First annual playwriting prize for people living with HIV/AIDS

Playwright Donja R. Love has announced the first annual WIO! Prize for playwrights living with HIV. In its inaugural year, the $5,000 award will be funded by Emmy Award-winning actor Billy Porter, known for his roles on the hit TV show Pose and the musical Kinky Boots, and his activism through the LGBTQ media nonprofit GLAAD.

National Queer Theater, The Lark, Mobilizing Our Brothers Initiative (MOBI), and The Each-Other Project have partnered to coordinate the submission process.

Created through Write It Out!, a playwriting program led by Donja R. Love for people living with HIV, the WIO! Prize honors and holds space for writers living with HIV and working in the American Theater. All U.S.-based playwrights living with HIV are welcome to submit a full-length play of at least 60 pages and a one-page playwright's statement (500 words or less) at letswriteitout.com. The statement should address how the writer's HIV status influences their artistry (if at all) and what receiving the WIO! Prize would mean to them.

Donja R. Love | Photo: Brandon Nick

The WIO! Prize was created as a way of using Write It Out! to further center and support people living with HIV. This prize also boldly declares, whether public or not, that there are many amazing playwrights living with HIV in the American Theater who deserve adequate resources to alleviate financial strain so they can focus solely on storytelling," said Donja R. Love, creator of the award.

The winner of the 2021 Write It Out! Prize will receive a cash prize of $5,000 funded by Billy Porter and an opportunity to work with a professional dramaturg to develop a new work. The chosen dramaturg will also receive a stipend from GLAAD.

“GLAAD wholeheartedly believes in the mission of the Write It Out! program that Donja R. Love has cultivated in the past year. To see the evolution of the program blossom into the WIO! Prize guarantees that the next generation of storytellers will continue to share authentic stories from the perspective of a person living with HIV. The lived experiences of the future playwright continue to be a valuable story to tell," said GLAAD's Associate Director, Communities of Color, DaShawn Usher.

People living with HIV are also encouraged to apply to the Write It Out! program, a 10-week writing workshop led by Donja R. Love, now in its second year. Applications for the program will close August 15, 2021, at 11:59pm EST. Submissions for the WIO! Prize are due by September 3, 2021, at 11:59pm EST. While writers may apply to both the prize and the program, they will only be accepted for one.

Oftentimes, as people living with HIV, we can feel so alone. Due to stigma, there is a level of shame that grips us so tightly, adding to our loneliness. When we are able to navigate through these feelings and attempt to creatively express ourselves, there aren't resources or safe space specifically for us. The WIO! Prize, much like the program, is here to change that. This prize is for any playwright living with HIV who aims to center themselves and their work on their terms.
donja r. love

Write It Out! and the WIO! Prize prioritize the confidentiality of all applicants. Should participants wish not to be named publicly, Write It Out! will respect their confidentiality. Requesting confidentiality will not influence the selection process of either the program or the prize.

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