2023 Writers Search Finalists
CATHERINE VOUVRAY Les Go!
After using a lesbian-dating app to research a new role and accidentally meeting Ms. Right, a lonely, middle-aged movie star must redefine what love and career mean to her before she loses both.
Catherine Vouvray grew up gay in God’s country, learning that life was laugh or die. She now uses a blend of humor and pathos in stories that center the marginalized, including older women and lesbians. She has attended labs with CineStory and Stowe, and was a fellow of the Middlebury Script Lab. Her scripts have placed in the finals of the Writer's Lab, Table Read My Screenplay, and Creative Screenwriting Unique Voices, as well as in the semifinals in many other competitions including the Film Empire Diversity Mentorship and the Universal Studios GTDI Program. Also an award-winning director of four shorts, she is now in production on her feature film debut, All Wounds. This fall, she will enroll at UT Austin on a Michener Fellowship for an MFA in Writing.
SHORT/WEB SERIES RUNNER-UP
JOHN MEDLIN Hey, Kiddo
Jonathan and Katye arrive at a studio in the basement of a cabin in the woods thinking that they are going to make the film they've been dreaming of. Little do they know, their strange host has a different type of film in mind. What follows is a darkly comic fight for Jonathan and Katye's life.
John Medlin (he/they) is an early-career playwright and dramaturg from Shreveport, Louisiana. He loves writing stories that celebrate the things that make us unique. They are currently wrapping up their Master's at the University of Glasgow with a thesis on the pyramid of hate, the pink triangle, and the overwhelming complexity and simplicity of the world today. When they aren't writing, John likes to spend time with his husband (Steven) and their Boston terrier (Karen). Connect with John on Facebook.
DAVIN ALLEN GRINDSTAFF The Bachelor Party
Four longtime friends retreat to a quaint little hotel in the country to celebrate the upcoming marriage of Richard and Steven with a bachelor party. Unbeknownst to them, they are not the only anticipated guests that weekend.
A classic farce with a slightly queer twist – okay, it’s a fairly sizable queer twist. A complicated love triangle. Doors galore. Mistaken identities and compromising positions abound.
Before becoming a playwright, Davin Grindstaff - a professor in Speech Communication at Georgia State University - published several scholarly articles on rhetoric and queer theory, as well as his first book, Rhetorical Secrets: Mapping Gay Identity and Queer Resistance in Contemporary America. He has written three plays, including: Dangerous Spaces; The Bachelor Party; and Open. He also created, wrote, and produced the Atlanta-based webseries, Walter Frisk Lets Go. Connect with Davin on Facebook.
EMILY McCLAIN The Poet, The Spy, and The Dark Lady
The two most celebrated writers of Elizabethan England, William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, shared many traits but one lesser-known shared quality was their mutual adoration for the incredible Emilia Bassano. Was she more than just the “Dark Lady” of the sonnets? Mired in the intrigue and treachery of the court of Queen Elizabeth I, these three sensitive souls find love and attempt to forge an uncertain path through darkness to carve out a lasting legacy together. The journey of these original “star-cross’d lovers” challenges our preconceived notions of authorship and the power in creating something beautiful with people you love.
Emily McClain (she/her) is a professional playwright, theatre educator, and a proud member of somebodies theatre collective, WriteStuffATL, and the Dramatists Guild. Born in Tupelo, MS, she lives in Atlanta. Her play Slaying Holofernes was co-winner of Essential Theatre’s New Play Festival and received a 2019 world premiere production. Julie’s Place was selected for the JOOK-MS Spotlight Series and was a semi-finalist with the New American Voices with The Landing Theatre Company. Terminus Andronicus was a finalist at the Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries competition. She received a Stripped Bare grant for What The Water Gave Me, which received the William Faulkner Literary Prize in 2022. Visit Emily on New Play Exchange HERE or connect on Twitter or Instagram.
HANK RION truth is...
Henry, his family’s emotional caretaker, travels to Florida to help his gay, alcoholic Dad get settled into the retirement mecca they have moved him into. Henry’s younger brother and his pregnant wife join Henry to make plans for the inevitable as the 2.3% of Dad’s liver that actually functions, is failing epically. Without warning, Mom arrives and all hell breaks loose. This is the first time the Robbins’ have all been in the same room together in over fifteen years. The tight-lipped, acid-tongued family’s seams start to violently rip, revealing the secrets lying dormant beneath the surface. The old southern adage, 'if you don’t talk about it, it doesn’t exist’ is about to be blown up!
Hank Rion is the Artistic Director of Peach State Summer Theatre and an Associate Professor of Theatre at Valdosta State University. Previously, Hank was the Artistic Director at The Henegar in Melbourne, FL. During his tenure there, he updated and premiered a production of the musical Cry Baby which is now being licensed around the world through Music Theatre International. This relationship led Hank to work with MTI on an update of the musical The Witches of Eastwick. He also directed the Florida Premieres of The Color Purple, Hand to God, It Shoulda Been You and Big Fish. At Peach State Summer Theatre Hank has directed Ring of Fire, Million Dollar Quartet, Mamma Mia and Little Shop of Horrors, among others. In 2023, PSST won 11 awards for Cinderella and Sister Act including Best Direction and Favorite Local Theatre. Hank holds his BFA in Theatre from Valdosta State University and his MFA in Directing from CUNY-Brooklyn College. This is his first play. Connect with Hank on Facebook or Instagram.
BARRY SMOOT Revelations
Texas. 1961. Joshua Faizan is the son of an Arab immigrant. When his body washes up on the banks of Mueller’s Lake, the play becomes a murder mystery with religious undertones. It is also a critique of America’s treatment of immigrants and marginalized communities throughout our history. Joshua represents what is best and worst about this nation. He is intelligent, vain, blindly loyal, difficult and full of a fire that makes him unique. His death and its revelation says much about who we are and what we have become.
Barry Smoot is an Artistic Associate of the landmark Paramount Theatre in Abilene, Texas and the Festival Director of the 24fps International Short Film Festival. He is a writer, director and designer for theatre, digital media, and film. He was born in Childress, Texas and grew up in the Austin, Texas area. He attended Abilene Christian University before interning with Manhattan Theatre Club at City Center in New York City, as well as PBS (NYC).
KAYLON ROSE WILLOUGHBY A Date to My Sister's Wedding
Cyndy had a hard enough time coming out to her family, she does not want to try to explain polyamory to them. So, her two partners—Maggie and Pen, a wilderness guide and a middle school teacher—take turns attending major holidays. But when her sister’s boyfriend gets a job offer in Scotland, Maggie and Pen’s schedules leave Cyndy without a date to a last-minute wedding. Confronted with a thunderstorm, an off-white wedding dress, and a lingering crush on the Maid of Honor, Cyndy finds the only two people who could complicate matters further are suddenly free—and they’re both on their way.
Kaylon Willoughby (any pronouns) is thrilled to now be a 2-time finalist in the Del Shores Foundation’s Writers Search. A graduate of Northwestern State University of Louisiana, their award-winning work been published in magazines such as Spellbinder and Argus. Kaylon is passionate about creating space for the LGBTQ+ community with their work, particularly in their home state of Louisiana.
SHERITA BOLDEN Wishes
As kids, Gabby promised her best friend, Char, that she would become a doctor and make her all better. Gabby became a doctor and Char, a professional artist. Life is beautiful until Gabby accepts a marriage proposal from long term boyfriend, Dr. Trent. Tension and jealousy build between the three of them until Gabby and Char question the feelings, they have for each other when an argument leads to a passionate kiss. And neither of them knows that as the time ticks off the clock, one of them may never be able to share how she truly feels.
Sherita Bolden is a Screenwriter, Filmmaker, Author and Podcaster who is passionate about strengthening and improving relationships through acceptance while dismantling the guilt and shame we carry with humor and lightheartedness. Sherita serves as a member of the Diversity Equity & Inclusion Council at her workplace and she’s also a part of the LGBTQIA+ community. Whenever she’s not writing, filmmaking, co-hosting the Yatra Sisters Podcast, practicing yoga, hiking, playing in water or spending time with friends and family, she’s passionately writing and making films that focus on acceptance and authenticity because as she always says, “There’s Room For Us All.”
Connect with Sherita on Instagram.
STEVE HOLBERT You, Me, & Evil
You, Me, & Evil is a horror feature about a closeted, bi nerd, who takes his boyfriend on vacation. But his ex-girlfriend crashes. Also, the place’s run by a cult. It’s Please Like Me meets Midsommar.
Steve Holbert comes from a long line of carnies and sex workers. He writes horror TV and features, where the girls and gays stop running, pick up the ax, and start taking names. Steve was a writers’ office assistant for At Home With Amy Sedaris and a writer’s assistant for Heidi Schreck, Evette Vargas, and others. He enjoys foster parenting, ghost hunting, and drag queens. MFA in Dramatic Writing, NYU, Tisch.
ROBBIE ROBERTSON Pretty Ugly
A self-described homely woman undergoes a television plastic surgery makeover to change her life. But after this ugly duckling becomes a swan and returns to her everyday life, she finds that being beautiful can get quite ugly.
Based in South Carolina, Robbie Robertson is a playwright, screenwriter, and a graduate of UCLA’s professional screenwriting program. He produced a sold out run of his original stage adaptation of the cult film, Satan In High Heels, in NYC with the TOSOS Theatre Company. His first short film as writer/director, Whistler’s Mother, (a dark fable based on the iconic painting), was produced in 2019 by the SC Indie Grants fund and enjoyed an active festival run (including LA’s Screamfest). In 2023, Robertson directed and produced his latest short screenplay, Common As Red Hair, which was a top 10 semifinalist and live table read selection at the 2021 Austin Film Festival Screenwriting Competition. Connect with Robbie on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
SHORT/WEB SERIES FINALISTS
JJ HAMILTON The Spaces They Built
When Jess, an older butch lesbian, starts to get iced out of her favorite bar by a younger crowd as the bar evolves into a drag destination, she feels resigned to leaving the community. The owner of the bar, however, does not want to see her go and works with one of their drag performers to convince his friend to come back and to send a message to the younger members of the community. The drag queen lets the crowd at the bar know the importance of respecting and uplifting queer elders.
JJ Hamilton is a poet, screenwriter, and filmmaker from Norwalk, CT. Xe studied journalism, film, and creative writing, and became an executive producer of the student comedy show Off The Wire, at the University of Miami. Xe came out publicly as queer, agender, and bisexual in 2019 after having a poem published in the non-binary anthology X Marks The Spot. In 2020, xe moved to Louisville, KY with xyr partner, Jake. JJ currently coaches axe-throwing.