2019 Playwriting Prize

Guest judge Ifa Bayeza has selected Sapphire Heights by Anna Wright as the winner of the 5th biennial Prize for Women Playwrights. Congratulations to Anna! Sapphire Heights will receive a world premier production directed by Eric Seale, with royalties, plus a cash prize of $500. The play will premiere in four performances on November 7-9, 2019, at the Pam Miller Downtown Arts Center in Lexington. We will be announcing audition dates and information shortly. We are also still putting together the production crew and are looking for interested individuals wishing to join the production (designers and technicians.) Any interested theatre artists wishing to be a part of this world premiere production should contact Eric Seale directly at ericseale@me.com.

Our playwright is a native of England and resides in St. Leonard's On Sea, Hastings. Anna said, “I trained as an actress and have worked a lot in the USA on tour with a Shakespeare company, teaching acting and Shakespeare to students of universities, including Berea College, which is why I know how much I love your beautiful state!"

Anna Wright is an emerging playwright and considers Sapphire Heights to be her first completed play. She was invited to be a part of the Royal Court Young Writers Programme at The Royal Court, London, and completed a playwriting course with them in 2011. The play she developed there, Coming of Rage, was listed for the Bruntwood Prize in 2011, and a later five-act play written entirely in iambic pentameter, To Be a Boy, was announced as a semifinalist for the American Shakespeare Center’s competition, Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries, in 2018.

Anna has primarily worked as an actress from a young age. She was in youth theater between the ages of 10 and 18, and completed her B.A. in Acting at the Drama Centre London, a prestigious method acting school. Anna currently works regularly as an actress and as a workshop facilitator for the USA/UK Shakespeare Touring Company, Actors from the London Stage (AFTLS), founded by Sir Patrick Stewart in 1975. Anna is also now the UK/US Liaison for the company and has facilitated theater workshops at over 15 American universities, including Berea College in Kentucky. Anna is also an oil portrait artist and is currently under commission. 


Congratulations to our 3 finalists in the 5th biennial Prize for Women Playwrights:

  • Bite the Apple, by Linda Manning of Bronx NY
  • La Fee Verte, by Bridgette Portman of Fremont CA
  • Sapphire Heights, by Anna Wright of St. Leonard's On Sea, Hastings, England

Thank you to everyone who submitted to this year's Prize for Women Playwrights. More than 380 scripts were received during the submission period of November 1 - 30, 2018. Our judging panel of local theater artists read scripts on a blind basis and have learned the names of these finalists at the same time as the rest of the world. See below for more about the local judging panel. 

Judges' meeting on March 3, 2019, at 21c in Lexington. Seated, left to right: Suraya Shalash, Julie Wrinn, Darius Fatemi, Alberta Labrillazo. Standing, left to right: Eric Seale, Hilary Brown, Patti Heying, Allison Spenser. Additional Judges not in attendance: Sarah Burroway, Fannie Lemasters, Patrick Mitchell, Ellie Todd, and Caitlyn Waltermire. Many thanks to all who evaluated our submissions!

The Kentucky Women Writers Conference awards a biennial Prize for Women Playwrights to bring more scripts by women to the stage, through a collaboration among our program, partnering director Eric Seale, and guest judge Ifa Bayeza. The winner receives a world premier production for a paying audience in November 2019, with royalties, plus a cash prize of $500. The winning script may be workshopped prior to its production. If you would like to receive our bi-monthly listserv with updates about this contest and our other programming, please send your request to kentuckywomenwriters@gmail.com.

Producer and Director

Eric Seale, former artistic managing director of Central Kentucky Community Theatre in Springfield, KY, and former director of Actors Guild of Lexington, will independently produce and direct the winning script. You can read more about Eric here and here. Seale produced and directed two previous winners of this prize, The Silent Woman, by Lydia Blaisdell in 2015, and Timeless, by Raegan Payne, in 2017.

Guest Judge

Ifa Bayeza

Eligible Playwrights

The competition is open to all women playwrights living anywhere on Planet Earth. There are no restrictions on age, experience, or residence. Co-authored scripts are eligible if at least 50 percent of co-authors are female.

Eligible Plays

One-act or full-length scripts in English, with a running time between 45 and 90 minutes, that have not been published or commercially produced as of the entry deadline or before the release of the KWWC production. We are seeking a new play that can be produced as a world premiere. Many kinds of preliminary productions, even those charging admission, do not disqualify your script, including:

  • an Equity or other showcase
  • a workshop production
  • a script-in-hand staged reading
  • a student lab performance

We place no limitations on subject matter. Scripts may be based on factual events, purely fictional, or adaptations. We are not seeking musicals or children's plays.To ensure an equitable judging process, please submit only a "blind" script, with all personal identifying information removed.  Limitations:

  • Reading time must be in the range of 45-90 minutes.
  • Casts must be limited to 8 actors (1 actor may play multiple roles).
  • The production will be in a small theater. Set, lighting, sound, costume, and prop requirements should be kept to a minimum.

Deadline and Timeline

  • Entries must be electronically submitted by 11:59 p.m. on November 30, 2018
  • Finalists will be posted on our Web site by mid-March 2019, and we hope to announce a winner by mid-April 2019.
  • Winning script may be workshopped.
  • Production will occur in November 2019 in Lexington, KY, at the Pam Miller Downtown Arts Center


Judging Process and Criteria

All entries will be screened by KWWC staff for completeness and adherence to contest guidelines. Judging will consist of two rounds. In round 1, a diverse panel of theater professionals and educators will choose 5-10 finalists. In round 2 a guest judge will choose 1 winner. Judging will be guided by literary merit and theatrical potential.

News from the 2017 prize

April 15, 2018 — Former Prize for Women Playwrights judge Martyna Majok has won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for her play, "Cost of Living." Of this work, the Pulitzer committee wrote, "An honest, original work that invites audiences to examine diverse perceptions of privilege and human connection through two pairs of mismatched individuals: a former trucker and his recently paralyzed ex-wife, and an arrogant young man with cerebral palsy and his new caregiver." The play debuted Off-Broadway through Manhattan Theatre Club in June 2017 following a world premiere at Williamstown Theatre Festival and was developed during Mayok's 2015-16 PoNY Fellowship at The Lark in Minneapolis and through the Rita Goldberg Playwrights' Workshop and Roundtable programs.

Thanks to everyone who submitted to our biennial Prize for Women Playwrights during the most recent submission period of December 15, 2016 through January 15, 2017. We received over 180 scripts from around the world. These were reviewed and finalists selected by a panel of Lexington-area theater professionals: Alana Ghent, Robin Kunkel, Debbie Sharp, Eric Seale, and Jessica York. Guest judge Martyna Majok chose Timeless: A Scientific Comedy by Raegan Payne as the winner, and Eric Seale and Jessica York co-produced the world premiere production on Nov. 2-4, 2017.


To purchase tickets for Timeless, please visit our TICKETING LINK. General admission is $15, student admission is $10, and $8 student admission available 15 minutes before curtain. Tickets will also be sold at the door. Questions: kentuckywomenwriters@gmail.com or 859-257-2874. Performance times are:

  • Thursday, Nov. 2, 7:30 p.m.- Opening night!
  • Friday, Nov. 3, 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, Nov. 4, 2:00 p.m. matinee  - Followed by a conversation with the playwright!
  • Saturday, Nov. 4, 7:30 p.m.

Raegan Payne was born in Murray, Ky, raised in Louisville, and lives in southern California. She is the first Kentucky native to win our biennial Prize for Women Playwrights, in which scripts are judged anonymously (see more about our judging panel below). "Timeless" is produced by Eric Seale and Jessica York in cooperation with the University of Kentucky College of Arts & Sciences. Read more about the upcoming production in our press release.

  • Running time: 90 minutes
  • Location: Lexington Public Library-Central Branch, 140 East Main Street, Lexington.
  • Parking: Available in the Library parking garage. Street parking is free after 5 p.m. on weekdays and all day Saturday.

As of June 6, 2017, from over 150 submissions from 31 states in the U.S. plus Canada and New Zealand, we're thrilled to congratulate these 5 finalists:

  • Sin Cycle, by May Donnet-Johnson, of Nashville
  • Ghost Walks into a Bar, by Mora V. Harris, of Pittsburgh
  • Beautiful Savage, by Kathleen McDonnell, of Toronto
  • Timeless, by Raegan Payne, of Corona del Mar, CA
  • The Impracticality of Modern-Day Mastodons, by Rachel Teagle, of Saint Paul, MN

The judging panel debates its finalists. May 25, 2017, at Nick Ryan's Saloon. Left to right: Eric Seale, Alana Ghent, Julie Wrinn, Deborah Sharpe, and Jessica York. (Robin Kunkel not pictured.)


Past Winners & Guest Judges

Naomi Wallace was our first judge in 2011 and chose Keliher Walsh’s play, Year of the Rabbit, produced by Balagula Theatre in Lexington. Kia Corthron was our next judge in 2013 and chose Jo Morello’s E.G.O.: The Passions of Eugene Gladstone O’Neill, also produced by Balagula. Carson Kreitzer selected in The Silent Woman by Lydia Blaisdell, independently produced by Eric Seale in 2015. The Silent Woman tells the strange, true tale of a painter living with an effigy of his ex-lover in 1919. It had its world premiere in Lexington, KY on Nov. 5 - 7, 2015 (press release).