The newest playwright competition comes to campus in 2020

by Alyssa Cabrera

This semester, The University of Tampa is holding its very own playwriting competition for the University of Tampa Short Play Festival that will be occurring in April of 2020.

The plays must be 10-20 minutes each and must be submitted by the deadline, which is Sunday, Dec. 8, at 11:59 PM. They must be stage plays and should include no less than two characters, and no more than four. 

Any UT students can and are encouraged to participate. The winner gets to have their work presented at the UT Short Play Festival. 

The competition is run and organized by UT theatre professor, Robert Gonzalez. He has sent out a list of requirements for the plays, such as the way it must be formatted, the minimum amount of characters allowed, and most importantly, the play must not end on pressing matters of any kind, nor have an excessive amount of foul language.

Gonzalez said that he came up with this idea of a playwriting competition with his student friend, Sunshine Hughes. After discussion, they started setting everything up. Though this is a very exciting event for him, Gonzalez said that he was nervous about the whole thing. 

“It took me forever to finalize the submission guidelines because I didn’t want to leave anything unclear,” said Gonzalez. “I want it to be a great experience for all concerned, the playwrights, directors, actors, and audience.” 

Many students at the UT have become interested in this playwriting competition. One student, Alex Begg, a sophomore music major, has specifically expressed interest in the competition. 

“This competition is an excellent idea that surely will inspire great inquest into literary competency and a potential for literary marvel,” said Begg. 

Some students have even expressed an interest in helping to judge the competition. Senior theatre major and playwright, Mykai Eastman, will be judging the event. He personally is thrilled to be on the other side of the table. 

“It feels good to be able to be a part of fostering other playwrights and allowing students to flex more creative muscles than the traditional performance track that this program offers,” said Eastman.

Though the deadline is Sunday, Dec. 8, Hughes said that a handful of students have already submitted their work. “We have already had a couple of students who were eager to submit their plays. I’m really excited to see the outcome of this competition,” said Hughes.

There may be some students struggling to write their scripts or feel confident in their work. To that, Gonzalez offered some pointers. “I think the most helpful thing a playwright can do is to read the script aloud as much as possible as it is being written,” said Gonzalez. “Not only does that provide the crucial service of testing the flow of the dialogue, it also helps give a sense of timing of the whole play.”

He also said that for all aspiring playwrights, you must remember that you are writing a stage play, not a screenplay and that the two vary vastly from each other. There are obviously things that you could put in a screenplay, like multiple drastic scene changes, that would simply not work in a stage play. 

“[The play] must work in real time. Have one main character. Have a clearly defined conflict. Resolve the conflict credibly from some element already in the story,” Gonzalez said.

Eastman elaborated on why the writing process for stage plays is so difficult and what the most challenging part of writing a script is. “The most challenging thing is probably keeping a natural flow of dialogue that doesn’t distract from the overall story,” said Eastman. “Finding the happy medium between natural flow and telling the story always takes the longest.” 

Along with this opportunity for aspiring writers and playwrights, Gonzalez has offered an opportunity for actors in the UT community to participate in the event. Once the winner is chosen, they will be given the chance to present their work at the UT Short Play Competition. 

Theatre students can volunteer to participate in the staged reading at the festival in April of 2020. This gives an opportunity for actors and writers to collaborate and work together to create art.

This event is meant to give exposure to the playwrights at UT and help them gain popularity in the Tampa Bay area.

Gonzalez has worked on ten-minute plays with his students in his acting class and figured that the students at UT are truly gifted, so why not make a competition out of it? He hopes that students will recognize how well they write through this process.

Gonzalez hopes that everyone has fun with what they do and he wishes them luck.

Alyssa Cabrera can be reached at

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