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 Posted: Sat Dec 30th, 2017 04:37 am
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2018 VSA Playwright Discovery Program - Ensembles
Ends on January 17, 2018
Young writers with disabilities and collaborative groups that include at least one student with a disability are invited to explore the disability experience through the art of writing for performance: plays, screenplays, spoken word poetry (for single performer or a group), or music theater. Writers are encouraged to craft short works from their own experiences and observations, create fictional characters and settings, or choose to write metaphorically or abstractly about the disability experience.

The piece may be of any genre, and scripts should be in the ten-minute play format. Entries may be the work of an individual student or a collaboration by a group of up to five students that includes at least one student with a disability. The competition has three divisions: Primary (grades 6-7), Junior (grades 8-9), and Senior (grades 10-12) (or equivalents). A panel of performing arts professionals selects the division winners.

One winning piece is chosen in each the Primary and Junior Divisions (grades 6-7 / ages 11-13 and 8-9 / ages 13-15 respectively). Winners will be featured in the press and on the Kennedy Center website.

Selected winners in the Senior Division (grades 10-12 / ages 15-18) will receive exclusive access to participate in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival in Washington, D.C., and the opportunity to participate in staged readings and workshops alongside the nation's premier collegiate playwrights as well as participate in the festival’s award ceremony. The Playwright Discovery Program winners will participate in the festival from Wednesday, April 11 – Saturday, April 14, 2018. Winners of the Senior Division must be present for the entire event in order to be eligible for the award.

The application deadline is Wednesday, January 17, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time.


To be eligible to enter the VSA Playwright Discovery Competition applicants must meet the following criteria:
1. The competition is open to U.S. and international applicants. However, all pieces must be submitted in English; pieces submitted in other languages will not be accepted.

2. Be a student with a disability or an ensemble that includes a student with a disability. As defined by the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act, a disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity. Major life activities include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, and communicating; additionally major life activities include the operation of a major bodily function, including but not limited to, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.

3. All pieces must explore the disability experience. See “Submission Rules” for a definition of disability and more information about the disability experience.

4. Authors must be students in U.S. grades 6-12 (or equivalent) or ages 11-18 for non-U.S. students. Students in grades 6-7 (ages 11-13) apply to the Primary Division, students in grades 8-9 (13-15) apply to the Junior Division, and students in grades 10-12 (15-18) apply to the Senior Division.

5. Previous applicants are eligible to reapply in subsequent years until they win or age out of the competition. Any applicant (applying as an individual or with a group) may win once in either the Primary or Junior Division, and once in the Senior Division. This means:
a. Primary Division winners may submit a new piece for consideration to the Senior Division when of age, but may not apply to the Junior Division.
b. Junior Division winners may submit a new piece for consideration to the Senior Division.
c. Senior Division winners are not eligible to reapply to the competition.

6. Co-authorships of up to five students are accepted, but all authors must fulfill eligibility requirements and at least one must be a student with a disability. Co-authors of a piece must be eligible for the same division (i.e. authors of a Primary Division piece must all be enrolled in grades 6-7 or ages 11-13), but do not have to be in the same grade level. The application must include information for all authors.

7. Senior Division winners must be present for the VSA Playwright Discovery Program even from Wednesday, April 11 – Saturday, April 14, 2018 in order to be eligible for the award.

Applicants may be asked to submit proof and/or an affidavit of eligibility if selected as finalists or winners of the VSA Playwright Discovery Competition.

Submission Rules

1. All entries must explore the disability experience.

What is the definition of disability? A disability could be a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits major life activities, or it could be a physiological disorder affecting one of the body’s systems, or a mental or psychological disorder. The disability may be visible and obvious to see, such as quadriplegia, cataracts, or cerebral palsy, or it may be invisible and less obvious, such as a person who is deaf or has a learning disability.

What is the definition of the disability experience? There is no dictionary definition of disability experience, but here are a variety of ideas to consider:
a. Having a disability is something that can happen to any person at any time in his or her life. Some examples: a senior citizen develops Alzheimer’s, a young adult with traumatic brain injury due to a car accident, a parent struggling with the onset of Type II Diabetes. Disability takes many forms (as you can see from the very broad definition listed above), and can change during the course of a lifespan. Think of someone you know—yourself, or someone in your family, community, or at school—that experiences a disability. There are probably more people around you living with a disability than you might think.
b. The disability experience is related to society’s perceptions about people with disabilities or the individual’s experience of disability. It is important to recognize, evaluate, and even challenge those perceptions and acknowledge and respect these experiences. We believe that writing for performance is the perfect vehicle to do just that. Gregg Mozgala, a theater artist with a disability, says,
“I believe in the transformative power of theatre. Through the collaborative experience of the artistic process I believe the disabled experience can be more sincerely and accurately reflected on stage, that new communities can be forged, perceptions changed and barriers to understanding and empathy can be shattered.” (
c. See our Playwriting Resources page (found at for more ideas about the disability experience.

2. Pieces must be submitted in English; piece submitted in other languages will not be accepted.

3. All entries that are scripts must be in the ten-minute play format. A ten-minute play is a play with at least two characters. It is not a scene, skit, or sketch. Structurally, it should have a beginning, middle, and end, just as any good one-act or full-length play. Since we only have ten minutes to bring the story full circle, a dramatic conflict should be posed as quickly as possible. The resolution of that conflict is what plays out across the remaining pages. The true success of a Ten-Minute Play is reliant on the writer’s ability to bring an audience through the same cathartic/entertaining experience that a good one-act or full-length play accomplishes. Ten-minutes means eight or nine pages, but certainly no more than ten pages. READ YOUR PLAY OUT LOUD to see how it times out using standard playwriting format.

4. Acceptable entries include spoken word poetry, traditional theater scripts, film, or TV scripts, non-linear scripts, writing for performance that does not rely on spoken language, and/or writing that emphasize the use of multimedia, non-traditional technologies/techniques, puppetry and audience participation. Since non-text entries are accepted, pieces may be submitted as video or audio files, in addition to Microsoft Word files.

5. To request application materials in a different format, please call 202-416-8898 or email

6. Entries must be original, unproduced, and unpublished at the time of submission. Pieces with previous readings or workshops are acceptable, as long as they were not produced for a paying audience and have not been publicly reviewed.

7. Text entries must be submitted as a Microsoft Word document and video or audio entries must be submitted as MP3, MP4, WMA, or WMV files. All entries should follow these formatting guidelines:

a. Include a cover sheet listing the title of the piece and the cast list. Do not show your name, address, or any identifying information on the cover or any page of your entry.
b. Typed in 12 point Times New Roman font.
c. List page numbers on each page of the piece (not counting the cover sheet)
d. Set the page layout to portrait (no landscape, please)

8. Authors may submit only one script, whether under his or her name, a pseudonym, or as a co-author.

9. If an entry includes any material that is copyrighted or otherwise owned or controlled by someone other than the authors (including but not limited to, poetry, music and/or lyrics, characters originally created by others in any medium, and/or stories based on real people and/or other people’s lives) the author shall provide proof of written permission to include such material in the script.

Please read the following file submission guidelines carefully:
· Before uploading your file, please re-name it in the following format:
· The application accepts files in the following formats: DOC, DOCX, PDF, MP3, MP4, WMA, or WMV

Application materials should be submitted no later than January 17, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time. We will receive your application the day that you submit it, and you will receive verification of your submission.

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