2020 Clauder Competition Winners Announced


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Grand Prize Winner Greg Lam, Gold Prize Winners Benjamin Benne, and Caity-Shea Violette will have their plays workshopped in Portland Stage’s upcoming digital Little Festival of the Unexpected

Portland Stage is pleased to announce the winners of the 2020 Clauder Competition for New England playwrights. Three winners were chosen from over 120 submitted plays by New England playwrights. The winning plays, The Last Ship to Proxima Centauri by Greg Lam, In His Hands by Benjamin Benne, and Rx Machina by Caity-Shea Violette will be workshopped and given digital readings in the 32nd Annual Little Festival of the Unexpected over three weekends in March, starting March 12, 2021. The digital workshop performances are free and open to the public with registration.

“Each of these plays spark the imagination in timely and exciting ways.” says Todd Brian Backus, literary manager of Portland Stage, “They offer exciting lenses into the modern American moment:  grappling with queerness in religion, the opioid epidemic, and America’s colonial past and present, as viewed by a society thousands of years in the future.”
For over four decades, the Clauder Competition, currently a biennial event, has been New England’s most prestigious playwriting award. Created in 1981 by Jeb Brooks, who continues to underwrite the program, the Clauder Competition celebrates the distinctive voices of our region’s playwrights and brings their work to the attention of the greater theatrical community.  Every play submitted receives at least two evaluations and all writers are sent a letter that includes an individualized response from readers. The Grand Prize-winning play is produced on the Portland Stage Mainstage the following season and receives $3,000 cash prize. The two gold prize winners receive a $1,500 cash prize each. And all three winning plays are included in the annual Portland Stage New Works Festival, Little Festival of the Unexpected. The Clauder Competition also awards State Winners.

The goal of the Clauder Competition for New England playwrights is to provide exposure, encouragement, and critical feedback to promising playwrights who typically receive little more than a return postcard for the material they send to theaters and producers. Past winners and finalists who have launched successful playwriting careers include Tom Coash, Adam Bock, Laura Harrington, Elizabeth Egloff, Bridget Carpenter, Melinda Lopez, Liz Duffy Adams, William Donnelly, Kim Rosenstock, and Pulitzer Prize-winners Quiara Alegría Hudes, and Paula Vogel.

2012 Clauder Winner, Veils by Tom Coash was nominated for American Theatre Critics Association’s New Play Award.


Grand Prize Winner

The Last Ship to Proxima Centauri by Greg Lam

Clauder Competition Grand Prize Winner. Massachusetts State Winner. The Earth has become uninhabitable. The last escape ship from Earth (Seattle, to be exact) arrives at its new home centuries after all the others. The pilots are not prepared for what they find there: A planet full of unimpressed people of color who are not happy to see them.

The Last Ship to Proxima Centauri asks us to examine 21st Century America through the lens of futurist neo-colonialism, 2000 years after the end of Must-See TV.

The Last Ship to Proxima Centauri will be mounted as Mainstage Season Production in 2022.

Greg Lam is a playwright, screenwriter, and board game designer who has recently moved to the Bay Area after a lifetime in the Boston area. He is the co-creator of the “Boston Podcast Players” podcast (bostonpodcastplayers.com) Boston’s virtual podcast stage for new works by local playwrights. He is the co-founder of the Asian-American Playwright Collective and a member of The Pulp Stage Writer’s Room.

Gold Prize Winners

In His Hands by Benjamin Benne

Clauder Competition Connecticut State Winner. This is a list of things Christian believes in: logic, banana Laffy Taffy, video games, and Daniel. This is a list of things Christian doesn’t believe in caffeine, alcohol, monogamy, and God. Daniel, a Mario Kart wizard and aspiring Lutheran pastor, is falling for Christian. But as these men explore the potential of their new relationship, voices from Christian’s past threaten to overpower the connection they share—with one another, and something bigger than themselves.

Benjamin Benne (he/him/his) is a Yale School of Drama MFA Candidate in Playwriting and represented by Paradigm Talent Agency. He is American Blues Theater’s 2019 Blue Ink Playwriting Award winner, Arizona Theatre Company’s 2019 National Latinx Playwriting Award winner, a 2019 Kennedy Center/KCACTF Latinx Playwriting Award recipient, a 2017 Robert Chesley/Victor Bumbalo Playwriting Award winner, a Playwrights’ Center Affiliated Writer, and a current member of the Dorothy Strelsin New American Writers Group at Primary Stages. His plays, including Alma, querencia: an imagined autobiography about forbidden fruits, and at the very bottom of a body of water, have been produced/developed with the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Playwrights Conference, The Playwrights Realm’s Scratchpad Series, The Lark’s Playwrights’ Week, The Public, Roundabout Theatre Company, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, The Old Globe, Two River Theater, SPACE on Ryder Farm, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Boston Court Pasadena, Pillsbury House Theatre, and Teatro Milagro, among others. www.benjaminbenne.com

Rx Machina by Caity-Shea Violette

Rx Machina unpacks big pharma’s impact on everyday American culture through the eyes of five women on the frontlines of the opioid epidemic. An ambitious pharmaceutical sales representative’s relentless pursuit of a rigidly principled pain management doctor leads to an intoxicating, forbidden connection that comes with a cost. Searching for humanity in a healthcare system where patients are consumers and pain is profitable, Rx Machina asks who gets to get better and who gets left behind.

Caity-Shea Violette (she/her) (she/her) is a playwright and screenwriter whose work explores invisible disabilities, sexuality, breaking cycles, and learning how to belong to yourself. She is a winner of the 2020 Samuel French Off Off Broadway Festival and was the recipient of the Kennedy Center’s 2020 Gary Garrison National Ten-Minute Play Award and the 2019 Susan Glaspell Playwriting Festival National Award. Her plays include Rx Machina, Credible, Slow Jam, Gaslight Supernova, Reap The Grove, Target Behavior, The Stand, and others. Her work has been developed or presented at Roundabout Theatre Company’s Reverb Theatre Arts Festival, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, A Room of Her Own Foundation, and more. Caity-Shea is a two-time semifinalist for the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, a semifinalist for The Lark’s Shakespeare’s Sister Fellowship, a semifinalist for the 2020 Blue Ink Playwriting Award, and a selected participant for the 2020 Academy Gold–Extensions Program. Caity-Shea received a BFA in Theatre from University of Minnesota, Duluth and recently completed her MFA in Playwriting program at Boston University. More at www.caitysheaviolette.com

State Winners

ConnecticutIn His Hands by Benjamin Benne

MaineDeath Wings by Bess Welden

Massachusetts:  The Last Ship to Proxima Centauri by Greg Lam

New Hampshire:  Awful People Pray by Leila Teitelman

Rhode Island:  Radical by Deborah Salem Smith and Charlie Thurston

Vermont:  Fixed Point by Mary Beth McNulty


Winning Clauder Competition plays are workshopped and presented in the Little Festival of the Unexpected and offered to the public as a free event. Since its debut in 1990, the Little Festival of the Unexpected (LFU) has established a tradition of nurturing artists, invigorating audiences, and exploring new voices, visions, and forms of theater. The festival furnishes a supportive environment for playwrights to develop their work and offers audiences a unique opportunity to witness the creative process that usher scripts to the stage. LFU readings are performed by a company of professional actors and are followed by an open discussion with the audience, director, and playwright.

The 2021 Little Festival of the Unexpected will be live-streamed on Zoom.

Following each digital workshop performance, there will be a talkback with the writer, director, and cast of the show.

Each presentation will be free and open to the public. Registration is required.

During the weekend following each performance, a recording of that week’s reading will be hosted on Portland Stage’s website.


PRICE:  Free and open to registered participants
PLATFORM: Livestream on Zoom

Rx Machina by Caity-Shea Violette | Friday, March 12 at 7:00 pm EST

The Last Ship to Proxima Centauri by Greg Lam | Friday, March 26 at 7:00 pm EST

In His Hands by Benjamin Benne | Friday, April 9 at 7:00 pm EST

RUN TIME: Approximately 1 hour 30 min with no intermission
BOX OFFICE PHONE:  207.774.0465
BOX OFFICE EMAIL: [email protected]
LOCATION:  25 Forest Ave, Portland, ME


47th season
Portland Stage offers Mainstage performances, New Works, and Education programs. The 2020-21 Mainstage season is trying to maintain its regular schedule as safety and artists’ unions permit, which is one co-production musical with Maine State Music Theatre (already canceled), six Mainstage Productions, Staged Readings of its commissions, and Studio Series productions. PSC promotes and celebrates the creation of new plays with an environment that supports the region’s playwrights, builds bridges between its theater and national writers, and builds awareness of theater with three exciting initiatives: The Clauder Competition, the Little Festival of the Unexpected, as well as From Away, a festival in collaboration with the International Writing Program (IWP) at the University of Iowa. This year, Portland Stage also celebrates its 11th season of the Susie Konkel Theater for Kids and the 100,000 student experiences it has provided in the last decade through the Theater for Kids. Visit portlandstage.org to learn more.