The Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition will continue to spotlight the best emerging playwrights with a full production for the competition winner and staged readings for four competition finalists. The 20th competition winner FURLOUGH’S PARADISE is written by a.k. payne, a graduate of the David Geffen School of Drama at Yale, with Direction by Tinashe Kajese-Bolden, Alliance’s Jennings Hertz Artistic Director. FURLOUGH’S PARADISE will have its world premiere on the Hertz Stage at Alliance Theatre Jan 31 – Mar 3, 2024. Opening night is Wednesday, February 7, 7:30 p.m.
FURLOUGH’S PARADISE follows Cousins Sade and Mina, raised like sisters but now leading very different lives, as they return to their childhood town for a funeral. While Sade is on a three-day furlough from prison and Mina experiences a brief reprieve from her career and life on the West Coast, the two try to make sense of grief, home, love, and kinship. But traumas and resentments from the past, both real and surreal, threaten to pull them apart, all as time ticks towards the correctional officer’s impending arrival.
“These characters are fighting for moments,” said Playwright a.k. payne. “Because it’s been taken from them, they are fighting for moments to be in the same room together. A lot of the play is about being present and how we witness each other. How do we share space together. And so, my hope, for audiences, is the same – that they are invited into a chance to share; to share breath and to share air with people, I think that is really special.”
The cast of FURLOUGH’S PARADISE includes Asha Duniani (Synchronicity Theatre: Eclipsed; Tyler Perry Studios: Meet the Browns) as Mina; and Kai Heath (Baltimore Center Stage: Hall in Men on Boats; Kennedy Center: The Play that Goes Wrong) as Sade. Understudies include Cymiah Alexander and Makallen Kelley.
The creative team of FURLOUGH’S PARADISE is led by Director Tinashe Kajese-Bolden (Alliance: Toni Stone and The Many Wondrous Realities of Jasmine Starr-Kidd) and includes Chika Shimizu (Scenic Design), Shilla Benning (Costume Design), Thom Weaver (Lighting Design), Milton Cordero (Projection Design), Christopher Lane (Sound Design), Julie B. Johnson, PhD (Movement Integration), Laura Morse (Mental Health Consultant), and Ashey Thomas (Dramaturg). Additional production support is provided by Kaylee Mesa (Stage Manager), Samantha Honeycutt (Stage Management Production Assistant), Amanda Watkins (Line Producer), Jayla Dyas (Associate Line Producer), and Lawrence Bennett (Production Management Lead).
“I am excited to be selected as the winner of the 20th annual Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition. I am grateful for any space to share work, to share work with audiences, and to have resources to fully actualize a dream,” added payne. “I think a lot about plays as like blueprints imagining freedom, or blueprints for imagining worlds, and the invitation to gather people. I feel like, with this particular play, the blueprint for me is about how do we imagine space to be together. And how is that revolutionary? So, I’m excited.”
The Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition solicits plays from the leading MFA graduate programs in the United States and then conducts a rigorous selection process to find four finalists and one winning play. The winner receives a full production as part of the Alliance Theatre’s regular season. The winner and four finalists also receive development opportunities for their works including staged readings with industry professionals. A one-of-a-kind opportunity for emerging playwrights, the Competition transitions student playwrights to the world of professional theatre.
Past winners of the Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition have become some of today’s most exciting playwrights and writers, including Tarell Alvin McCraney, whose play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue inspired the 2017 Academy Award-winning film for Best Picture, Moonlight; Marcus Gardley, who wrote the recent film adaptation of the musical, The Color Purple; Susan Smith Blackburn Prize finalist Meg Miroshnik (The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls), Mike Lew(Tiger Style!), 2018 winner of the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award for an Emerging American Playwright, and Mansa Ra, whose competition-winning play Too Heavy For Your Pocket opened off-Broadway in 2017.
FURLOUGH’S PARADISE will run on the Hertz Stage at Alliance Theatre Jan 31 – Mar 3, 2024. Opening night is Wednesday, February 7, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $25 and are available at the Alliance Theatre Box Office by calling 404.733.4600. Tickets are available online at Click Here.
Hertz Stage at Alliance Theatre
Woodruff Arts Center, Memorial Arts Building
1280 Peachtree Street NE, Atlanta, GA 30309