Whether they’re just starting out or several decades into their careers in the arts, actors and playwrights alike will get a chance to show local audiences what they’re capable of in The 2023 Edele Winnie Women’s Monologue Competition and The 2023 Windsor-Essex Playwriting Contest.
The Edele Winnie Women’s Monologue Competition began in 2022 after local playwright Edele Winnie approached Post Productions with an idea. She had just written a book of one hundred monologues for women called Big Mouth – would Post Productions be interested in helping her create an event at which actors could perform these monologues? Always keen to work with Winnie, we jumped at the opportunity and behold! – The Edele Winnie Women’s Monologue Competition was born. Last year’s competition was a resounding success and a positive experience in what were still dark not-quite-post-pandemic times, so much so that we and Winnie decided to make it an annual event.
This year’s competition includes thirteen contestants spanning diverse ages and levels of experience: Linda Collard, Lauren Crowley, Marnie Gare, Rachel Hillis, Shayla Hudson, Camryn Kingsley, Cindy Lee Kok, Maggie Marchenkowsky, Chantel Pare, Laura Scott, Cheri Scratch, Karen Tompkins, and Mary Grace Weir. Some of their faces will be familiar to Windsor-Essex audiences while many will be brand new. Some even competed in last year’s competition and decided they were still thirsty for more. Each contestant chose a three-to-five-minute monologue from Edele Winnie’s second book of monologues, Cracked Heart. They spent several weeks practicing, and each has met with acting coaches who have volunteered to help with the event, honing their understanding and delivery of Winnie’s particular brand of quirky, emotional, funny, and off-kilter writing.
On March 17th and 18th contestants will perform their monologues for live audiences. Each performance night will showcase all thirteen contestants and their monologues to what will no doubt be (as was the case last year) sold out audiences . . . and a panel of judges. As with TV shows like American Idol and The Voice, performances are assessed by judges who provide constructive feedback and scores. Each judge is a prominent woman in the Windsor-Essex theatre industry, able to provide feedback and judgments that carry with them the weight of years of diverse experiences in the performing arts: Moya McAlister (Vice President, Arts Collective Theatre), Rebecca S. Mickle (Artistic Director, Waawiiyaatanong Feminist Theatre), Shana Thibert (Executive Director, Revolution Youth Theatre), Michelle Mainwaring (Award-winning Freelance Performer), and Fay Lynn (Artistic Director, Post Productions).
Alongside the opportunity to witness talented women perform brilliant monologues, the key feature of The Edele Winnie Women’s Monologue Competition is that the audience votes as well as the judges. Both the judges and audience members at each performance score contestants using four criteria (on a scale from zero to five) – characterization, engagement, speaking, and physicality – which are added together to create a final score. Each night scores from audience members and judges are collected and tallied before an average (mean) score is determined. At the end of the second night of performances (March 18th) total scores and averages from both nights are combined to determine the first place (gold) winner who receives $300, second place (silver) winner who receives $200, third place (bronze) winner who receives $100, and all runners-up who will each receive $50. Custom-made trophies and tiaras may also be involved.
At its heart, The Edele Winnie Women’s Monologue Competition is a celebration of difference and community. It’s a competition created by people who don’t like competitions and who certainly don’t want any Simon Cowells to ruin the proceedings, so the emphasis is on people helping each other do their best work, encouraging and supporting the women who are brave enough to take the stage, and providing each contestant with a sense of confidence that will hopefully stay with them long after the competition is over. And since they’re performing monologues by Edele Winnie, these ain’t your average stories. There’s nothing normal or mediocre or run-of-the-mill about these monologues; they’re stories about unusual people in unusual situations sometimes making unusual choices, yet rooted in the strong emotions that all humans share with each other.
March 31st is the deadline for submissions to The 2023 Windsor-Essex Playwriting Contest, an annual competition Post Productions has been running since 2018. Every year playwrights and aspiring playwrights submit scripts to the contest, which are thoroughly read, carefully scored, and fervently discussed by a panel of judges, each of whom spends several hours with each and every script that’s submitted. In the first round, the scores and discussions help the judges determine which scripts will move forward to the second round, that is, which scripts will become finalists. Whether a script becomes a finalist or not, its playwright will receive several pages of detailed constructive feedback they can choose to use to further their development – or ignore. Finalists are then invited to use the feedback they receive to revise their scripts for resubmission to the second round on May 31st. Then the process begins anew until a winner is announced in the early summer.
A script that wins The Windsor-Essex Playwriting Contest will be produced on The Shadowbox Theatre stage as part of Post Productions’ next season. Its playwright is invited to be involved in the audition, rehearsal, and promotion processes. In the end, the winning playwright receives ten percent of the gross ticket revenue from the production of their script.
Past winners of The Windsor-Essex Playwriting Contest have included mysteries, supernatural comedies, surrealist comedies, and thrillers – although we’re happy to receive scripts of any genre. Especially romance. Please, somebody send us a good romance script. What all of the winning scripts share are features that really shouldn’t surprise anyone who steps back to think about what a good script should include. They tell new and compelling stories that make the judges want to keep reading, driven by engaging characters who are as complex and nuanced as real people. They’re full of ideas and they have something to say – but they don’t beat the audience over the head with a message. They include roles that actors would love to play. They could be produced on a reasonable budget at The Shadowbox Theatre. But I think I can boil all of the characteristics of the winning scripts so far down to two important features: 1) they couldn’t have been written by anyone other than the particular playwright who submitted them because their authorial voice is so unique; and 2) they never bore the reader – and that means we believe that plays produced from the scripts won’t be boring for live audiences. If you can submit a script that has these features, you’re odds of becoming a finalist are very good indeed.
Performances of The 2023 Edele Winnie Women’s Monologue Competition will take place at The Shadowbox Theatre (1501 Howard avenue – corner of Howard and Shepherd) March 17 and 18. Showtime 8:00 PM (doors open 7:30). Tickets can be purchased for $20 via postproductionswindsor.ca or at the door (cash, debit, or credit card) if seats are still available.
For more details on eligibility and registration requirements for The Windsor-Essex Playwriting Contest, visit postproductionwindsor.ca/play-contest.