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2023 Writers Search Semifinalists

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2023 Writers Search Semifinalists


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Ellie Black First Girl 

A suicidal teenager recovering from a recent attempt accepts an invitation to the popular kids’ weekend cabin trip, where she starts to believe that her horror screenplay is coming to life.

Ellie Black is a poet, screenwriter, and essayist originally from Arkansas. She’s currently a PhD student in Creative Writing at the University of Mississippi, where she also received her MFA in poetry. She was a Second Rounder in Drama Teleplay Spec at the 2022 Austin Film Festival for "Jughead’s Weird Fantasy" (Riverdale), and her poetry and essays can be found in Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Pinch, Mississippi Review, The Offing, Black Warrior Review, and elsewhere.

Visit Ellie's website HERE or connect on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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BRENT DUNCAN Homeland Insecurity

When an undercover Homeland Security agent is assigned to track the most dangerous woman in the world, he falls in love with her and accidently apprehends the real criminals.

Brent Duncan is an award-winning maverick director/writer. He keeps up a fun acting career as well and lives a life of painful humor and satire. Home is Atlanta with his soul-mate-husband of thirty-eight years and their three cats.

Connect with Brent on his website HERE or on Twitter or Instagram.

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When a clumsy accident leaves his anti-gay grandma with amnesia, a closeted aspiring DJ convinces her — and the community — that she’s really a gay rights activist.

Courtney Harrell is a screenwriter and novelist currently living in Oklahoma City. She is also a film industry veteran who has worked on hundreds of projects including the Academy-Award winning film Boyhood. She writes heartwarming, feel good stories for young adults that, whether they are LGBTQ, Coming-of-Age, or Adventure, explore the empowering themes of figuring out who you are, overcoming self-doubt, and being your true self. 

Connect with Courtney on her website HERE or on Facebook or Instagram.

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An unhealthy relationship, a dangerous midlife crisis, and vicious game of blackmail intermingle and unravel beneath the surface of a suburban town.

Born and raised as the son of a coal miner, Adam Murphy hails from the hills of Eastern Kentucky. Inspired by the lyrics of the Bronski Beat’s “Smalltown Boy,” he escaped to the bright lights of Los Angeles in his mid-twenties, where his job with a corrupt lawyer inspired him to write his first screenplay. His experiences in these contrasting landscapes play a crucial role in his creative work. He currently resides in Nashville, TN where he manages a team whose mission is to help TN and KY get to zero new HIV infections. When he’s not advocating for his patients, he is writing, eager to share his stories with the world.

Connect with Adam on Instagram.

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CHASELYN WADE Sweet Kentucky T

When Chelsea’s father dies, this big city Kentucky babe returns home to the country. Amidst dealing with her crazy family and even crazier ex, she finds unlikely love in the arms of local hunk, J.C.  In order for their love to flourish, Chelsea must come to terms with cultural shame surrounding her trans identity and accept that if J.C. is going to be a part of her life in any real way, he’s got to be ok with things getting a bit messy.  “Sweet Kentucky T” tells the story of a woman accepting that she does deserve happiness, and we see how support from unlikely sources can help along the way.

Chaselyn Wade's roots are planted in the foothills of Appalachian Kentucky. A small town named Carlisle, with a population less than 2000. Growing up she never imagined where life would take her, and take her it did, all the way to Dallas, Texas. She became involved in the thriving makeup and hair industry, where she would use her skills in film and television. She began doing small cameos on camera, mostly consisting of stereotypical caricatures written by non-trans people. Not seeing positive representation for the trans community, she decided it was time to start telling her own life stories and of those around her.

Connect with Chaselyn on Facebook or Instagram.


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A female cosplayer and a woman dealing with early onset menopause unite to battle some jerks on a metro train. The heroics are awesome, but moving on from the trauma-inducing men in their daily lives proves more difficult. Can Megs and Casey make enough mental and emotional space to fall in love? Or - in true anime fashion - is LOVE what will actually end up saving them both?

Bethany Dickens Assaf is a freelance playwright, dramaturg, and theatre artist, and the co-founder of Whiskey Theatre Factory in Orlando, Florida, a collective for emerging and untapped voices. Almost 100 of her plays have been performed or read across the country including her twisty sci-fi play, The Consciousness, which has been performed at over 10 fringe festivals across the country and won Best Play at the Tampa Bay Theatre Festival.

Connect with Bethany on Facebook. 

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Glory/God, the Virgin Mary, and lesbian playwright Liv have known each other through many incarnations over millennia. Glory/God wants Liv to be the first artificial intelligence with a soul, but Liv rebels as Mary cunningly aids them both through the fogs of her substance abuse.

F. Lynne Bachleda attended LaMama Umbria International Playwrights Retreat, and LaMama New York subsequently staged a 2017 reading of full-length Stolen. Smith & Krauss published “A Tale of Two in One,” in The Best Short Plays of 2017. In 2019 Stolen was produced in London UK. In 2021, the Beverly Hills Theater Guild’s national Julie Harris Playwriting Competition awarded Stolen 2nd place. A 2021The Atlantic Center for the Arts residency helped develop Do I Have To?. Connect with Lynne through her website HERE.

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Are We There Yet is a modern day love story between two sophomores in college, Sean and Mitch. This play, set in the South, explores the reality of long distance and technology in present day queer relationships.

Logan Collins is a Texan born playwright and a senior acting major at the University of Oklahoma. He strives to bridge the gap between his southern identity and his gay identity through playwriting. He is interested in telling queer stories set in places where it may not be celebrated to do so. 

Connect with Logan on Instagram.

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What does a Southern Baptist preacher, a human chicken named Danalana Parmesana, and a gay exorcism all have in common? Well, this play. After an alarming incident occurs between their children, two very different sets of parents must come together to rectify the situation, ultimately resulting in them confronting the guilt and shame around their wants and desires.

Born and raised in Nashville, TN, Preston Crowder (He/They) is a playwright-actor-director-songwriter with a passion for telling stories surrounding the vast experiences of being Black and Queer in the United States. Production history includes Don't Look Black (Tennessee Playwrights Studio, 2022), Break Your Chains (Juilliard School, 2017), and Flames (University School of Nashville, 2016). Preston is a past fellow for the Tennessee Playwrights Studio. Preston holds an MFA degree from The New School of Drama and a BFA degree from Oberlin College, where they currently serve as a Visiting Professor of Theater and Africana Studies.

Connect with Preston on their website HERE or on Instagram.

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JOHN MABEY Impossible Theories Of Us

Two people unite against a crisis and divide on how to break through. But sometimes fantasy is the perfect reality for impossible futures. Gina, a transgender woman, and Keith, a cisgender man, navigate the joys and complexities of life over the course of their relationship. But as emerging technologies offer the chance to connect with those who’ve passed away, both must decide what being alive truly means.

John Mabey’s plays have been produced on stage in 7 countries and throughout the United States. Recent honors include the ‘2021 Panowski Playwriting Award,’ the ‘2022 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award,’ and the ‘2022 Getchell New Play Award.’ In each of the past 3 years, they also had plays published in Smith & Kraus’ Best 10-Minute Plays, Best Women’s Monologues and Best Men’s Monologues. When not writing, they enjoy teaching and performing improvised comedy and true storytellingVisit John's website HERE or connect on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.


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A quarantined 30-year-old man, who is dying of AIDS in Atlanta in the mid-80s, reflects on his life and grapples with his mortality as his palliative care nurse struggles with safely providing care to a suffering young man yearning for physical comfort.

Nathan D. Blankenship grew up in the ass middle of nowhere Missouri, a square gay peg in a conservative county full of decent but small-minded, round holes. Nathan prides himself on telling diverse, nuanced Southern stories from a new South perspective while, in some way, examining the rich but sordid history of the region. The pitch for his screenplay Broken Road was an official selection in the 2021 Script Summit competition, and the screenplay was a semifinalist in the inaugural Del Shores Foundation Writers Search.  After a seven-year stint in LA, he now calls Atlanta home and feeds off of the city's vibrant, palpable creative energy and the near year-round humidity.  He lives and creates by the creed of OutKast - “The South got something to say…”

Connect with Nathan on Facebook or his Instagram.

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SHERITA BOLDEN The Lesbian X-Perience

When an immature forty something, recently out lesbian, loses her girlfriend and job at the same time, she makes it her mission to win her girlfriend back, one experience at a time. 

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.

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When a young man is sent to conversion camp, he bands together with a queer motley crew resisting the urge to straighten up.


Matt Morse (he/him) is a product of the Midwest, the South, and the University of Kentucky. His short works have been produced at Secret Theatre (NYC), 938collective (NYC), StageQ’s Capital Q Festival, 2023 Landford New American Play Festival, University of Kentucky, and the Kennedy Center National Playwriting Program. Endless thanks to the Del Shores Foundation for the stories and storytellers they are nurturing.

Connect with Matt's website HERE or on Instagram.

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