As the call for the Jane Chambers Playwriting Award goes out for 2021, we’re reminded that the pandemic preempted a post about 2020 MFA alum Olivia Matthews, whose play Absentia was the 2020 student award winner. Furthermore, current third-year MFA Skye Robinson Hillis‘s play Bury the Rest was runner up in the 2020 competition. Congratulations to both!
STUDENT CONTEST WINNER 2020
ABSENTIA by Olivia Matthews: After living in the secluded Florida woods for eight years with only her overprotective father and pet rabbit Robyn, 20-year-old Esther Harris longs to be reunited with her long-lost mother. Meanwhile, only miles away, Diana Baines gathers with her community to mourn the loss of her young daughter, Neoma. When Esther’s father kills her beloved Robyn, she flees from their cabin and returns to her hometown, turning Diana’s grief on its head. Soon, their lives collide as Esther learns more and more of how everyone around her has moved on in her absence. And as she is haunted by a mysterious death from her path, Esther must fight to reclaim her space and identity in her old home.
STUDENT HONORABLE MENTION
BURY THE REST by Skye Robinson Hillis: Following the death of their 17-year-old daughter Lucy in a mass high school shooting, friendly exes Margot and Colin find themselves at a moral impasse. Colin’s position as a Republican U.S. Senator makes it difficult for Margot and the rest of the family to reconcile the root of their grief with his continued support of the NRA. As Margot and Colin intertwine themselves during the grieving process, their relationship takes a dark turn that leaves Colin’s new wife Laura on the outside and their remaining daughter Samantha to navigate this brave new world on her own. Each member of the family tumbles deeper into the cavernous rabbit hole of devastation, loneliness, and anger while Lucy, inexplicably caught between the living and the dead, must confront the truths of her short life while facing the terrifying looming reality that is her death. As they navigate the intimacies of their reforged relationship and rebuild themselves as a family, it may in fact be Lucy who decides their fate.
THE JANE CHAMBERS AWARD recognizes new feminist plays and performance texts created by women and genderqueer writers for the stage that present a feminist perspective and contain significant opportunities for female performers. We welcome plays that experiment with form and/or that feature non-binary characters. This annual award, established in 1984, is given in memory of lesbian playwright Jane Chambers who, through her plays A Late Snow, Last Summer at Bluefish Cove, My Blue Heaven, Kudzu, & The Quintessential Image, became a major feminist voice in American theatre. Sponsored by the Women and Theatre Program (WTP) with the Association for Theater in Higher Education, the Jane Chambers winner receives $250 and a
reading at the WTP Conference.