ENOUGH! Plays to End Gun Violence has announced this year’s winners of its national short play competition. Six impactful plays tackling the subject of gun violence were selected, representing the creative voices of teen playwrights nationwide.

The plays and playwrights chosen for this year’s competition are:

  • The Smiles Behind” by Niarra C. Bell from Virginia
  • A Call for Help” by Pepper Fox from Kentucky
  • rOunds” by HJ Kennedy from North Carolina
  • A Disorderly House” by Sam Lee Victor from New Jersey
  • No Prospering Weapons” by Justin Cameron Washington from Michigan
  • The Matter at Hand” by Valentine Wulf from Washington

Led by the visionary creator and Joaquin Oliver Artistic Producer Michael Cotey, the ENOUGH! initiative empowers teenagers to confront the issue of gun violence by crafting original theatrical works that foster critical conversations and inspire tangible action within their communities. The winning plays will debut on November 6, 2023, at The Kennedy Center‘s Theater Lab in Washington, D.C. This highly anticipated event will serve as the cornerstone of a series of readings taking place nationwide on the same evening. The collaborative effort, spearheaded by Event Producer Shanara Gabrielle and supported by the Kennedy Center Social Impact and Kennedy Center Education, will involve renowned professional theaters such as Signature Theatre, Arena Stage, Round House Theatre, Imagination Stage, Olney Theatre Center, 1st Stage, The Theatre Lab, and Mosaic Theater.

Great art enables us to gain fresh perspectives on the human condition, and these young theater makers are truly inspiring as they employ their unique voices to shed light on the epidemic of gun violence,” remarked Marc Bamuthi Joseph, the Kennedy Center Vice President, and Artistic Director of Social Impact.

This year marks the third edition of ENOUGH!, which has received over 500 short play submissions from teenage writers addressing the issue of gun violence. The previous Nationwide Readings organized by ENOUGH! in 2020 and 2022 involved more than 100 organizations and engaged nearly 2,000 artists, reaching over 10,000 individuals. The initiative has garnered international attention, with coverage by esteemed press outlets, including PBS NewsHour, NPR, and the BBC. Furthermore, ENOUGH! has been honored with the prestigious Goldin Foundation Exemplary Project Award.

During the spring, ENOUGH! received 244 submissions from 36 states, inviting teenagers to create 10-minute plays on gun violence. Esteemed dramatists Idris Goodwin, Lauren Gunderson, Zora Howard, Samuel D. Hunter, David Henry Hwang, Octavio Solis, and Lloyd Suh, recognized nationally for their contributions to the field, carefully selected this year’s winning plays. Each playwright awarded will receive a $500 stipend sponsored by the gun violence prevention organization Change the Ref. Additionally, their plays will be published and licensed through the Broadway Licensing Group’s Playscripts imprint, and they will gain membership in The Dramatists Guild, providing access to valuable training and resources.

David Henry Hwang, a returning panelist judge and acclaimed playwright known for his Tony Award-winning work “M. Butterfly” and the Pulitzer Prize finalist musical “Soft Power,” expressed his admiration for the submissions: “The quality of this year’s entries was truly remarkable, both in terms of artistic merit and the diverse range of stories and communities represented. These talented and inspiring young dramatists remind us once again that our nation needs their voices to declare ‘ENOUGH!’ to the scourge of gun violence.

ENOUGH! is committed to making the winning plays accessible and will offer them for free during the Nationwide Reading on November 6. Schools, theaters, and community organizations of all sizes are invited to stage local readings of these powerful works. Producers of these regional readings are encouraged to seize this opportunity to forge meaningful partnerships and incorporate community engagement components that address the specific realities of gun violence in their areas.

These plays provide a profound glimpse into the perspective of a generation that has grown up with the pervasive threat of gun violence, even within the confines of their educational institutions,” highlighted ENOUGH! creator Michael Cotey. “By staging these plays nationwide precisely one year ahead of the next presidential election, we urgently remind everyone that gun violence remains a pressing issue for the young voters who will be coming of age next November.

For ENOUGH!, the goal of this project is to see that every state hosts a reading of the winning plays. Detailed information about the winning playwrights, their plays, and how communities can participate in the Nationwide Reading can be found at the official website enoughplays.com/reading.

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