hampshire Theatre Awards, and his short film, Lunch with Eddie, which he wrote, directed, and produced, was shown at over thirty international film festivals and won several awards including Best Short Film and Best Director.
2019 Winner: "The AI Experience" by David Reiner
About the Playwright
David studied theater arts, creative writing and philosophy at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida and received a BA degree in humanities He was an actor, director, and producer for seven years in Central Florida and three years in NYC. He was a Senior Programmer and Project Manager for banking and publishing for 23 years in Cleveland, Ohio. He’s written several plays, three short stories, a novel, a screenplay,
five modern English adaptations of Shakespeare plays, plus a technical white paper on A I. Other interests include the study of Native American culture, colonial America, ancient human origins, AI technology, predictive analytics, behavior economics, classic literature, history and philosophy. And he’s an avid tennis player.
2017 Winner: "The End of the World As We Know It" by Jeanne Beckwith
About the Playwright
Jeanne Beckwith is a playwright whose works have been performed from San Francisco to Istanbul. Her full length play, Love Letters Made Easy was presented recently by the Alpha NYC Theater Company at the Roebuck Theater in New York City. Her play, An Alien Encounter was just accepted to be included in Otherworld’s Paragon Festival in Chicago this coming October. Her play Broken Circle was presented at the Valley Players Theater here in Waitsfield last October. Jeanne is a member of the Dramatist Guild, teaches at Norwich University, and lives in Roxbury with her beloved co-conspirator, F. Brett Cox. This is her tenth year as Artistic Director of TenFest. She loves it as much now as ever and is pleased to announce that Vince Broderick will be taking over next year. Look for great things as Vince takes us on a journey into our next decade with the wonderful Valley Players.
2016 Winner "Mother's Day" by Nancy Sugarman
About the Playwright
Nancy Sugarman started acting in children's plays at the Cleveland Playhouse, starring as a bumble bee when she was 8. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in directing from Boston University. She worked in summer stock theatre companies, a feminist theatre in Minneapolis, MN and the Looking Glass Children's Theatre in Providence, RI - acting, directing and doing technical work. When she decided to earn a regular living, she earned an MEd in early childhood special education - with a focus on creative drama with young children with special needs. She continued to use her theatre skills as an instructor, consultant, administrator, educator - and informal theatre critic. She is currently the director of VT Northern Lights Career Development Center for early childhood and afterschool professionals, a program funded by the state of Vermont. She knew her next dream was to be a playwright and one day decided to stop waiting until retirement to start. She squeezes playwriting into weekends and vacations. She has found a number of supportive groups of playwrights, directors and producers in VT and elsewhere, who have provided invaluable guidance, readings, and critiques. She finds the work of playwriting very rewarding and challenging. It is a platform for inspiration, examination and creative exploration at the same time restricting the writer to reveal only the essentials allowed by the script.
When we become old women, how do our mothers continue to inform our lives after they are dead? What is the definition of family when we are alone and our children are gone? “Mother’s Day” explores the intersections of six women, three mothers in their late fifties-early sixties and their three aging mothers. The play explores the new roles of women and mothers particularly those who grew up during the early feminist movement, who now find themselves as single women in communities of friends, their children moved away. The world of the play takes place over five years, between 1995 and 2000 and focuses on three women friends. During the play their mothers die leaving them orphaned. In the course of the play the three single women explore their roles as parents, friends, single women and caretakers.
2015 Winner: "The Sleepover, a Comedy of Marriage" by Carole Vasta Folley
About the Playwright
Carole Vasta Folley has extensive stage experience with roles in over thirty productions. As a director, her work has included dramas and musical comedies at both regional theatre premieres and full scale productions featuring casts of over 50. As playwright, Vasta Folley premiered Pronouncing Glenn in 2008 at the Stowe Theatre Guild with a three week run. Seven Days reviewed the production, saying it "succeeds wonderfully at devising a brace of charming, believable characters that have us laughing with them and caring about them. Vasta Folley has the storyteller gift." Inspired to create strong roles for women of all ages, Vasta Folley wrote The Family of Ewe, which was produced by Girls Nite Out Productions (GNOP) and premiered in Burlington in 2013. It was selected by The Burlington Free Press as one of the “Five Plays to Remember from 2013,” and described as a “tender, often laugh-out-loud ode to the bonds of female friendship. Vasta Folley managed to create a play that’s sentimental and smart - not an easy combination to pull off.”
2015 saw the premiere of her comedy, Alumni Pie, at Burlington's Main Street Landing Performing Arts Center. Also in 2015, Vasta Folley was the recipient of the Flynn Center's Vermont Artists' Space Grant, which was used to develop her new drama The Seymour Sisters. In addition, she was awarded a grant from the Vermont Arts Endowment Fund of the Vermont Community Foundation which will take The Seymour Sisters around the state in 2016. Other plays currently in the works include the comedy, The Replacement Wife, and After Chrissy, a drama about the right to die.
Vasta Folley lives in Vermont with her husband, Sean, counting herself fortunate to live in a state filled with natural beauty and great talent - a boon to anyone in the arts.
Married couple Mark, a licensed psychotherapist, and Susie, a life coach, hold their first overnight marriage retreat. Much to Susie's chagrin, Mark booked a run-down ski lodge on top of a mountain for the event. While Susie yells at Mark for not having the retreat in Cancun, couples begin arriving, including self-help junkies Smith and Jan, practically divorced Scott and Julie, young newlyweds Dave and Rosemarie, bickering suburbanites Wayne and Cybil, and Jesse with his wife, Barbara, who is attending only under threat. Through the use of group therapy techniques, Mark and Susie attempt to make their first retreat a success. What follows instead is injury, bedlam, and a surprise as it turns out one of the attendees is Mark's former finance.
2014 Winner "Napoléon au Nouveau Monde" ~ Gordon LePage
Not quite as cursed as Hamlet’s father (or, then again, maybe more so), Napoléon Bonaparte is doomed for a certain term to walk the night-and ordered to report to the Philadelphia suburbs of the twenty-first century, where he must adopt the profession of a youth therapist. Assigned to help young Jeremy with his family and romantic problems, the emperor attacks with a characteristic mix of zeal and disdain, with results that neither doctor nor patient had anticipated.
Gordon LePage grew up in northern New Hampshire, in a mill town near the Canadian border. He attended Dartmouth College, graduating with a degree in Comparative Literature in 1982. He had his first play produced there, as part of the Eleanor Frost Playwriting Competition. He holds an M.A. in Romance Languages and has been an educator most of his career, having taught in boarding, day, and public schools in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Maine.
In addition to "Napoléon au Nouveau Monde", his other stage plays include "Don and Wally", "My Fair Share of the Sun", "The White Devils", "A Spanish Irregular Verb", and "A Quarter Turn". "Don and Wally", a play for young audiences, had a workshop production at the Panoply Arts Festival in 2010, received a finalist award from the East Valley Children’s Theatre in 2011, and won the Aurand Harris award from the New England Theater Conference in 2012. It was published last year by Dramatic Publishing, along with "My Fair Share of the Sun". He has also written two as yet unpublished novels and a few screenplays. A YA novel, Compass, was self-published last year under the pen name "Sylvie St. Marie".
Gordon is a member the Dramatists Guild. He teaches French and Spanish at a high school in western Maine, where he lives on a farm with his wife and family.
2013 Winner "Mere Presence" ~ Margot Lasher
Add some info about this item
An 82 year old woman, eccentric and distrustful of doctors, is interviewed by a young, inexperienced male psychiatrist in a test for dementia. After absurd misunderstandings, they slowly begin to trust each other, and Dr. Grey sees Hannah’s insights about her changing mind as a way to achieve fame with a new theory of the aging brain. Back home, in a monologue, Hannah tries to understand death through her connection to her old dog, Jake: she senses that Jake is talking to her, but she is afraid that she is losing her mind. She returns to Dr. Grey, who overcomes his ambition as they try together to understand the process of dying.
Margot Lasher began writing plays as a founding member of Painted Women Ritual Theatre in New York. In 2012 her one-act play, "Intake", was a winner of the Vermont Actors Repertory Nor’Eastern Playwrights Showcase and was performed at the Warren Theatre International Playwrights Festival. "Mere Presence" is a full length play based in part upon Intake. Her play, "Other Minds", was developed in workshop under a Flynn Center Artist’s Grant and was done as a staged reading by Centenary Stage as part of their Women Playwrights Series. "Dog Park and Stay", were performed by the Vermont Playwrights Circle’s TenFest at the Valley Players. Margot has studied the connection between people and their dogs in a non-fiction work, "Dog: Pure Awareness". She performed "Stay", a monologue for actor and dog, at the New York State Psychological Association Annual Conference. She lives with her dogs, Shiro and Holly, in Marshfield Vermont.
2012 Winner "Our Enemy's Cup" ~ Michael Nethercott
Add some info about this item
"Our Enemy's Cup" is a study of betrayal, loyalty and accountability set in occupied France during the Second World War
Guilford resident Michael Nethercott’s writings have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies including "Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine"; "Best Crime and Mystery Stories of the Year"; "The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction"; "Thin Ice: Crime Stories by New England Writers"; "Plays, the Drama Magazine for Young People"; "Dead Promises"; "Gods and Monsters"; and "Crimestalkers Casebook". He is a past winner of the Black Orchid Novella Award and the Nor’easter Play Writing Contest.
His traditional mystery novel "Summoning the Dead" will be published next spring by St. Martin ’s Press. Additionally, he is the writer/director of the seasonal theatrical production "The Forest of Mystery" in Brattleboro.
2011 Winner "Glass Closets" ~ M. W. Estes
Add some more info about this item...
Everyone has secrets. Some are bigger than others. Alexander Caswell has a secret, but the only one he hasn’t told his secret to is his own mother. The secret is Alexander "Zander" Caswell is gay. After moving to New York City, Zander cashes in on his talents as a playwright. He lives in an apartment with his lesbian friend Lizzie. His neighbor, Patrick, has a never-ending crush on him.
His closest friends know that he has kept his secret from his mother and they want him to finally "come out" to her. One phone call changes all that...Lizzie invites Zander’s Mom, Esther to NYC as a surprise. Little does she know that Zander is about to receive news that he has been chosen for a major award in Gay playwriting. The Award ceremony is scheduled for the same weekend as Esther’s visit. With no choice but to tell him, Lizzie lets Zander know about the upcoming visit. She is able to convince Zander that, with a little planning, it will work out and the charade is on.
The events that follow lead to one exciting, hilarious, suspenseful and at times touching weekend that no one will ever forget From loons to cross-dressers, Glass Closets will take the audience on a journey of hope, compassion and love that will alter the course of their lives with insight and understanding of a world seldom seen...the world inside the glass closet.
"Glass Closets" is written by M. W. Estes of Dover, NH. A native of New Hampshire and graduate of the University of New Hampshire, he developed a love of theater at a young age. In addition to his writing and musical skills, he is an avid oil painter and woodworker. Mr. Estes is the first playwright to win the Vermont Playwrights Award for the second time. He also won last year for "What Would Dickens Do?" He is also a finalist in this year’s Page to Stage Festival in Washington, DC for his play, Gumbo. As a finalist, his work will be presented at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts this September.
The 2010 Winner: M. W. Estes ~ "What Would Dickens Do?"
Add some more info about this item...
Imagine if Purgatory really existed; if the Pearly Gates were not so much a what but a who and all the famous writers of the past come together to discuss the ins and outs of their works. An aspiring writer, Eric enters Purgatory and meets the not so cordial Pearly Gates, assistant to St Peter. She helps Eric get settled by bringing him to the "Writer's Block" where he meets the likes of Truman Capote, Charles Dickens, George Orwell, William Faulkner and Samuel Clemens on what happens to be Dickens' last night before moving on to heaven. In celebration of his departure, the group decides to revisit The Mystery of Edwin Drood in hopes of finally learning Dickens' intentions for the ending. The ensuing discussion brings out the best and worst in each writer's imagination. The play explores the human experience in ways that will make you laugh, sigh and gain greater respect for the individiuality of mankind with the realization that the most interesting parts are often those which remain a secret.
"What Would Dickens Do?" is written by M. W. Estes of Dover, NH. A native of New Hampshire and graduate of the University of New Hampshire, after seeing his first play "The Music Man" at the age of 9, he developed a love of theater and music and is an avid muscian, painter and woodworker. In addition to playwrighting, he is working on his first novel "Four Pieces for Power". He currently is working on a project at the New Hampshire State Prison for Men where he teaches self-help programs and works with the prison's Fourth Wall Theater Projects. This program behind the walls is geared to bring the arts to the prison environment while teaching theater skills and building self esteem and confidence with inmates.
The 2009 Winner: Tim McEnroe ~ "Seeking Mischief"
Add some more info about this item...
Author Tim McEnroe has had a long career in corporate and non-profit public relations, politics and journalism and is a co-author of three books on ethics for social workers. He was born in Fargo , North Dakota , and moved to Washington , D.C. , as a Page in the United States Senate at age 11. He is a graduate of Capitol Page School and Georgetown University . He founded a public relations and advocacy agency in Washington after a time as a reporter there for United Press International. He tired of Washington after three decades there and moved to Cincinnati where he lived for many years, part of the time with the then-Federated Department Stores (now Macy’s) as vice president/public relations and urban affairs. After leaving Federated he ran non-partisan money-raising campaigns in Cincinnati for a number of public institutions including the city itself for which he managed the only successful campaign there to raise earnings taxes. He wrote speeches for business and political leaders in Cincinnati and Washington and was a Sunday columnist for the Cincinnati Enquirer.
He and his wife moved from Cincinnati to California and spent six years there freelancing before moving to Maine in 2002. He has three children and two step-children.
“Seeking Mischief” is about love. Gerald and his wife Etty arrive for a much-postponed visit to his mother and stepfather at their ocean-front mansion. Each of the major characters has a transformational secret which is revealed to the others during the play. The two women--Lily and Etty--are continuing a battle for Gerald's body and soul that has been going on for many years. The men--Gerald and Steven--are trying to wrest their lives from the control of their wives. All are in search of love and needy for it, but to be loved, one must be loving and none of them has the capacity to do so, at least at the start. The sudden appearance of two guests--one expected and one not--trigger the revelations that are to come and force the major characters to face their want and need for love.
2008 Award Winner: Thomas A. Power ~ "Small Talk"
Playwright Thomas A. Power is a professor and member of the Theatre Department of the University of Southern Maine where he teaches acting, directing and play writing. As the artistic director of the nationally recognized Children’s Theatre of Maine during the 1970’s, he authored many plays performed by that professional company. Professor Power collaborated with Kurt Vonnegut Jr. in a rewrite of one of Vonnegut’s plays, “Happy Birthday, Wanda June” and staged a number of Vonnegut’s works during the 1980’s with notable actors including Tony Shalhoub. One of his original plays was the winner of the 1990 Moss Hart Award and a musical based on the life of the Irish pirate queen, “Grannia.” Power is a member of the Dramatist Guild.
In this thought provoking play, "Small Talk", the innocence of youth and the wisdom of age find common ground as they explore the questions which dominate their lives. Illness and the inevitable passing of loved ones make the need to understand seem time-driven and therefore the losses even more poignant.
Set in the library-study of the family home, a precocious granddaughter and tenacious grandfather share their concerns and views of parenting, religion, hypocrisy and love with spiritual guidance from Mimi, the insightful grandmother who only offers advice from behind the scenes.
2007 Award Winner: Eben Reilly ~ "Return to West Raven"
Eben Reilly lives in a nether world of fiction and drama playing out in her head as she shuttles between her home in Castleton, Vermont and her livelihood in New York City where she teaches for ASA Institute and CUNY. Having earned an MFA in Playwriting at Brooklyn College in the late 1980’s, she detoured into marriage and technical writing, primarily grants, proposals and press releases for public sculptor and husband Robert Ressler. When Reilly moved to Vermont with her husband to raise their three children, then two, three and five, she began freelancing children’s stories and poems, segueing into Young Adult fiction as her children reached their own adolescence. However, life has a way of circling back, and with Return to West Raven the author has returned to drama, recently completing her second play entitled: Bodies Whose Bodies.
Eben Reilly gratefully acknowledges her publisher, Trevor Lockwood of Braiswick, not only for publishing her YA novels, Daughter Dedannan and Wolf, but for his almost daily encouragement to keep writing. She also thanks Ben Ressler for his imaginative contribution to those novels, Teddy and Moriah for critiquing all her work, and Robert Ressler for showing her that in the Arts tenacity pays.
"Return to West Raven" takes place in a southern Vermont town where Adam Pierce, up from NYC for the summer, encounters his Gulf War dad's ghost among the wrecked cars and vans that litter his uncle’s back acres. Sapped by the lethargy and sickness of Gulf War Syndrome, and driven to despair by the government's refusal to acknowledge his disease, Richard Pierce had driven his VW Rabbit under the wheels of an oncoming tractor trailer truck when his son was only five-- a fatal accident that only now Adam understands was no accident, only now can the two face head on in an attempt to restore their wrecked lives.
2006 Award Winner: Clare Melley Smith ~ "The Writing Room"
Bitten by the theatre bug at age 9 (Dormouse, Alice in Wonderland), Clare played the great roles at Boston Children’s Theatre (Gretel!, Dorothy!). She earned a BA at Tufts University and an MA at Catholic University .
She has performed at Olney Theatre, Totem Pole Theatre, Harvard Summer Theatre, Poet’s Theatre, Tufts Arena Theater, Provincetown Playhouse, Irish Bronx Theatre Co., and the Irish Arts Center , NYC. Clare’s adaptation of John B. Keane’s Christmas Stories was performed by The Irish Bronx Theatre Co.
Her short pieces have won awards at Lamia Ink!, and her one act play, Looking for Nadia, was a finalist in the 2005 Henrico Competition (Virginia). Looking for Nadia, was given a staged reading by the Schoodic Arts Festival (Maine ).
She is currently a member of Charles Maryan’s Playwrights’/Directors’ Workshop in NYC. Clare did a playwriting residency with E.S.T., Lexington Center for the Arts, and was a member of Curt Dempster’s Playwriting Lab at E.S.T. in New York City. She is currently a member of Charles Maryan’s Playwrights’/ Directors’ Workshop in NYC. A short play, Sunday Sonata, was presented in an evening of short plays from the Maryan Workshop, at the Neighborhood Playhouse and is scheduled to be performed by American Irish Repertory Ensemble in Portland , Maine in January. Another short play, A Turn for the Worse, was performed at Baruch Performing Arts Center as part of a benefit evening for Animal Haven in New York City .
A member of The Dramatists Guild, Clare has written three full-length plays, a one act play, and several shorter pieces. Two new full-length plays are currently in development in the Maryan workshop.
Clare lives in Downeast Maine with her husband, poet and publisher Harry Smith, two cats, and two dogs.
The plot of "The Writing Room" is constructed in the form of a Celtic loop, a four-petaled design typical in Irish decorative arts: each of the four main characters is involved with all of the others, in an intricate and individual way. At the center of the pattern are the central issues of the play: loyalty vs. betrayal, and self-realization vs. self-destruction.
Two writers (Larry and Joe), chums since graduate school, have a monthly roundtable to discuss their current projects. When Larry invites Mitch, who is largely unsuccessful, to join the circle, the relationships are thrown off balance. Mitch learns that Joe enjoys world-wide renown under a pseudonym. The news renders Mitch catatonic, devoured by jealousy, to the extent that his marriage to Annie is in jeopardy. Larry, who has always been in love with Annie, participates in rehabilitating Mitch, although not with the purest motives. Annie is torn between loyalty and self-preservation, with the welfare of her child complicating the mix.
Joe also turns out to be helpful to Mitch, thereby displacing Larry as Mitch’s advisor. Just as Mitch pulls himself together and seems to have some real chance at success, Joe complicates matters by offering Mitch work and by becoming personally closer, perhaps too close. (…or is it only Mitch’s imagination?) Mitch’s relationship with Annie disintegrates further due to an ironic misunderstanding, and Mitch winds up living with Joe, also perhaps not with the purest motives. Larry finishes as odd-man-out in this theatrical game of Musical Chairs.
2005 Award Winner: Maura Campbell ~ "Self-Evidence"
Maura Campbell has been writing, directing and producing plays ever since her premature mid-life crisis eleven years ago. Since then she has written more than thirty plays, taught high school and middle school drama, college screenwriting, and is looking forward to being the drama director at Gailer School in Shelburne, Vermont this fall.
She was received various awards and fellowships to support her work including Lamson Howell Foundation, Chandler Center for the Arts, and the AIDA Foundation. Campbell twice was awarded Best Drama from The Vermont Association of Theaters and Theater Agents for her plays, The Trial of Mrs. Rebecca Peake, and Acquainted with the Night. The Trial was first produced at Chandler Music Hall, and then at Chelsea High School and had a third production at Haskell Opera House in Derby, VT. Another play, Cleaning Day, was produced by Chandler Music Hall as part of their Terezin Project, and was again produced by Northern Stage (formerly in Burlington, VT), and again by Doctor Price Productions in Wales where it won best new production award at the Berwyn Festival.
Her most produced play is Below the Waist, a one-act farce concerning a vampire who consults a psychiatrist about his foot fetish. It has been produced by colleges and high schools all over the country and in Europe.
Campbell lives in Burlington, VT with her partner, Rick, and his and her children.
I first stumbled on the story of Mrs. Rebecca Peake in the mid-1990’s during a casual perusal of The History of Chelsea (VT). In 1832, I read, she was convicted of murdering her 32 year-old stepson, Ephraim, and was sentenced to hang; however, on the night before her execution she managed to take an overdose of opium and the crowd of ten thousand was…”spared the sight of seeing a woman hanged.”
Although Chelsea Courthouse burned down a few years later, someone saw to it that her trial was published. I found a copy at the Vermont Historical Library and began the research that would take me many years and lead me to write four plays about this woman. The first play, The Trial of Mrs. Rebecca Peake, is a courtroom drama that details the witch hunt and conspiracy around her arrest and conviction.
However, Mrs. Peake did not testify at her own trial and I was faithful to that in the play. I always felt, though, that she needed to tell her story and almost ten years later – and closer to two hundred years later for Rebecca – I believe I have let her speak as well as I can.
The play begins in South Randolph, VT in 1850. Rebecca is, of course, dead, but she haunts the house that was formerly hers and is now occupied by Dr. William Pember, the son of her own doctor and the doctor that attended her stepson, Ephraim Peake. Into this house comes the young doctor’s bride, Fiona, daughter of William’s medical professor. William has met Fiona while on a trip to Boston to visit the elder widower. He returns to Vermont, ponders a bit, and returns to Boston to ask for Fiona’s hand in marriage. In the interim, the doctor has passed away leaving nineteen year old Fiona orphaned. William marries her and brings her to his home.
Fiona believes her mother died when she was born. What she can’t know, and what her husband discovers when he is summoned back to Boston by Fiona’s family solicitor, is that her mother is very much alive, but has been in a private asylum since Fiona’s infant brother accidentally drowned. Fiona’s father’s estate is insolvent, however, and William must decide whether he can raise the money to keep his mother-in-law in a relatively comfortably environment, or allow her to be turned over to the state system of Massachusetts. And whether to tell the wife he barely knows.
Working in the house is thirteen year old Helen O’Grady, also an orphan. She is a servant who has escaped the potato famine in Ireland, but not before seeing her entire family starve to death, except for her sister who had married an American named Tom who works as the handy man around the Pember place. Helen is Irish through and through, and not only believes in fairies and ghosts, she sees them. Helen’s brother-in-law Tom is revealed to be a brute and clearly has his eye on this very young girl.
Rebecca, meanwhile, relives the trial, not only the court trial, but the trial that was her life, beginning with her childhood. Her influence is felt in the house in many ways, though, and what is she putting in the cups of water, and why is William’s brother, Clayton, becoming deathly ill?
Scrappy little Helen, sheltered innocent Fiona, and the accused and abandoned Rebecca: Self Evidence is about the sudden explosion that occurs when their lives entwine, and how dependent their fates become on each other.
2004 Award Winner: Heidi Lebauer ~ "Crosswords"
Heidi Lebauer currently lives on the central Maine coast with her husband and two dogs, where she is always in search of an intriguing thread from which to create a new yarn. Ideas for her stories have developed out of everything from a silly radio commercial to an overheard conversation on the ferry; but most recently, a bad joke was the ultimate inspiration for her prize-winning stage play, Crosswords.
Heidi is a screenwriter and novelist as well as a new playwright. Her most recent accolades include acceptance into the 2004 Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference for her novel-in-progress, Frog. She has also been a semi-finalist in a number of international screenwriting competitions over the past year and has had her poetry published by SPS Studios. Crosswords is Heidi’s first stage play.
“Crosswords” is the humorous story of Lester and Marie, a lonely retired couple, stagnating from boredom. Their adult son and daughter decide not to come for Christmas. Crushed and disgruntled by their children’s disinterest in them, the couple decides things need to change. With the aid of National Geographic and props they take exotic, unaffordable trips and adventures in their own living room. The audience cheers them on and things begin to change when their children step in to surprise them with a classic twist on the story.
2002 Award Winner: John Callahan "In My Wildest Dreams"
Author, John Callahan, a native Philadelphian whose family was involved in theatrical organizations for years, is a graduate of Dartmouth and an alumnus of the Yale School of Drama. Not yet fully retired from a career in the organization and development of charitably supported organizations, he has served in senior administrative positions with the University of Chicago, Amherst College, Winterthur Museum and Gardens and the American Philosophical Society. Currently he is President of Carpenter, Shepherd and Warden, an institutional consulting firm.
Married for nearly forty-four years to his high school sweetheart, Virginia, they live in New London , New Hampshire , and seasonally in Martha’s Vineyard , where by his own account he “hikes frequently, plays tennis badly, writes daily and takes on entirely too many volunteer activities.”
In addition to acting in, directing and producing a number of plays in college and community theaters over the years, he has written several plays But only recently has he begun to do so in earnest. “In My Wildest Dreams” is both the first fruit of this new effort and the outgrowth of a succession of events of which he has first hand knowledge. His next play, “A Clear Blue Sky” has just been completed and is now in the final editing process.
“In My Wildest Dreams” takes place in a small New England town. Recently retired after thirty years of service to St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Ashton, Massachusetts, the Rector and his wife of many years confront their new lives with alternating dread and elation. They buy a home within the same town and busy themselves with volunteer activities, plans for travel and time to be spent with friends and family. But a hammer blow falls when he learns that he has been accused of serious impropriety. At first he does not know specifically what he is accused of, or by whom and under what circumstances. But gradually the story unfolds in the Bishop’s telling. Three women, two of whom are clergy and one of whom is a Senior Vestry Member, have accused him of sexual harassment, a charge that is at first vague but grows more clear as each person tells her own story with allegations differing in each case. Reputedly the result of actions over a fifteen-year period, the charges explode across the lives of all who are touched by them. They are by turns dramatic, poignant, humorous, sad, tender, cutting and absurd; the mystery is in whether or not these charges are true, and if true, by what standard and to what degree.
2001 Award Winner: Lois Roisman ~ "The Linden Tree"
We are saddened to learn that Lois Roisman, playwright, poet and philanthropist died of congestive heart failure on June 2 2008.
As well as being a playwright, Ms Roisman was also an essayist whose work has been heard on New Hampshire Public Radio. Her award-winning plays, which have been seen nationwide and in Canada, include "Nobody's Gilgul," "Scenes from a Seder," and "Changing Room." "Nobody's Gilgul" may be found in the anthology, "Making a Scene" and is taught in courses on Jewish drama.
Born in Texas, Roisman lived for many years in Washington before moving to New Hampshire in 1995. She was the founding executive director of Jewish Funds for Justice, a group that sought to expand Jewish philanthropy beyond its traditional concerns. One of its first grants was to a young Chicago activist named Barack Obama.
At the time of her death, Roisman was a research associate at the Brandeis Women's Institute at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., and was completing a series of poems she described as a personal dialogue with the tales of the Chasidim.
"The Linden Tree" takes place in the 1940’s during the German occupation of The Netherlands. In the midst of this, Letta, a young student, risks herself repeatedly to relocate Jewish babies whose parents have been sent to Westerbork. She is asked to care for two Jewish children and hide their father, Franz, from the Nazis. Unaware of the German plans for Dutch Jewry, they all believe that the war and the danger will end soon and they can then pick up the lives they left behind. But as the war drags on, Letta and Franz develop a love for one another that grows deeper as they confront the obstacles and dangers of war together. He has awakened in her a mature woman and she has offered him a love he has not experienced in his marriage. This bond sustains them as they endure Nazi searches, the death of loved ones and tests of their will to survive. In a desperate act, Letta kills a Nazi who is about to discover Franz’s hiding place. Franz and Letta determine to make a life together when the war is over.
On St. Nicholas Eve of 1944, when their resources and energies are close to depleted, they discover that the Nazis have destroyed most of the Jews of Holland, and that Franz’s little family will be one of the few remaining intact Jewish families in the country. Franz refuses to accept this information, understanding its implications for his future with Letta. She is forced to decide whether to follow her heart and in so doing destroy one of these families, or to go her own way and let Franz and his wife rebuild the fragile Jewish community that she has risked her young life to preserve. Through her struggle, we are asked to contemplate the complex nature of goodness and the forces that drive it.
The play was inspired by incidents in the life of Marion Pritchard, a rescuer of Jewish children during WWII and a resident of Vershire, Vermont.
Judges found this story “powerful and moving” with “excellent character development, tight dialogue and highly original presentation” of a difficult and dangerous time.
Additional Past Winners...
2000 Award Winner: "Chasin' Night Birds"by Jeri Pitcher of Readfield, MA
1999 Award Winner “The Touch” by Burgess Clark of Stowe, Vermont
1997 Award Winner “Put on Your Dresses of Red and Gold” by Luise van Keuren of East Poultney, Vermont
1995 Shared Award
“Small Stakes” is revised & now called “Box Set” by William P Steele of Falmouth, Maine
and “Dear Charles” by Tim McKay of Wilmington, Vt
1994 “Loving Lives” by Allen Haehnel of Hartford Vermont
1993 “The Legend of Pine Valley” by Alden Graves of Bennington, Vermont
1992 “Cherry Coke” by Jerry Stagg of Londonderry, NH
1991 “Twigs” by George Furth
1990 “Better” by Gloria Howell
1989 “Horse Trough Trouble” by Luise van Keuren of East Poultney, Vermont
1988 “Holy Matrimony” by Dutton Smith
1987 “Hard News” by David Moats of Salisbury, VT
1986 Temple Haunting Martlet by
1985 “Sandwalk” by David Paul Simon of Bennington VT
1984“And Still is Love” by Harry Granick
1983 “Out of Sight, Out of Murder” by Fred Carmichael of Dorset Vermont