For the first time in its 23 year history, a tie has been declared for the annual new play competition at the Dayton Playhouse known as FutureFest.
The winning plays were "A Position of Relative Importance," a comedy by Hal Borden, and "The King's Face," an historical drama by Steven Young.
"We had a little rub tonight," said Playhouse board director Brian Sharp in making the announcement. "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." Each playwright will receive a $1,000 prize.
Six plays --chosen from 200 submissions-- were selected for presentation over the three-day weekend. 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 riveting 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 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.
All five judges were effusive in their praise for the two-person period drama.
"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."
"I've had a million ideas over this weekend and kept e-maling myself at every break," he said.
This year's sold-out Festival attracted theater-lovers from throughout the area and from around the country.
Kevin Melloncamp of Key West, Florida, 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. "We had dinner with two of the playwrights and it was great!"
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.
Adjudicator Eleanore Speert of New York, who has been coming to Dayton for 13 years, said all of her colleagues agreed it was an extremely strong year.
"Both of these winners' plays were very tight , they were completely different genres but they both held the audiences," she said. "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.