A unique national competition that helps student playwrights make the leap to the world of professional theater, the Kendeda Graduate Playwriting Competition (GPC) was initiated by the Alliance Theatre in 2003. The impulse for the competition was to bridge the often ten year gap between earning an MFA and productions at a leading regional LORT theatre. Results from the Kendeda winners and finalists have been astonishing as these young writers move from the Alliance to national careers and have scattered throughout the United States. It’s an exciting program that is changing the career paths of writers and creating a family of writers who (we hope) consider the Alliance an artistic home from their first year out of school through the rest of their careers.
Each year, students from approximately 30 graduate playwriting programs across the U.S. submit plays to the competition. Alliance’s in-house panel of readers carefully evaluates the scripts and selects finalists, who advance to the next level of the competition. Those finalist manuscripts are sent to three theater artists of national renown, and they, along with leaders of the Alliance Theatre, choose the winner. The grand prize enjoyed by that winner is seeing a professional production of his or her work on the Alliance Theatre’s 200-seat Hertz Stage. During the 2004-05 season, the Competition became the Kendeda Graduate Playwright Competition after a generous grant from the Kendeda Foundation secured the competition’s future at the Alliance.
The inaugural year's winning play was Day of the Kings, by Daphne Greaves, and it was produced in the 2004-05 season. …,” said, Said, by Ken Lin, the winner during the contest’s sophomore year, was produced during the 2005-06 season. Darren Canady’s winning play False Creeds had its world premiere in the 2006-07 season. Tarell McCraney’s play In the Red and Brown Water, was produced in February 2008. In the Red and Brown Water has gone on to be produced at the McCarter Theatre in New Jersey, The Public Theatre in New York, the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago and at the Young Vic in London. In February 2009 the Alliance produced Julia Brownell’s contest winner, Smart Cookie. Brownell wrote the film script of F*cking Engaged and writes for the TV show Hung. The 2010 production of Ismail Khalidi’s Tennis in Nablus met with a warm critical response and we are excited about Khalidi’s future as a distinct and important Arab-American voice. 2011's winning play, Carapace by David Robinson, received a beautiful production directed by award-winning actress and director Judith Ivey. The 2012 winner, The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls by Meg Miroshnik, was a runner-up for the prestigious Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.
The National Graduate Playwright Competition has enjoyed partnership opportunities across the country in support of bringing the work of these writers to a national audience. Starting in 2004, the winning play has received a workshop with a leading national development center (O’Neill National Playwright Conference, the Playwright’s Center in Minneapolis) and, since 2010, a partnership with the Kennedy Center and NNPN, or peer theatres committed to new work (The New Group, the Goodman Theatre, Centre Theatre Group).
Starting in 2006, the Alliance launched an annual reading series in New York which is a competition playwright showcase and a chance for the Alliance to partner with New York’s new play development community. Every year, Fox Theatricals has presented a reading of the “most commercial” project to remind the commercial community of the importance of new work and new voices. Our nonprofit partners include Playwrights Horizons, s.p.f., the Public Theater, New York Theatre Workshop, Primary Stages, and the Lark Play Development Center. Actors in the Kendeda readings have included Julie White, Mamie Gummer, Veanne Cox, Felix Solis, Daphne Rubin Vega, Quincy Tyler Bernstein, Brenda Wehle and Larry Pine. Directors include Maria Goyanes, Kamilah Forbes, John Gould Rubin, Peter Dubois, Jeremy Cohen, Carl Hancock Rux, KJ Sanchez, Lisa Peterson and Leigh Silverman. We are especially proud of our National judge roster, which includes Polly Carl, Michael Kaiser, Competition winner Tarell Alvin McCraney, Jose Rivera, Pearl Cleage, Bob Falls, Curt Columbus, Oskar Eustis, Jim Nicola and the late August Wilson.
The Alliance is proud of the number of Competition alumni returning for productions in Atlanta. In 2009, Sarah Gubbins’s finalist play Fair Use had its world premiere at Actors Express, a production listed in both the AJC and Creative Loafing as one of the top ten productions of 2009. Finalist Megan Gogerty starred in her one-woman show for Synchronicity Hilary Clinton Got Me Pregnant. Gogerty’s play Love Jerry was produced by Actor’s Express in 2006. Matt Smart’s The Thirteenth of Paris was produced by Horizon Theatre in 2009 and the Alliance produced Josh Tobiessen's Spoon Lake Blues in 2011.