For the first time in 23 years, a tie was declared for the annual new play competition at the Dayton Playhouse known as FutureFest. The three-day festival ended Sunday night.
The winning plays were “A Position of Relative Importance,” a comedy by Hal Borden; and “The King’s Face,” a historical drama by Steven Young.
“In FutureFest history, there has never been a tie, but it speaks to the quality of work submitted this year that for the first time we have two winners,” said the Dayton Playhouse board chairman Brian Sharp in making the announcement on Sunday evening. Each winning playwright will receive $1,000.
Six plays — chosen from 200 submissions — were selected for presentation. A five-person panel of New York and regional critics provided feedback to the playwright following each production, with audience members also invited to comment and ask questions. More than 100 volunteers plan and produce the theatrical weekend.
Borden, whose script on the subject of unemployment elicited a constant stream of laughter from the audience when it opened the weekend on Friday night, is a trademark lawyer from Philadelphia. He said this was his first play and that the real prize was the chance to see his work on stage for the first time.
“A job interview is a perfect germ for a play,” Borden said. “Somebody is expressing so much enthusiasm for a job he’s going to complain about for the rest of his life.”
Young’s play is based on a true story about Prince Harry of Monmouth who, in 1403, was struck by an arrow and had an arrowhead lodged in his skull. The two-person drama revolves around the dying prince and the friendship he develops with a London surgeon who is released from prison and ordered to save him.
“In the future if anyone asks me who wrote Shakespeare’s plays, I’m going to say Steven Young,” said adjudicator David Finkle. “This was Shakespearean language.”
Young said he was “relieved, excited, thrilled and speechless” to win the competition. The best thing about the weekend, he said, is that it had inspired him to “go home and start writing again.”
This year’s sold-out festival attracted theater-lovers from throughout the area and from around the country.
Kevin Melloncamp of Key West, Fla., said he had heard about FutureFest for decades from a high school friend and finally decided to come.
“I’m blown away by the quality and the variety of the plays,” he said.
The FutureFest weekend is known for the informal exchanges that take place among playwrights, judges, audience members, casts and crews — in the lobby and in the Wegerzyn Gardens before and after the performances.
“Both of these winners’ plays were very tight; they were completely different genres but they both held the audiences,” said Adjudicator Eleanore Speert of New York, who has been coming to Dayton for 13 years. “The other plays were just as good but just needed one or two things to take them to the next level.”
Other finalists included “Veils” by Tom Coash, “The One with Olives” by Sam Havens, “On the Road to Kingdom” by M.J. Feely and “St. Paulie’s Delight” by J. Joseph Cox.