PFP’s LezPlay Readings Are This Weekend!

Kellee Terrell


Kellee Terrell’s Screenplay GEMMA named winner of 2017 LezPlay Competition

Full-length screenplay of love, life, death, and the supernatural to receive staged reading at Pride Arts Center September 8 and 9

Pride Films and Plays is delighted to announce Kellee Terrell’s screenplay GEMMA as the winner of our 2017 LezPlay Contest. Out of three dozen entries, three scripts advanced to the finals. Pride Films and Plays’ Artistic Director Nelson Rodriguez applauds the top-scoring scripts for elevating and celebrating dyke drama (and comedy), and showcasing Sapphic-centric narratives that spoke loud and queer to our judges.

Terrell’s winning script will receive four days of developmental workshops, culminating in two public staged readings during LezPlay Weekend September 8-9 at Pride Arts Center in Chicago.

The two finalists were THANATRON, a play by Carolyn Gage, and IT’S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE, a screenplay by Katherine Varga.

LezPlay, now in its seventh year, enhances the visibility and advances the viability of women who write plays, screenplays, and teleplays in which lesbian characters and themes – past, present, and future – play a pivotal role. To judge the submissions, Allison L. Fradkin, LezPlay’s Literary Coordinator, assembled a reading team of 25 industry professionals who served as adjudicators for the contest, evaluating the entries for concept and originality, structure, plot, dialogue, character development, and lesbian content.

The winning entry, GEMMA by Kellee Terrell, concerns Zora, a Black lesbian grieving the death of her pregnant wife. Zora moves into an isolated farmhouse in rural Wisconsin, where she befriends Gemma, a lonely ghost haunting the estate. The two grow close over time, but the spirit lashes out when Zora finds a new girlfriend. Is this a jealous ghost trying to stake her claim or is something more sinister going on?

GEMMA will be performed in a staged public reading in The Broadway of the Pride Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, September 8 and Saturday, September 9.

Kellee Terrell is a Chicago-based award-winning filmmaker and journalist who writes about race, gender, health, and pop culture. Her articles and interviews have been featured in HARPER’S BAZAAR, ESSENCE, THE ADVOCATE, HELLO BEAUTIFUL, EBONY, THE ROOT, AL JAZEERA, BET, THE ADVOCATE, and THE HUFFINGTON POST. In 2016, GEMMA was one of five scripts chosen for the Outfest Screenwriting Lab Fellowship.

THANATRON by Carolyn Gage is a rollicking farce about the world’s most dysfunctional family, a doctor with a penchant for assisted suicide, and a lesbian housekeeper with a crush on her employer. An over-the-top comedy about leaving, being left, and what it takes to stay.

Carolyn Gage is a playwright, performer, director, and activist. The author of nine books on lesbian theatre and seventy-five plays, musicals, and one-woman shows, she specializes in non-traditional roles for women, especially those reclaiming famous lesbians whose stories have been distorted or erased from history. Her work is widely produced, and in 2014 she was one of six featured playwrights at UNESCO’s World Theatre Day in Rome. She has received numerous grants and fellowships, won the national Lambda Literary Award in Drama, and was nominated for the American Theatre Critics Association’s Steinberg New Play Award for her play UGLY DUCKLINGS. Her papers are archived at the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College.

IT’S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE by Katherine Varga is the story of a teenage girl who has always known her destiny: to become a rocket scientist. After all, it says so in the stars—at least according to her parents, founders of an astrological cult. But when she attends a rocket science camp for advanced high school students, she meets a mysterious puppeteer, and her plans start to falter.

Katherine Varga’s first full-length play, ENERGY MASS LIGHT, received a developmental staged reading at Geva Theatre Center in Rochester and was later student-produced on the University of Rochester campus. Her short plays have been seen at Curious Theatre (Denver), 20% Theatre Company (Chicago), and the 2015 First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival. She is currently pursuing her M.F.A. in Playwriting at Ohio University.

THE 2017 LEZPLAY READING TEAM included Alana Parvey Zalas, Managing Director of About Face Theatre; Alexandra Hidalgo, filmmaker; Aliya Brooks, filmmaker; Anne Bertram, playwright and Founding Artistic Associate of Theatre Unbound; Ashley Jacobson, Artistic Director of The Dirty Blondes Theatre Company; Avi Roque, performance artist; Becky Lane, filmmaker and Founder of Nice Girl Films; Bridget McManus, comedienne and Vice President of Development for tello films; Brittany Alsot, filmmaker; Colette Freedman, playwright and screenwriter; Hilary McCollum, playwright; Iris Sowlat, theatre director; Jennifer Reeder, filmmaker; Katherine Quin, Dramaturg and Literary Manager of Odd’s Bodkins; Kim L. Hunt, Co-founder of OUTSpoken! Storytelling Series; Laura K. Henderson, Founder and Executive Producer of Queer Theatre Kalamazoo; Lianna Carrera, comedienne; Marc James, Artistic Director of The Cuckoo’s Theater Project; Megan Donohue, playwright; Patrice Foster, theatre director; Rachel Bykowski, playwright and Literary Manager of 20% Theatre Company Chicago; Renée Iaci, Artistic Director of Shameless Hussy Productions; Tira Palmquist, playwright and dramaturg; Tracey Erbacher, Artistic Director of Theatre Prometheus; Vanessa Stalling, theatre director; and Victoria Rose Sampson, filmmaker.


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