Finalists chosen for Dogwood’s emerging playwright contest

Published 8:01 am Thursday, March 13, 2014

Three college playwrights from Indiana and Michigan are receiving the rare opportunity to have their works read by professional actors in front a live theater audience.

They’ll be able to earn up $2,000 worth of prize money as well.

Next month three scripts submitted by aspiring playwrights will be read by actors from theaters at Beckwith Theater as part of the Emerging Playwright Award, a new event added to this year’s Dogwood Fine Arts Festival. The three finalists were chosen from a pool of young theater writers, ranging from 18 to 30 years old.

Following the readings in April, a winner will be selected, with the writer earning $1,500 and another live reading during the festival in May. The two runners-up will receive $250.

The three playwrights selected are:



Kaitlyn Farrell

Kaitlyn Farrell

Kaitlyn Farrell



Despite her roots in the Big Apple, Notre Dame senior Farrell prefers to keep her scripts small in scale.

Her submission for the festival, “Ambrotypes,” has a cast of only six people, Farrell said.

“I like to write things I could actually produce myself,” she said. “I like to place more emphasis on character development and narrative.”

Her play is a historical piece, following a photographer and a group of soldiers during the American Civil War. Despite the fact that events depicted would have taken place more than century ago, the ideas presented about the ethics and morality of wartime photography apply today more than ever, Farrell said.

Though she has been writing short stories and poems since she was in elementary school, Farrell only began writing plays since joining Notre Dame’s theater program as a freshman. “Ambrotypes” is only her second script.

“Playwriting is an interesting medium,” Farrell said. “It’s very flexible, and your writing takes on a new life of its own when its being performed.”

Farrell also heavily involves herself in the production of her works, helping to cast and direct the play once the script is completed, she said.

“I like being part of the creative process,” she said. “Most playwrights are kind of detached from the production once they hand it off to the director, but I like to be a part of it.”

The New York native draws her inspiration for her works from a variety of sources, such as works of Tennessee Williams, as well as from her personal experiences and travels.

Regardless of the results the contests, Farrell said she wants to continue to pen plays after graduating this spring.

“It’s my favorite form of writing, even though it’s kind of tricky for you,” she said. “It requires a lot of trust, as you’re not just trusting the reader. You have to trust that you put enough of yourself in your work that your message comes once it’s performed.”


Graham Techler

Graham Techler

Graham Techler

“Nantucket Sleigh Ride”

For University of Michigan sophomore Techler, the play he submitted for the contest has been in the works for more than a year, first drafting the script for a class his freshman year.

“My professor told me that the first scene was good, but the rest of the script needed work,” Techler said. “That was all I needed. As long he liked the first 10 pages, I knew I could improve the rest.”

His play, “Nantucket Sleigh Ride,” is set in a Cape Cod bed & breakfast, where the senile owner hires a group of three armed hitmen to protect the property against vandals. The owner’s grandson conspires with his girlfriend to get rid of the gangsters before someone gets seriously hurt, or killed.

“There’s a lot of misunderstanding about who’s doing what and why they are there,” Techler said.

Techler said his script was influenced by the works of crime novelist Elmer Leonard and playwright Martin McDonagh, both for their writing styles and their work ethics.

Techler is also relatively new to writing plays, though he was been involved with theater since he was in the fifth-grade, he said. When he was deciding what to study in college, the choice to enter the university’s theater program just felt natural.

“I really hadn’t been doing anything else since I was 10, so I guess I thought I should to go school for that,” Techler said.

One of things he’s most excited about this opportunity is simply the chance to hear his work read aloud on stage, he said.

“I’m excited to see what they will do,” Techler said. “It will be an entertaining and educational experience.”


Tyler Dean

Tyler Dean

Tyler Dean

“From Such Great Heights”


Another University of Michigan theater student, senior Tyler Dean’s submission has already received acclaim for other institutions, winning the Arthur Miller Award and the Kennedy Center College Theater Festival.

Dean’s script, “From Such Great Heights,” is the story about a college student named Jamie, who happens to fall in love with an atheist classmate at his school.

It just so happens that Jamie turns out to be God.

Despite the obvious spiritual bent to the play, Dean said writing the play was a challenge for him since he doesn’t consider him a religious person.

“It’s about belief, love and family,” Dean said. “I know all of those things so I could write about it from those perspectives.”

The script was also a departure the light-hearted musicals that Dean usually produces, he said. However, the process of writing and revising the play has given him the chance to receive criticism his other works wouldn’t have received.

Dean has been writing for the stage for the past five years, he said, though he was writing recreationally for many years before then.

“I had a bunch of actor friends and I had a story I wanted to tell,” Dean said. “So one day I decided to write a play, to see what would happen. I always loved theater and I always loved writing, so it felt like a natural hybrid of the two.”

Despite the praise his play has received from other venues, Dean said he has no expectations on how his play will be received by Dowagiac audiences next month.

“If people like it, that’s awesome,” he said. “If they don’t, I’m going to still be working and writing. Maybe someday I’ll write something they do like.”