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Henley Rose Playwright Competition for Women - Staged Reading

10 Jun 2019 4:39 PM | Jessie Salsbury (Administrator)

To see the first part of this series, please visit

For the 2018 Henley Rose Playwright Competition for women, Elana Gartner's play, Before Lesbians, won the second place award. The top three winners in the competition are performed in a staged reading in Knoxville, Tennessee (USA). Elana's play was performed this summer, so we followed up with her to get her thoughts. 

Did you find the experience worth the expense? 

As it so happens, I was down in Louisville for my low-residency MFA program at Spalding University just before the reading so it made it much easier to get to. The staff at Henley Rose were very gracious and shuttled me back and forth to the airport and showed me and my parents around Knoxville. We had a tight window of time to experience Knoxville but Kerri made sure that we got to walk around and learn things, in addition to having the reading. As I had never been to Knoxville before, I truly appreciated the extra effort she put in to make me feel welcome and to make the experience positive.

Are you going to do any rewrites of the play based on what you saw? 

There are a few nitpicky things that I noticed when we were rehearsing that I will probably fix but no big overarching changes, no. 

Would you submit and travel to see it again? 

Absolutely! I had a great time meeting Jocelyn Meinhardt (1st place winner) as well as the board members, Damon Boggess and Sara Venable, founding director Kerri Koczen and artistic director, Jessie Gulley. 

Was it well organized and well performed as an organization? 

The actors performed the piece with great emotion and brought the characters to life in ways that really impacted the audience. I was glad that I was able to sit in on a rehearsal before the performance and invited by the director to voice any concerns or notes.

Did you learn anything new about yourself, your work, or you as an author? 

I was curious to see how this particular script would play in Knoxville, given some of its subject matters, dealing with the Civil War as well as lesbian relationships. However, with a title like Before Lesbians, it also seemed unlikely to have agitators attend and we didn't. I have realized that, as my work evolves, I have to start characterizing it a little differently when I am speaking about it. I used to characterize it as simply drama dealing with inner conflict but I have a lot of pieces now that are breaking that mold and playing with time and fantasy. 

Do you have any words of wisdom for anyone who may submit to this opportunity? 

Submit your best work. Move people. Make sure that you have strong roles for women. 

Anything new you've won or had performed since the last time we spoke? 

Before Lesbians was a semi-finalist for the 2019 Wordsmyth Theater Company's Reading Series. 

For more information on the competition, and to keep an eye on future opportunities, you may sign up for their mailing list at:

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