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MADELEINES by Bess Welden Wins 11th Annual Jewish Playwriting Contest

The play follows Debra, a struggling food writer, who has returned to her childhood home in Ohio to care for her declining mother Rose, an exacting cookie baker.

MADELEINES by Bess Welden Wins 11th Annual Jewish Playwriting Contest

The Jewish Plays Project has announced Madeleines, by Bess Welden of Portland, Maine, has won the 11th annual Jewish Playwriting Contest. The play earned its title after over 1,400 voters across the United States and Israel chose their preference for the best new Jewish play, culminating in a live finals event hosted by the Jewish Community Center Association of North America (JCCA).

Debra, a struggling food writer, has returned to her childhood home in Ohio's rust belt to care for her declining mother Rose, an exacting cookie baker. When Jennifer, Debra's very successful older sister, arrives for Rose's funeral, shared memories and old sibling grievances boil to the surface. As the sisters confront their loss, a startling secret about their mother's most-treasured Passover recipe emerges, which changes everything they thought they knew about their family. Three years later Debra returns triumphant to New York promoting her newly published cookbook-memoir to find Jennifer in a treacherous downward spiral. Spiced with poetry and smatterings of Yiddish and Spanish, Madeleines tells the story of a family of Jewish women grappling with how to love each other through haunted pasts, shared grief, and the solace of baking together.

Welden is a former contest finalist for her earlier play Refuge Malja. She has worked closely with director Annette Jolles on Madeleines.

Contact the JPP to read Madeleines as well as the other finalists in the 2022 contest.

Said Welden, "This year's process has made me feel seriously supported as an artist and much more connected to a large and vibrant Jewish cultural community. I am more confident in my work knowing that so many people around the country read or heard parts of Madeleines and were moved by the story and characters. Winning this year's contest will no doubt continue to open doors for Madeleines to reach even more audiences, which feels very much like an investment in me as a Jewish playwright."

"I am so thrilled that the JPP community-over a thousand voters all over the world-have selected two-time finalist Bess Welden and her beautiful, poetic, and theatrically original play as the winner of our Contest," said Artistic Director David Winitsky. "Her play is a deeply felt Jewish women's story at a moment when that is more vital than ever. Plus, it will be a tour-de-force for three female-identifying amazing actors when it gets its world premiere!"

The other national Finalists were To Reach Across A River by Marshall Botvinick (Durham, NC) and Tree of Life by Victor Wishna (Leawood, KS). Both are first-time finalists.

The winner of the Jewish Playwriting Contest is selected by a combination of live vote-taken June 23rd, during the JPP's livestreamed event with the Jewish Community Centers of North America [BJ1] (JCCA) on regional votes cast after performances in cities including Houston, Charlotte, Chicago, Fairfax, Hartford, Silicon Valley, New York City, and Tel Aviv.

Find full information about all the plays, including playwright contact information, at the JPP's website, Interested producers, agents, and literary managers can email

"Jewish Plays Project's unique approach to play development cultivates new audiences for innovative Jewish plays, builds a community of artists, and fosters meaningful creative collaborations. I am grateful that my play Oklahoma Samovar was selected for the Jewish Playwriting Contest, and I treasure the enduring artistic relationships I made in the process," says Alice Eve Cohen, playwright, winner of the 2021 National Jewish Playwriting Contest, the Jane Chambers Playwriting Award, and the Elle Literary Grand Prize.


The Jewish Playwriting Contest seeks to discover, highlight, and nurture contemporary Jewish drama by engaging with artistic and Jewish communities throughout the English-speaking world. The Contest has received and vetted over 1,800 plays by over 1,000 writers in 34 states and 10 countries. The JPP has actively developed 55 of those plays, 35 of which have gone on to production in cities across the globe, including New York, L.A., London, and Tel Aviv, playing for more than 100,000 audience members.


The Jewish Plays Project, founded in 2011, identifies, develops, and presents new works of theater via one-of-a-kind explorations of contemporary Jewish identity between audiences, artists, and patrons. The JPP's innovative and competitive development process engages Jewish communities in the vetting, selecting, and championing of new voices and secures mainstream production opportunities for the best new plays. The JPP's signature method is Jewish Dramaturgy: matching the best minds in the Jewish community with the best 21st-Century Jewish plays.


Bess Welden's recent plays include Death Wings, winner of the 2020 Maine State prize of the Clauder Competition for New England Playwrights and slated for a 2023 premiere with Dramatic Repertory Company (ME); Madeleines, finalist for the 2021 Bay Area Playwrights Festival, and Refuge Malja, winner of the 2020 Tel Aviv Jewish Plays Contest, finalist in the 2020 National Jewish Playwriting Contest, which premiered on Portland Stage's mainstage in 2018.

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