Georgette Kelly Wins First ‘Hope on Stage’ Playwriting Contest

Cornell University and the University of Notre Dame have announced Georgette Kelly as the winner of the new “Hope on Stage” international playwriting contest. Her play "I Carry Your Heart" was selected from among 800 submissions. Kelly will receive a $10,000 cash prize, and her play will be presented at both the Hangar Theatre in Ithaca, N.Y. (April 27–30, 2017), and at the Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles (May 18–20, 2017).

“Hope on Stage” is part of the Hope and Optimism initiative of Cornell and Notre Dame. Funded by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation, the project aims to explore the theoretical, empirical, and practical dimensions of hope, optimism, despair, pessimism, and related states through creative projects.

Andrew Chignell, Cornell associate professor of philosophy, says that “those of us working on the Hope and Optimism Initiative are really excited about the 'Hope on Stage' aspect of the project.  We’ve been funding work by social scientists and philosophers that examines the nature, role, and importance of states like hope and despair in our lives.  But we wanted to have a more 'public' component to the grant as well -- and this, together with our 'Hope on Screen' contest -- is it."

Chignell notes that the response to their call for submissions was "incredible": with almost 800 submissions, they had to double the size of the expert committee just to read through all of them. 

“Hope is such a central part of our lives, and so I was very eager to see the creative ways that hope was portrayed onstage,” said Samuel Newlands, associate professor of philosophy at Notre Dame, in a statement. “I was amazed by how much excitement the competition generated in the playwriting community."

Kelly’s other plays include "Faith in a Fallen World," "In the Belly of the Whale, "how to hero or the subway play," and an adaptation of Jeanette Winterson’s "Lighthousekeeping." Her play "Ballast" was featured on The Kilroys List 2015, and was chosen as a finalist for the Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition. Her work has been developed by the Kennedy Center, the National New Play Network, the D.C. Source Festival, the Alliance Theatre, terraNOVA Collective, Taffety Punk, Diversionary Theatre, Capital Stage, TOSOS, Prologue Theatre, New Leaf Theatre, and Chicago’s DCASE. She is a 2016 Lambda Literary Fellow, and a member of the Dramatists Guild of America and Writers Workspace. She holds a B.A. in Performance Studies from Northwestern University, and an MFA in Playwriting from Hunter College.

Steve Moulds received the second place prize of $3,000, David Myers received $2,000 for third place, and Matthew Wells was awarded the fourth place prize of $1,000. Each of the runner-ups will have staged readings of their plays as part of the Bootleg Theater’s first “Hope on Stage” festival.

“The foundation’s financial support is extraordinarily meaningful to me at this moment in my career,” said Kelly in a statement. “It will allow me new flexibility to travel, research, and pursue playwriting opportunities in a way that would not otherwise have been possible, I’m also very grateful for the chance to bring my play 'I Carry Your Heart' to productions on both coasts.”


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