Jewish playwrights vie for top prize in Charter Oak Cultural Center’s contest

Contestants in a previous contest prepare for a reading.

HARTFORD — Charter Oak Cultural Center announced recently that it will be hosting a virtual edition of the 4th Annual Hartford Jewish Playwriting Contest via Zoom on Thursday, June 18 at 7 p.m. The Jewish Plays Project (David Winitsky, artistic director) has taken its National Playwriting Contest online and is seeking dedicated theater lovers and Jewish culture aficionadas to vote for a winner in the contest.

Interested audiences from Hartford, or anywhere in the world, can register for the Hartford Event by visiting www.jewishplaysproject.org/livestream.

“Normally at this time of the year, I would be traveling to Hartford for our Live Contest event — it’s a combination of a TED Talk, a play reading and American Idol. It’s super fun,” said Winitsky. “Our audiences really look forward to these events, and we heard a real hunger to keep them going.”

The JPP invited seven great directors to record 7-to-10-minute video excerpts from it’s National Top 7 plays — all via Zoom. Casting Director Judy Bowman led efforts to engage over 35 actors including Caesar Samoaya (”Come from Away”), Daniel K. Isaac (”Billions”), Adam Dannheiser (”Fiddler on the Roof”), Mitch Greenberg (TikTok’s wildly popular “@eveandmitch”) and Kate Levy (”Succession”) and Yuval David (”One Actor Short”).

A panel of Hartford theater lovers and Jewish leaders — including local playwright Jacques Lamarre, UConn professors Jeffrey Shoulson and Avi Patt, and Charter Oak Board Member Rona Gollob — met in March to select the three plays to be presented from the JPP’s list. The Hartford Top 3 will be viewed as part of the interactive event on June 18,.

Charter Oak audiences will enjoy excerpts from three of the selected plays: “Moving Pictures,” “United Nathans” and “Settlements.”

“A Moving Picture” by Jennie Berman Eng, directed by Ariane Barrie-Stern. An NYU student screenplay about a Mercedes Benz labor camp during WWII collides with a legendary director/teacher and the dark secret of his Hollywood success.

“Settlements” by Seth Rozin, directed by David Winitsky. A JCC’s resident theater commissions a controversial play, and a battle for the institution’s soul erupts. How can the center hold in a world of extremes?

“United Nathans” by Jason Sherman, directed by Michael Leibenluft with animations by Colin McGreal. A reunion in Israel for three longtime friends turns into a confrontation over the truth behind a tragic night from their past.

After the live event, all seven excerpted recordings will be available at www.jewishplaysproject.org/digital, where audiences all over the world can view introductions from the playwrights, watch the plays, and vote on their favorite plays.

The top seven Finalists were chosen from over 250 submissions from playwrights in 30 states and five countries.

“This is one of our strongest groups of plays,” said Winitsky, “covering the most pressing stories in the Jewish world. Jews taking responsibility for refugees, Jews confronting racial injustice, American Jews and Israel, Jews in the face of anti-Semitism, Jews facing off with each other. This is the reason the JPP exists — to find plays that matter, and to champion them as they move onto the best stages in the world.”

Full information about all the plays can be found at the JPP’s website, www.jewishplaysproject.org.

Connecticut Media Group