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START DOWN Wins 12th Alliance/Kendeda Competition; Takes the Stage Next Month

The Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition continues to spotlight the best emerging playwrights with a full production for the competition winner and staged readings for four competition finalists. START DOWN, the 12th competition winner, will premiere on the Hertz Stage February 13 - March 6, 2016. Opening night is February 18, 2016.

START DOWN is written by Eleanor Burgess, a MFA student in Dramatic Writing at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, and will be directed by Jeremy Cohen, Producing Artistic Director at the Playwrights' Center in Minneapolis.

START DOWN looks at work, love, and get-rich-quick tech start-ups. This award-winning play questions the way we live, the way we educate our children, and our core values around technology. Inspired by his girlfriend's high school teaching career and eager to create a cutting-edge product, software developer Will forms a company dedicated to making online tutorials tailored to individual student needs. It's a brilliant idea until the program threatens some deeply held beliefs about the student/teacher relationship.

"START DOWN is as smart as it is contemporary and wears its wisdom cloaked in good humor," said Alliance Theatre Director of New Projects Celise Kalke. "The play features engaging characters wrestling with the moral complexities of technology in the classroom."

The cast of START DOWN includes Tracey Bonner as Karen; Anthony Campbell as Jessie; Andrew Puckett as Matty; Annie Purcell as Sandy; Eric Sharp as Will; and Josh Tobin as Adam. The design team includes Lighting Designer, Joshua Epstein; Sound Designer Joshua Horvath; Costume Designer Ivan Ingermann; and Scenic and Projection Designer Caite Hevner Kemp.

The Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition solicits plays from the leading MFA graduate programs in the United States and then conducts a rigorous selection process to find four finalists and one winning play. The winner receives a full production as part of the Alliance Theatre regular season. The winner and four finalists also receive development opportunities for their works including staged readings with industry professionals in Washington, D.C. and Atlanta. A one-of-a-kind opportunity for emerging playwrights, the Competition transitions student playwrights to the world of professional theatre.

Aside from Alliance Artistic Director Susan V. Booth and Director of New Projects Celise Kalke, this year's selecting judges included Ben Cameron, Program Director for Arts at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation; Kevin Moriarty, Artistic Director of the Dallas Theater Center; and Sarah Gubbins, Playwright and past Alliance/Kendeda Competition finalist for her play Fair Use.

The four 2015 finalists will be heard in staged readings February 16 - 18, 2016, during the New Play Festival celebrating new work. All readings and events are free and open to the public. Reservations for the readings are preferred and can be made by calling the Woodruff Arts Center Box Office - 404.733.5000.

The list of readings and events for this year's festival includes:

FINALIST READING: THE CONFESSION - by Will Arbery, Northwestern University

In a Dallas Catholic boys school, a gay (but celibate) priest is put on probation for inappropriate behavior in his classroom. A character driven and often hilarious comedy about self knowledge and an ancient institution moving gracefully (and sometimes clumsily) forward.

FINALIST READING: ALL THE ROADS HOME - by Jennifer Silverman, The Julliard School

Three generations of women in one family painfully explore self-actualization, limited in their dreams by strict social expectations.

FINALIST READING: THE GHOSTS OF LOTE BRAVO by Hilary Bettis, The Juilliard School

A gripping drama using magical realist conventions of the U.S./Mexico border, as a mother desperately searches for her lost daughter.

FINALIST READING: TRICKY by Nina Braddock, New York University

Set in a hospital for eating disorders, a group of patients demonstrate the tricky nature of these excruciating illnesses.

DISCUSSION: A conversation with Celise Kalke and START DOWN playwright and Alliance/Kendeda competition winner Eleanor Burgess

The five plays selected each year during the Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition represent one manifestation of the Alliance's goal to produce shared theatre for diverse people with their rigorous multigenerational, multicultural, and omni-political ambitions. Emerging writers are offered the ultimate developmental tools and networking opportunities with industry professionals. At the same time, Atlanta audiences are introduced to the country's brightest emerging playwrights. Past winners have become some of today's most exciting playwrights and include Tarell Alvin McCraney, Kenneth Lin, Mike Lew, and Meg Miroshnik.

Over the past twelve years, the Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition has been supported by a gift from the Kendeda Fund. Other supporters of the competition include The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust, The Edgerton New American Plays Award, and the National Endowment for the Arts, among others.

Performances are Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 2:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., February 13 - March 6, 2016, on the Hertz Stage. There will be no 2:30 pm performance on Saturday, February 13.

Tickets start at $20 and are available at The Woodruff Arts Center Box Office in person or by calling 404-733-5000. Tickets are also available online at Discounted rates for groups of 10 or more are available by calling 404.733.4690. Discount rates are also available for members of the military, seniors and students. The Alliance Theatre is located at The Woodruff Arts Center, 1280 Peachtree Street, at the corner of Peachtree and 15th Street, in Midtown Atlanta.

The Alliance Theatre is Atlanta's national theater, expanding hearts and minds on stage and off. Founded in 1968, the Alliance Theatre is the leading producing theater in the Southeast, reaching more than 165,000 patrons annually. The Alliance delivers powerful programming that challenges adult and youth audiences to think critically and care deeply. Under the leadership of Susan V. Booth, Jennings Hertz Artistic Director, the Alliance Theatre received the Regional Theatre Tony Award in recognition of sustained excellence in programming, education, and community engagement.

Known for its high artistic standards and national role in creating significant theatrical works, the Alliance has premiered more than 95 original productions including Tony Award winners The Color Purple, by Alice Walker, Aida, by Elton John and Tim Rice, and Alfred Uhry's The Last Night of Ballyhoo.

The Alliance has developed and premiered important American musicals with a strong track record of Broadway, touring, and subsequent productions, including the world premieres of Sister Act: The Musical, Twyla Tharp's Come Fly Away, Bring It On: The Musical, Stephen King and John Mellencamp's Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, Harmony - A New Musical by Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman, and most recently the world premiere of the new musical Tuck Everlasting. The Alliance also creates and nurtures the careers of artists through the Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition, producing the world premiere for the competition winner as part of the regular season, and the Reiser Atlanta Artists Lab, providing developmental support and production resources for three performing arts projects each year.

The Alliance's dedication to providing access to the arts is reflected in its commitment to creating new work for all ages, and to bringing that work into classrooms and communities across Atlanta and throughout the region. More than 50,000 students each year experience age-specific professional performances and participate in acting classes, drama camps, and in-school initiatives through the Alliance Theatre Acting Program and Education Department. The Alliance's groundbreaking Kathy and Ken Bernhardt Theatre for the Very Young performances offer professionally-produced, fully interactive theater for infants and toddlers; the Palefsky Collision Project invites high school artists to create and perform new civic-minded theater based on a classic text; and community acting classes and skill-building workshops engage professional artists, young actors, business leaders, and curious learners of all ages. Twice recognized by the U.S. Department of Education for leadership in arts education, the Alliance Arts for Learning Institute equips classroom teachers with theatrical techniques that link directly to school curriculum and have been empirically proven to improve student learning. These programs include Georgia Wolf Trap Early Learning Through the Arts and Dramaturgy K-12, in which students create research material that informs Alliance productions and prepares peer audiences.

The work produced by the Alliance allows locally based artists the chance to create on a nationally watched stage, building and sustaining Atlanta's artistic community. The vision of the Alliance Theatre is to be a beacon of leadership for the national field, while remaining deeply rooted in and reflective of our local Atlanta community. For more information, visit

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