jakub | July 13, 2023

AMERICAN THEATRE | 6 Short Plays by Teens Selected as ENOUGH! Plays to End Gun Violence Winners


Clockwise from top left: Niarra C. Bell, Pepper Fox, Sam Victor Lee, Victoria Wulf, Justin Cameron Washington, and HJ Kennedy.

WASHINGTON, D.C.: ENOUGH! Plays to End Gun Violence has announced the six winners of its national short-play competition for teen writers: The Smiles Behind by Niarra C. Bell (Virginia), A Call for Help by Pepper Fox (Kentucky), rOunds by HJ Kennedy (North Carolina), A Disorderly House by Sam Lee Victor (New Jersey), No Prospering Weapons by Justin Cameron Washington (Michigan), and The Matter at Hand by Valentine Wulf (Washington). Led by creator and artistic producer Michael Cotey, the ENOUGH! initiative calls on teens to confront gun violence by creating new works of theatre that will spark critical conversations and inspire meaningful action in communities across the country.

The six chosen plays will debut on Nov. 6 in Washington, D.C., at the Kennedy Center’s Theater Lab as the cornerstone event to a larger series of readings staged coast to coast on the same evening. This collaborative effort between Kennedy Center Social Impact, Kennedy Center Education will feature a coalition of professional theaters, including Signature Theatre, Arena Stage, Round House Theatre, Imagination Stage, Olney Theatre Center, 1st Stage, The Theatre Lab, and Mosaic Theater.

“Great art allows us to see the human condition in new and unique ways, and these young theatremakers are an inspiration for using their distinctive voices to shine a light on the gun violence epidemic,” said Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Kennedy Center vice president and artistic director of Social Impact.

ENOUGH! received 244 submissions from 36 states this past spring when it called on teens to write 10-minute plays on gun violence. This year’s plays were selected by nationally recognized dramatists Idris Goodwin, Lauren Gunderson, Zora Howard, Samuel D. Hunter, David Henry Hwang, Octavio Solis, and Lloyd Suh. Each winning playwright receives a $500 stipend sponsored by gun violence prevention organization Change the Ref, has their play published and licensed through Playscripts, Inc., and receives from the Dramatists Guild both a membership and craft training.

“The quality of this year’s submissions was truly impressive, in terms of artistic quality as well as the diversity of stories and communities represented,” says returning panelist judge David Henry Hwang. “These exciting and inspiring young dramatists show us once again that our nation needs their voices to say ‘enough’ to the plague of gun violence.”

ENOUGH! is making the plays available for free as part of its nationwide reading on Nov. 6. Schools, theatres, and community organizations of all sizes are invited to stage local readings, and to use these as an opportunity to seek out meaningful partnerships and to pair the plays with a community engagement component that addresses the realities of gun violence specific to their area.

“These plays provide powerful insight into the perspective of a generation for whom the threat of gun violence has become ubiquitous with going to school growing up,” says ENOUGH! creator Michael Cotey, “Performing them across the country exactly a year from the next presidential election is an urgent reminder that gun violence remains a vital issue for many young voters coming of age next November.”

ENOUGH!’s goal is to have a reading in every state. More details on the winning playwrights, their plays, and how communities can join the Nationwide Reading can be found at enoughplays.com/reading.

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