ETC Announces Winner of Fourth Annual PLAY/WRITE Collegiate Playwriting Competition


(Cincinnati, OH) Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati (ETC) is pleased to announce the winner of the fourth annual PLAY/write: The Jackie Demaline Regional Collegiate Playwriting Competition. The annual collegiate competition nurtures local aspiring dramatists who are helping to shape the future of American theatre and provides a $2,500 juried cash award to support the early work and career of each winner along with staged professional readings of their scripts.

The winner of this year’s prize is Steven Strafford (Ohio University) for his play The Match Game, which will receive a full-length staged professional reading on July 31, 2022, at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati.

Judges found Strafford’s The Match Game very well constructed, humorous, and highly entertaining all while navigating some heavier topics as a diagnosis of cancer, the loss of trust, and family dysfunction. The panel would also like to recognize the following playwrights with Honorable Mentions in this year’s competition:  Both Hands by Joyce Evelyn Deaton (Northern Kentucky University), The Heat by David Schwartz (University of Cincinnati), and The End of the World by Baxter Whitehead (Miami University).

About the Competition
The competition commemorates the life and work of writer, critic, and theatre enthusiast, Jackie Demaline. A passionate arts advocate, Ms. Demaline served as an important catalyst for change in the theater community and was an entertainment writer and editor for numerous publications. Her legacy lives on through this competition, providing professional development for emerging writers, amplifying new voices and perspectives, and kick-starting arts careers. 

About the Play
The Match Game by Steven Strafford

Steph has cancer, but that’s the least of her problems today. Her estranged father, who may or may not have dementia, has come to live with her. Her suspicious mom, her gay brother and his sweet, young, and somewhat dim-witted boyfriend, her absent father, and her precocious daughter will all be in attendance at an ad-hoc birthday party, complete with the set of a regional production of a Broadway musical. Can Steph navigate her family to get what she wants, or maybe more importantly, what she needs? 

About the Playwright
Steven Strafford is a Brooklyn-born playwright and actor. He is the author of the award-winning solo play, Methtacular!, which he has performed across the country in LORT theaters, universities, and LGBTQ+ spaces and which was recorded at Steppenwolf’s 1700 Theater in 2019. His soon-to-be-published play Small Jokes About Monsters won the New American Voices Contest in 2016, was a semi-finalist for The O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, and won the 2022 Ready-To-Publish Award from SETC and StageRights. Small Jokes About Monsters had productions in Houston at Landing Theatre, (nominated for Outstanding New Play, Houston Theater Awards), Chicago at 16th Street Theater, and in Sioux City at The Lamb Theater. His play Greater Illinois was a semifinalist in the 2021 O’Neill National Playwrights Conference and a finalist for the Jackie Demaline Regional Collegiate Playwriting Competition at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati. The play also received a workshop with Tantrum East in NYC. His short play Use Your Noodles was produced at Middlesex College, Ohio University, and Colby College. Methtacular! will be included in a forthcoming anthology of solo plays from Opus Books. His essay, “College Dreams,” was published in the book, The Anatomy of Silence.

Performance Information
The reading will take place on Sunday, July 31, 2022, at 2:00 pm at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati. Registration is required for this free event and can be reserved online at or by calling (513) 421-3555.


2021-2022 Season Presenting Sponsor is the Otto M. Budig Family Foundation.

Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati is supported, in part, by the generosity of community contributions to the ArtsWave Campaign.

The Ohio Arts Council helps fund Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans. Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati also receives funding from the Shubert Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati is a professional theatre dedicated to producing world and regional premieres of works that often explore compelling social issues. We fulfill our mission through our stage productions and educational outreach programs that enlighten, enliven, enrich and inspire our audiences.

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