Depression-era drama ‘Every Livin’ Soul’ wins Dayton Playhouse FutureFest

Washington, Pennsylvania playwright William Cameron's Depression-era drama “Every Livin’ Soul” took top honors at the 32nd annual Dayton Playhouse FutureFest of new plays, held July 15-17. PHOTO BY ANNIE PESCH

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Washington, Pennsylvania playwright William Cameron's Depression-era drama “Every Livin’ Soul” took top honors at the 32nd annual Dayton Playhouse FutureFest of new plays, held July 15-17. PHOTO BY ANNIE PESCH

Washington, Pennsylvania playwright William Cameron’s Depression-era drama “Every Livin’ Soul” took top honors at the 32nd annual Dayton Playhouse FutureFest of new plays, held July 15-17.

Loosely based on the true story of legendary bank robber Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd, named “Public Enemy No. 1″ by the FBI shortly before his death in 1934, “Every Livin’ Soul” received the highest scores among six finalists from a five-member panel of professional adjudicators. Judging criteria included character development, dramatic concept, language, plot, page-to-stage, and the next stage.

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Left to right: The cast of "Every Livin' Soul": Kathryn Gainey-West (Dot Winship), Brandon Shockney (Choc), director Ray Gambrel, Steve Heman (Herk Winship), Mandy Shannon (Hannah Winship Grey), and Steve Mongelli, who provided stage directions.

Credit: JANET WASSON

Left to right: The cast of "Every Livin' Soul": Kathryn Gainey-West (Dot Winship), Brandon Shockney (Choc), director Ray Gambrel, Steve Heman (Herk Winship), Mandy Shannon (Hannah Winship Grey), and Steve Mongelli, who provided stage directions.

Credit: JANET WASSON

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Left to right: The cast of "Every Livin' Soul": Kathryn Gainey-West (Dot Winship), Brandon Shockney (Choc), director Ray Gambrel, Steve Heman (Herk Winship), Mandy Shannon (Hannah Winship Grey), and Steve Mongelli, who provided stage directions.

Credit: JANET WASSON

Credit: JANET WASSON

Cameron, who received a cash prize of $1,000 for his winning script, was a finalist last year for “Truth Be Told,” performed virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic and originally selected as a finalist in 2020. His plays have been performed across the country, including off-off Broadway at the Harold Clurman Theatre, the Source Theatre in Washington, D.C., the Pittsburgh New Works Festival, and various community and academic theatres.

Directed by Ray Gambrel and set on a small farm on the outskirts of East Liverpool, Ohio circa 1934, “Every Livin’ Soul,” also named Audience Favorite, was presented July 17 as a staged reading. The cast consisted of Kathryn Gainey-West as Dot Winship, Steve Heman as Herk Winship, Mandy Shannon as Hannah Winship Grey, and Brandon Shockney as Choc with Steve Mongelli providing stage direction.

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Dayton Playhouse Board Chair Matt Lindsay (left) and 2022 FutureFest-winning playwright William Cameron.

Credit: ANNIE PESCH

Dayton Playhouse Board Chair Matt Lindsay (left) and 2022 FutureFest-winning playwright William Cameron.

Credit: ANNIE PESCH

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Dayton Playhouse Board Chair Matt Lindsay (left) and 2022 FutureFest-winning playwright William Cameron.

Credit: ANNIE PESCH

Credit: ANNIE PESCH

“This has been a wonderful experience,” said Cameron. “What a great (endeavor) FutureFest is for the Dayton Playhouse. I also thank the adjudicators who offered such sage advice and do such important work. I also want to thank the whole Dayton Playhouse family. It’s been a great joy to be here and see all the people I’ve been communicating with for the past two years. I also thank Ray and the extraordinary cast. I’m so grateful. It was thrilling to watch the superb work of my fellow playwrights and I’m honored to be included with them.”

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Chosen from 378 submissions, the remaining finalists were:

  • Brooklyn, New York playwright Daniel Damiano’s thought-provoking environmental/relationship drama “The Wild Boar”;
  • Los Angeles, California playwright Angela J. Davis’ timely and topical drama “Griswold,” spotlighting Estelle Griswold, civil rights activist and feminist known as a defendant in the landmark 1965 Supreme Court case Griswold v. Connecticut, which struck down laws barring married couples from access to birth control;
  • Astoria, New York playwright Holly Hepp-Galaván’s medical drama “Lakshmi Counts Her Arms and Legs,” based on the true story of Lakshmi Tatma who was born with eight limbs in the village of Bihar in India in 2005;
  • Sandy Hook, Connecticut playwright Kate Katcher’s humorous, sitcom savvy senior comedy “The Little Sisters of Littleton”; and
  • Blue Point, New York playwright Donna Kaz’s nostalgic, poignant drama “The Docent.”
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Left to right: The 2022 Dayton Playhouse FutureFest finalists: Holly Hepp-Galaván of Astoria, New York; William Cameron of Washington, Pennsylvania; Kate Katcher of Sandy Hook, Connecticut; Donna Kaz of Blue Point, New York; and Daniel Damiano of Brooklyn, New York. Angela J. Davis of Los Angeles, California was unable to attend.

Credit: ANNIE PESCH

Left to right: The 2022 Dayton Playhouse FutureFest finalists: Holly Hepp-Galaván of Astoria, New York; William Cameron of Washington, Pennsylvania; Kate Katcher of Sandy Hook, Connecticut; Donna Kaz of Blue Point, New York; and Daniel Damiano of Brooklyn, New York. Angela J. Davis of Los Angeles, California was unable to attend.

Credit: ANNIE PESCH

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Left to right: The 2022 Dayton Playhouse FutureFest finalists: Holly Hepp-Galaván of Astoria, New York; William Cameron of Washington, Pennsylvania; Kate Katcher of Sandy Hook, Connecticut; Donna Kaz of Blue Point, New York; and Daniel Damiano of Brooklyn, New York. Angela J. Davis of Los Angeles, California was unable to attend.

Credit: ANNIE PESCH

Credit: ANNIE PESCH

“Thank you so much for letting us do your beautiful plays,” said Tina McPhearson, Playhouse Board Vice Chairperson. “It is our privilege and our honor to celebrate all of you because if you didn’t write (your plays), we would not be here today. We cannot thank you enough.”

Assessing the festival, my favorite play was “The Wild Boar,” a fascinating, eerie, outside-the-box, unexpectedly moving, shouldn’t-work-but-does character study involving crisis and compassion. An outstanding Cheryl Mellen portrayed grieving mother Marlotta Campo, a newly retired teacher seeking escape and challenging norms on a remote island oddly overrun by boars. Believably supported by an endearingly astute Jonathon North in the non-verbal titular role, Mellen brought beautiful, heartbreaking realism to Damiano’s unique portrait of a fearless, independent woman scarred by her past. Director Jennifer Lockwood’s strong cast included Jim Walker, Saul Caplan and Debra Strauss.

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Cheryl Mellen as Marlotta Campo and Jonathon North as the Boar rehearse “The Wild Boar,” set for July 15 at FutureFest. CONTRIBUTED

Cheryl Mellen as Marlotta Campo and Jonathon North as the Boar rehearse “The Wild Boar,” set for July 15 at FutureFest. CONTRIBUTED

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Cheryl Mellen as Marlotta Campo and Jonathon North as the Boar rehearse “The Wild Boar,” set for July 15 at FutureFest. CONTRIBUTED

Elsewhere: Kerry Simpson supplied great humor and heart as the resilient Estelle Griswold opposite Tammy Bertsch and Rusty Paquay in “Griswold,” directed by Shanna Camacho; Alex Carmichal, Megan Cooper, Neal Patel and Trisha Chatterjee effectively navigated the complexities of culture clash in “Lakshmi,” directed by Annie Pesch; Becky Howard, Dee Berdine and Ted Eltzroth were wonderfully compatible and spunky in “Little Sisters,” a genuinely funny crowd-pleaser directed by Dawn Roth Smith; and Jared Mola excellently led “The Docent,” a love letter to early 1980s New York City featuring Hayley Penchoff, Cynthia Karns and Curtis Apwisch with direction by Aaron Washington.

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This year’s adjudicators were New York-based author/playwright/theater critic Peter Filichia, New York-based author/theater critic David Finkle, Texas-based author/playwright/arts administrator Helen Sneed, New York-based publisher/playwright Eleanore Speert, and Dayton’s own Emily N. Wells, artistic director of the Human Race Theatre Company.

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Left to right: Eleanore Speert, Peter Filichia, Emily N. Wells, David Finkle, and Helen Sneed served as FutureFest adjudicators.

Credit: KL STORER

Left to right: Eleanore Speert, Peter Filichia, Emily N. Wells, David Finkle, and Helen Sneed served as FutureFest adjudicators.

Credit: KL STORER

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Left to right: Eleanore Speert, Peter Filichia, Emily N. Wells, David Finkle, and Helen Sneed served as FutureFest adjudicators.

Credit: KL STORER

Credit: KL STORER

In addition, the all-volunteer festival was dedicated in memory of Jim Payne, who passed away March 3 at age 82. Payne, who taught speech, drama and English at Colonel White High School, served as managing director for the Playhouse from 1980 to 1994. He also helped formulate FutureFest with John Riley and Dodie Lockwood and was particularly instrumental in helping to acquire and design the current Playhouse location at Wegerzyn Garden Center. In 2002, he was one of the inaugural inductees of the Dayton Theatre Hall of Fame.

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Jim Payne (March 4, 1939-March 3, 2022) served 14 years as managing director of the Dayton Playhouse (1980-1994). He also helped formulate the Dayton Playhouse's FutureFest in 1991. CONTRIBUTED

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

Jim Payne (March 4, 1939-March 3, 2022) served 14 years as managing director of the Dayton Playhouse (1980-1994). He also helped formulate the Dayton Playhouse's FutureFest in 1991. CONTRIBUTED

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

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Jim Payne (March 4, 1939-March 3, 2022) served 14 years as managing director of the Dayton Playhouse (1980-1994). He also helped formulate the Dayton Playhouse's FutureFest in 1991. CONTRIBUTED

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

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