Annual Dramatic Writing Competition Winners Announced

The Department of (PMA) is pleased to announce the winners of the annual Heermans-McCalmon Dramatic Writing Competition.  

The Heermans-McCalmon awards were established at the bequest of Forbes Heermans (Class of 1878) and in memory of the late George McCalmon, Professor of Speech and Drama. The contest is open to current Cornell University undergraduate students in good academic standing. 

First place was awarded to Fabia St-Juste ’24 for the play ‘Prince of Darkness,’ Jack Muench ’22 for the screenplay ‘Two Red Lines,’ and Asha Prabhat ’24 for ‘Singing in the Shower’ in the solo performance category.

Fabia St-Juste, who has sophomore-standing in the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, is majoring in Fine Arts with a Film minor. Her play, ‘Prince of Darkness,’ is about the anticipation of a young woman's family to meet her spouse-to-be and the chaos that ensues when expectation does not meet reality. The play explores themes of xenophobia and conservative family values and religious ideologies.

As a young Haitian artist, St-Juste is incredibly passionate about the intersection of art, performance, and technology. She is also highly dedicated to empowering BIPOC presence in the arts. At Cornell, she serves as an ambassador for the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning (AAP), and vice president of AAPOC, an organization dedicated to uplifting students of color within AAP. In her free time, she likes playwriting and reading sci-fi novels and comic books.

Jack Muench is a junior majoring in PMA and minoring in Business. He plays on the Cornell Football team as a defensive lineman and will be initiated into Cornell's DKA Professional Cinematic Society this spring. His screenplay, ‘Two Red Lines,’ is about a man who, after a drunken late-night encounter, must convince his girlfriend's best friend to contemplate abortion against the will of her steadfast morals.

“I've always found that my best writing comes when I'm trying to capture one of my biggest fears: unavoidable conflict,” says Muench. “In writing this screenplay, I thought to myself ‘How can I take an inherently scary situation and place it into a metaphorical pressure cooker?’"

Asha Prabhat is a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences, majoring in Government and Feminist and Gender Studies. She is a director on Cornell’s Advocacy Project, which partners with non-profit organizations and leads key workshops and events that are dedicated to spreading specific types of advocacy to anyone with an internet connection. She is also a student coach and key competitor on Cornell’s Speech Team.

“My solo performance, ‘Singing in the Shower,’ details elements of my childhood and high school experience where I fell victim to toxic beauty standards and colorism,” says Prabhat. “As I reflect back on my journey, I acknowledge how different I am from the confident and spunky singer I was when I was a child. Through a series of anecdotes, we realize that I may not be as together as I make myself out to be.” 

Second place went to Quinn Theobald ’22 for the play ‘The Statue of C. C. Whitley,’ Linshuang Wu ’21 for the screenplay ‘That's What I Am,’ and Sara Pistono ’21 for the spoken word/performance piece ‘My Mythology.’

Quinn Theobald is a junior majoring in Information Science. He's been writing plays since high school and enjoys performing with his improv troupe and reading to his little brothers. His play, ‘The Statue of C. C. Whitley,’ is about a pair of statues in a university quad. Theobald says the play is “in part a story of impermanence, and in part a story about finding where you belong. The other parts are about other things.”

Linshuang Wu is a senior double majoring in Psychology and PMA. ‘That's What I Am’ is a short screenplay revolving around two women in a Cyberpunk world. An out-of-work prostitute, Sylvia, calls a robot prostitute, Velvet, to her hotel room and their conversation completely turns Sylvia’s life around and influences her in a most unexpected way. With a parallel between their actions and emotions in the beginning and the end, Sylvia and Velvet become the plot twist in each other's lives. The irony lies deep within subtle contrasting cues throughout the timeline and examines the topics of technology, distance, and self-identity in a fictional context.

Sara Pistono is a senior double majoring in Psychology and PMA. Pistono describes ‘My Mythology’ as “a solo exploration piece examining a young girl’s experience with organized religion as she navigates her own relationship to divinity and the nature of belief through the lens of mental health.” Pistono is also the winner of the 2021 Drama Book Award. PMA faculty and staff vote on the annual award, which is given to a Cornell University senior in recognition of outstanding achievement in theatre. The recipient receives up to $100 for theatre-related books of her choice.

The winners were selected by guest judges Darrien Michele Gipson, Executive Director, SAGIndie; Marga Gomez, teaching artist, actor, comedian, and writer/performer; and PMA faculty.

First-place winners earn cash prizes of $750, a one-on-one Zoom feedback session with a guest artist, and $100 of books from Odyssey Bookstore in Ithaca. Second-place winners receive $300.

This year’s winning works can be read at this link:

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