2021 Writers Search Semifinalists
ANDREW LYMAN BLACK Big Man On Campus
“Killer “Kerrgian, the homophobic quarterback of the Lincoln High football team is magically transformed into a homosexual overnight when a passing fairy godmother grants a gay classmate’s vengeful wish. The football star gets to learn what life is like on the other side of the pom-poms; and Ricky, the gay student, learns a few lessons about manliness as well.
Andrew Black resides in Columbia, Missouri, working on a PhD in Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Missouri-Columbia. He was raised in Indianapolis and moved to San Francisco in 1979 to explore his desire to date men and not women. His first play Porn Yesterday told the story of a gay male porn star who wants to change his life. Porn was co-written with Patricia Milton. Andrew completed his MFA in playwriting at Ohio University in 2012 and returned to Indianapolis. He began successfully teaching playwrights at the Indiana Writers Center. His success in this arena led him to pursue his PhD and study the pedagogy of dramatic writing. He is working on a play inspired by stories of women from the Bible…How to Build an Ark. He recently completed an autobiographical one-person show called What Same Sex Marriage Means to Me.
NATHAN D. BLANKENSHIP Broken Road
Two childhood friends – a soulful white songstress and a black musical virtuoso – rise above their troubled upbringings in the Mississippi Delta and find success in the tumultuous southern music industry in the 1970s. When they experience the pitfalls of fame, they turn to each other for creative support, only to discover they may be more than each other’s biggest inspiration.
Nathan D. Blankenship grew up on a farm in the Mississippi Delta and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. After college, he moved to Hollywoodland to pursue a career as a screenwriter and worked as a PA, writer’s assistant, and development assistant. After 6 years, feeling uninspired and missing his southern roots, he moved to Atlanta in 2013 and fell in love with the city’s palpable creative energy – which has inspired many of his shorts, plays, and scripts. He was a runner-up in the 2019 Creative Loafing Fiction Contest with his short story The Janitor. He wrote and directed a one-act play titled Lyft of Love for Atlanta Micro-Theater (now RoleCall Theater) and was runner-up in Film Impact Georgia’s May 2020 logline contest with his screenplay The Final Touch. He was a quarterfinalist in The Script Lab’s Screenplay Contest in 2020 with his short Lucky Day and a top 10 finalist for Film Impact Georgia’s Fall 2020 Filmmaker grant. His short script The Final Touch was recently featured on the episode "Three Southerners, No BBQ" of the podcast The Green Light. The pitch for his feature Broken Road was an official selection in the 2021 Script Summit screenplay contest and currently is in the top 36% of projects on Coverfly.
JOANNA BROOKS Backwards, in High Heels
In 1993 southern California, professor Charlie McMath turns to his famous, fanatical cousin (the aging Ginger Rogers) in a desperate final attempt to keep his feral 13-year-old daughter from self-destructing following a nasty divorce.
Joanna Brooks began her creative career as a professional dancer and choreographer. In 2005, she founded and directed Brooks & Company Dance, an award-winning dance theater company in Atlanta, Georgia. In 2013, Joanna completed her MFA in Film & Television at the Savannah College of Art & Design. She has since worked as a writer, producer and director, continuing to develop her own projects while freelancing. After four years in unscripted television development, she now works as a writer and producer in the true-crime genre. Her works has been seen on Oxygen, Investigation Discovery, TV One, and The Weather Channel. She has also been a contributing writer at the Georgia Hollywood Review. In her spare time, Joanna continues to work on her own feature screenplays. Joanna’s love and respect of her queer community has greatly informed the creation of unscripted projects in the world of drag cabaret, as well as her own narrative screenplays.
Connect with Joanna on Instagram.
EMILY McCLAIN Among The Spirits
Working alongside master illusionist Harry Houdini, Rose Mackenberg exposes fake spiritualists running rampant in 1920's New York City until she faces a darkness more powerful than she’s ever known: her own guilt.
Emily McClain is a professional playwright, theatre educator, and a proud member of Working Title Playwrights and the Dramatists Guild. Her play Slaying Holofernes was co-winner of Essential Theatre’s New Play Festival and received a world premiere production in 2019. Her full length comedy Julie's Place was selected for the JOOKMS Spotlight Series in July 2020 and went on to be a semi-finalist with the New American Voices with The Landing Theatre Company. Her tragedy Terminus Andronicus was a finalist at the American Shakespeare Center Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries competition in 2019. Her Risk Theatre play Children of Combs and Watch Chains was named a finalist for the Risk Theatre International Competition in August 2020 and was produced by the Quarantine Players in February 2021. She is published through Next Stage Press and more of her work may be found on New Play Exchange.
HEATHER McPHAUL Raggedy Ann Heart
In 1970s rural West Texas, twelve-year-old Lindy Logan has big dreams of becoming a pop star. She strives to acclimate to a new school, and fantasizes about somehow getting rid of her little sister, Jo. But all of these desires lead to her biggest dream of all – acquiring her momma’s unconditional love. Because Momma was once second runner-up in the Miss Texas pageant and twice named Most Beautiful of Turnip High School, Lindy is certain that the path to becoming Momma’s favorite child is to become famous herself. If Jo, a dead-ringer for Elizabeth Taylor and aspiring model, gains fame first, Momma will focus all her love on her youngest, and Lindy’s greatest fear will be realized – that she is nothing, a nobody. An untalented, unwanted, unloved nobody.
Heather McPhaul was born in Lamesa, Texas in 1962 and grew up on a cotton farm and cattle ranch in the West Texas county of Borden. She graduated at the top of her high school class – of twenty! After graduating Magna Cum Laude from Texas Tech University, she moved to New York City and became a page at NBC long before Kenneth ever came to 30 Rock. As an actress, Heather has recurred on VEEP, Bosch, and Providence. Heather has over seventy guest star appearances, including 9-1-1, Silicon Valley, Will & Grace, and the upcoming comedy Sprung. In film, she can be seen in the Harrison Ford film version of The Call of the Wild. Heather went “back to her roots” as a stunt woman at a western theme park in Tucson, Arizona. There, she learned to stunt fight, shoot a pistol, and fall off a three-story building for three shows a night. This inspired her memoir Fire in the Hole: A Year in the Life of the World’s Sorriest Stuntwoman, penned under the pseudonym Colleen Kelli. Heather has also written the novel Raggedy Ann Heart which she hopes to produce as a feature film.
FORREST BLAINE CALLAWAY Unbridled Passions
Unbridled Passions is a Tennessee Williams-esque (an homage, if you will) comedy set in rural Louisiana in 1915. It is the story of Jefferson Stramford and Willie Viola, two older and wealthy Southern gay lovers who own and operate a farm estate. The three-act, seven-character play follows their exploits as they strive to marry off their straight estate foreman (and "adoptive" son and heir) Hank in order to prevent their estate from falling into the wrong hands.
Forrest Blaine Callaway is currently a Virginian who teaches Special Education English at the high school level. He has been involved in theatre (and writing for the theatre) since he was a child, having performed in over 100 plays and musicals, directed over 80 plays and musicals, and written about 30 plays and musicals. He is looking forward to retirement in several years when he can devote himself full-time to writing and theatre arts. Forrest has also written a published children's picture book titled What I'd Miss... which is about truancy and unnecessary absence from school. Forrest greatly thanks Mr. Shores and Mr. Collins for this wonderful opportunity.
TIM DIAL Vawnore's Miracle
Vawnore’s Miracle is a broad comedy about self-identity, morality, and cheerleadin’. Set in low-class, rural east Tennessee, Shirleen (a working single mother) and her two children, Miracle (a cheerleader wanna-be), and Maple (a transgender lost soul), strive to find themselves and inner happiness, struggling against the quirky, colorful, and often hateful, trashy trailer-park culture unique to the rural south. Vawnore's Miracle depicts a world where bullies and religion rule, boys don’t cry, and becoming a cheerleader is a great way to “be all that you can be,” especially when God has decreed it is your destiny. Each character, in their own way, takes a giant leap of faith to “step outta the boat, an' walk on the water” just like Ol’ Mamaw would’a wanted ‘em to.
Tim Dial hails from east Tennessee in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains and has an obsessive fondness for writing about the region. During his final year as an undergraduate, one of Tim's plays, Miracle, won first place in the Wichita State University Theatre Annual National Playwrighting Competition, and they successfully produced the play, which one critic positively described as a "John Waters meets Beth Henley." He has since written numerous original works and several adaptations that have been produced, including children’s theatre. Dial writes mostly comic plays, and he is a professional costume designer with his work seen at the Clarence Brown Theatre in Knoxville, Utah Shakespeare Festival, and Great Rivers Shakespeare Festival in Minnesota. Dial was a tenured Associate Professor of Theatre at Florida Atlantic University, and has even published a textbook, Basic Millinery for the Stage.
HANK GRAHAM Daniel and Shirley Write the National Epic!
Daniel and Shirley Write the National Epic! follows the titular characters' absurd, ill-fated cross-country roadtrip in the summer after they graduate college. The play explores intimacy, isolation, and the tragedy of deep platonic devotion.
Hank Graham is a student at Yale University. His work centers around telling queer stories through a distinctly Camp aesthetic lens.
Connect with Hank on Instagram.
SAGE MARTIN & AARON ROITMAN Wrought
Reid swims through memories, wishes, and would-be's following the sudden death of his partner Sam. Reid wrestles doubt - did he contribute to Sam's overdose? Did he miss the warning signs? Meanwhile, Reid's sister Iris is days away from her wedding. Iris does her best to balance her excitement against Reid's grief and their father's dementia. Timelines bend and fray at the edges as the siblings dig into the past and re-examine their lives. What is real, what is imagined, what is wished for? ...Are you sure?
Sage Martin (She/Her/Mx) is an actor and writer devoted to human rights, Southern folklore, and ghost stories. She graduated from Paul McCartney’s Institute for Performing Arts (Liverpool, UK), performed at the Sam Wanamaker Festival (The Globe, London), and recently joined the Radical Hospitality Team at Actor's Theater of Louisville. She has had the distinct honors of presenting at the StateraArts National Conference, testifying in Washington D.C. for survivors of abuse, and speaking on tour with Senator Bernie Sanders. Sage's work is fueled by late nights, Moonpies, and the people she is fortunate/tasked/blessed to know.
Aaron Roitman is an actor/writer based in NYC, but comes from Louisville, KY. He graduated with a BFA in acting from Wright State University (raider up!!) He’s written multiple short films, short stories, and has now written this play in collaboration with the essence of life itself, Sage Martin. Aaron likes long walks on the beach, dogs, and movies.
Connect with Aaron on Instagram.
JOHN ELRIDGE MEDLIN Coming Out
In the midst of rehearsals, a theater company is trying to bring attention to the horrors the LGBTQIA+ community faced through history, but infighting derails these plans leaving the company no choice but to scrounge together whatever performance they can.
John Medlin is an emerging playwright from Shreveport, Louisiana. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Theatre from Northwestern State University as well as an Associates in Theatre from Bossier Parish Community College. He was recently accepted to various masters programs and plans to attend a program in Scotland for a MA in Playwrighting and Dramaturgy. He enjoys writing Drama, Horror, and Comedy. Outside of writing he likes to spend time with his fiancée Steven and their pet Boston Terrier Karen.
SHORT/WEB SERIES SEMIFINALISTS
LIAM GARDNER Transcend
Transcend is about a day in the life of a transgender man as he tries to combat his crippling feelings of inadequacy.
Liam Matthew Gardner is a proud queer & FTM artist from Louisiana. He just completed his B.F.A. in Theatre Production & Design from Northwestern State University of Louisiana. Liam can always be found immersing himself in some form of work, whether it be writing, acting, theatrical lighting, painting, or anything in between. He is passionate about telling stories about transgender people and he will continue to do just that for as long as he is able to do so. Liam’s motto in life is to lead with warmth, love, and gratitude; he seeks to make the world a little brighter with each passing day.
TAYLOR BRYCE TURNER Fools Game (Ep. 1 & 2)
After being brought to a Halloween party by his friends, Joel has a chance encounter with Rachel. Over the course of the night, Joel and Rachel embark on a whacky and whimsical adventure where they learn to find themselves, to let go of their past, and true friendship.
Taylor was born and raised in southern Arkansas. He graduated from the University of Central Arkansas with a degree in digital filmmaking and production. It was during his time at university that he discovered his love for screenwriting. He aspires to be a feature screenwriter so that he can share his ideas with the world. He is also of average height, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, a Leo, and very witty and/or sarcastic on occasion.
PAM WOODS Okie Love
A woman has to deal with her relationship issues while taking care of her sister who has cancer.
I have always lived in Oklahoma. Trish and I have been married for 2 years, together for seventeen!!! I have been a shipping manager for a total of 19 years. I love animals and enjoy being near a park. Just thought I would write something that I have always wanted to watch!
Connect with Pam on Instagram.