Philadelphia Theatre Company Announces Stephanie Kyung Sun Walters as 2022 Winner of the Terrance McNally Award

Walters will receive a $5,000 cash award and developmental guidance and dramaturgical support for the play from PTC.

Philadelphia Theatre Company has announced the second winner of the revived Terrence McNally Award. In 2021, the theatre awarded the first of the newly reinstituted award to Donja R. Love. This year the recipient is Montgomery County Stephanie Kyung Sun Walters (she/her) for the final part of her Koreatown Trilogy, Acetone Wishes and Plexiglass Dreams.

"I'm honored to receive the Terrence McNally Award this year," said Walters. "McNally's legacy of transformative art is palpable and it's humbling to carry his award. My hope for my time with Philadelphia Theatre Company is to honor the soul and voice of my play, Acetone Wishes and Plexiglass Dreams. This play is the final piece in my Philly Koreatown Trilogy - each play showcasing a piece of my family's roots in America. In sharing this play, I share a piece of myself with audiences."

Prior to McNally's death in March 2020, the theatre wanted to revive the award and had been in discussion with McNally and his husband, producer Tom Kirdahy, to move forward. Many McNally plays have grappled with queer identity, social justice, and the transformative power of art. The award was solely open to writers born, raised, or currently residing in Philadelphia. PTC put these themes at the center of what they were looking for in applications and the theatre also wanted to foster local talent.

In Acetone Wishes and Plexiglass Dreams, Celina has moved home to Philadelphia's Koreatown to take over the neighborhood beauty salon. DIY renovations keep her busy, but discovering a secret about her high school buddy, Inky, and a gossiping chorus of aunties and uncles keeps her busier. However, Celina has a secret of her own; a secret that dragged her across the country, only to return home empty handed. Will Celina prevent the rumors, ghosts, and aunties from chaining her down or will she drag Inky into the dark web she's brought home?

"I was only one of several panelists, but we all remarked on how honest and truthful this play felt to us," said Producing Artistic Director Paige Price. "Her characters not only explored a very Philadelphia neighborhood, but also touched upon Prodigal Child themes which, taken in context with what has happened to families during the pandemic, really touched a nerve about leaving and coming home, about parental relationships and generational responsibilities. Stephanie's play was bracing and funny. Her inventive use of multiple roles for certain actors creates a fun, engaging and poignant canvas to build upon. Sometimes you read a play and say, 'I want to see THAT.' And that's kind of how the panel felt."

Acetone Wishes and Plexiglass Dreams is the final piece of Walters' Koreatown Trilogy. The Koreatown Trilogy takes place in Philadelphia's very own Koreatown. In her application, Walters talked about how her work explores community and creates a conversation around collective healing and progression.

"I also hope to inspire and empower our city's young and emerging artists to weaponize their creative voices and artistic work," said Walters. "In the spirit of McNally's work, we must all use our artistry to seek change, provoke newness, and celebrate where we are going! May this new generation of artists share McNally's belief in theatre and plays inspiring audiences and serving as a catalyst for "society to decide to heal and change itself"

"I would be remiss if I did not thank the people who raised me up in this journey; the feathers in my wings," added Walters. "My family has been a huge advocate for my artistic work and I wouldn't be here without their constant love and support. My mother often says "write about it" when I am faced with struggle or adversity. I hope that my work allows others to feel seen and understood, should they carry similar weights. But my mother has also taught me to live life with grace, gratitude, and gladness and I am certainly feeling all of those Gs at this moment! I would also like to thank my community of Philadelphia theatre artists who have championed my work both on the stage and on the page. Philadelphia is a beautiful town full of so much room to grow and I can't wait to continue growing spherically in it!"

Walters will receive a $5,000 cash award and developmental guidance and dramaturgical support for the play from PTC. Alexandra Espinoza (They/Them) received Honorable Mention for their play HOMERIADE.

Finalists include: Carl(os) Roa (They/Them): The Brightest Sun; Dave Harris (He/Him): WATCH ME; Emma Gibson (She/Her): if nobody does remarkable things; Eppchez "!" Yo-Sí Yes (They/Them): Junk Redemption; Julie Zaffarano (She/Her): Above the Fold; Keenya Jackson (She/Her): Botanicals or Giving it to God; Lee Edward Colston II (He/Him): THE FIRST DEEP BREATH; and Pratima Agrawal (She/Her): The Last Remains.

First Round Panelists include Angela Bey, Lauren Davenport, Rodrick Edwards, Lori Felipe-Barkin, Bruce Graham, Neal Gupta, Cat Ramirez, Gilberto Vega, Sarah Weill-Jones, Kenny Zhuo, and Paige Zubel. Panelists comprising the Final Round are Carrie Chapter, Angel Chasco, Santino DeAngelo, Allison Fifield, Nina Goodheart, and Paige Price.

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