Leah Ryan

Leah Ryan's FEWW
A Prize for Emerging Women Playwrights


All women who consider themselves emerging playwrights (as distinct from fledgling or mid-career playwrights) are eligible to apply for the 2018 FEWW Prize. Playwrights from all over the world are encouraged to apply, but the play must be written in English. Eligibility does not require that a submitted work adhere to the traditional three-act structure. One-acts, two-acts (even four-, five-, six- acts), monologues, adaptations, and any other wild (or deceptively tame) format will be considered with equal seriousness. The only absolute requirement is that the submitted text be a completed full-length work for theater.

The winner will be chosen by a readers committee selected by the board members of Leah Ryan's FEWW, and will be presented her award as part of the 2018 Lily Awards, which honors the work of women in American theater. In addition, the winner will receive a cash prize of $2,500, a workshop at the Vassar Powerhouse Theater, and a reading of her play in New York City. A stipend of up to $700 for travel and accommodation will be provided by FEWW if necessary.

The deadline for submissions for the 2018 FEWW Prize is Monday, January 8th, 2018 at 11:59pm EST.

Finalists will be contacted in early March and will have one week within which to submit their full play.

Please visit our application page for more details.

We are moved and so honored that The Theatre Arts Department at the University of Iowa has selected Leah to join the Iowa Theatre Gallery. To quote the letter of recognition, "[Faculty] were privileged to know and work with Leah, and to follow her career for too short a time .... The Gallery also stands as a monument to our department's long and rich tradition. Leah is an important part of that tradition, and we hope you will take pleasure in knowing that future generations will draw strength from her achievements."

Leah's family, loved ones, and the entire board of Leah Ryan's FEWW thank The Theatre Arts Department faculty at the University of Iowa. This recognition was completely unexpected, and we couldn't be more thrilled that Leah will join the ranks of some of the country's finest artists and scholars from across the theater world in the Gallery.

The image above and the following bio of Leah will be featured on the wall alongside Tennessee Williams, Gene Wilder and lots of other notables.

Leah Ryan

BFA Smith College, 1993
MFA University of Iowa Writer's Workshop, 1999
Artist Diploma. Playwriting, Juilliard 2000

Leah Ryan was a woman of letters who wrote plays and adaptations, poetry, essays, lyrics, and collaborations with performance artists. Her honors include the Maibaum Award for social justice in playwriting for Bleach while at the Iowa Writer's Workshop where she also won the Distinguished Teaching Award and was twice chosen to take part in the Iowa Playwrights Festival. At Smith College she was an Ada Comstock Scholar, winning the Denis Johnston prize for excellence in playwriting three times, and the Jill Cummins MacLean Prize. She was also an educator who worked with groups of high school and college students at Vassar and New York Stage and Film's Powerhouse Theater Apprentice Training Program. Ryan taught a wide variety of students, including those at the Laboratory Institute of Merchandising in New York City, where she founded the Writing Center. She was a teaching artist for the New York City Public Schools and received a NYSCA grant for her work with Epic Theatre Centre. In addition to her plays, her publications include the literary anthology For Here or To Go.

Leah Ryan's Fund for Emerging Women Writers (FEWW) was established in 2008 to encourage talented but still unrecognized women playwrights by awarding an annual cash prize to an emerging woman playwright and producing a reading of the winning play in New York City. Additionally, Leah’s FEWW has established The Vladimir Award, an emergency fund for writers facing serious illness.

Giant(ess) news!

We are thrilled to announce that Genne Murphy is the winner of the seventh annual prize from Leah Ryan's Fund for Emerging Women Writers for her play GIANTESS.

From more than 450 applications, Genne's play stood out to our reading committee for expressing a singular and truly theatrical voice. It tells the story of Dee, who discovers a lost girl her own age with amnesia - who happens to be 30 feet tall. The play is moving, funny, and always surprising, as they travel through space and time and deepen their connection to one another.

We're trying something new this year. Over the summer - with support from FEWW board members Cusi, Tessa, and Ed - Genne will be workshopping her play with a few closed-door readings at Primary Stages and New York Stage and Film before we present a full public reading of GIANTESS in the fall. Stay tuned for the date!

We're so excited to support Genne and be a part of the development process. In the meantime, she was honored publicly with the prize on May 23 at the Lilly Awards, hosted by the Signature Theater in New York City.

Congratulations also to our runners-up for this year:

Jacqueline Goldfinger, THE ARSONISTS

About Genne Murphy
Genne Murphy is a playwright and arts educator, born and raised in Philadelphia. Her plays include GIANTESS (2015 PlayPenn conference; 2016 Great Plains Theater Conference), HOPE STREET AND OTHER LONELY PLACES (2011 O'Neill NPC finalist; 2012 Azuka Theatre production), OUTSIDE THE WIRE (2013 BBC International Radio Play Competition shortlist; 2013 O'Neill NPC semi-finalist), SEA WITCH (Yale School of Drama, 2016 New Play Lab) and WASHING (2016 Theater Masters Take Ten Festival). Genne is a member of Philadelphia Young Playwrights' Alumni Council. Currently she is pursuing her MFA in Playwriting at Yale School of Drama.

As ever ...
Thanks to support from people like you, we were able to raise this year's prize amount for Genne to $2,500. We're hoping to be able to continue to raise the amount to keep it in line with contests of equal prestige. And it's donations from people like you who make that possible. Your gift also helps us provide ongoing funding for the Vladimir Grant (providing emergency funds to writers facing a serious illness).

If you'd like to make a donation today, please head on over to the Community Foundations of Hudson Valley website. Just follow the link, type "Leah Ryan's Fund" into the field provided, and follow instructions from there.

You can also send a check (with "Leah Ryan's FEWW" in the memo line) to:

The Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley
80 Washington Street
Poughkeepsie, NY 12601

Thank you again for your continued interest in - and support of - Leah Ryan's Fund for Emerging Women Writers. We hope you'll join us in congratulating Genne Murphy for her excellent play GIANTESS, and we look forward to seeing you at the reading this fall.

We hope you all have a happy and healthy summer!

With warm wishes,

The Leah Ryan Board of Directors
Arlene Avakian, Martha Ayres, Edward Cheetham, Cusi Cram, Dan Gunderman, Peter K. Hirsch, Jennifer Krasinski, Tessa LaNeve, Lorna Peterson, and LB Thompson

Visit Leah Ryan's blog here.


Another great review of High Fives from Kate Bell.

Thank you so much to those who attended last Monday's benefit at Joe's Pub, celebrating the 5th year of Leah Ryan's Fund for Emerging Women Writers (FEWW), the announcement of The Vladimir Award, and the 50th anniversary of Leah's birth. The performances of her work by Lisa Kron, Christopher Durang, Julie White, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Jennifer Westfeldt, Danny Mastrogiorgio, and Kate Rigg, along with direction from Leigh Silverman, made the evening an enormous artistic success. It was such a treat to hear her words onstage once again.

Click here for a full recap and photos from the benefit!

The FEWW's Board of Directors thanks you for attending our benefit and for celebrating Leah. Thank you to those who purchased tickets so that others could attend. Thank you for jump starting The Vladimir in private donations and during our live auction. And thank you for your continued support of the annual prize for emerging women playwrights.

There is still time to donate to the Leah Ryan Foundation and build the Vladimir Award.

We high five you in advance for your continued commitment to the FEWW and emerging women writers everywhere.


Arlene Avakian, Martha Ayres, Edward Cheethum, Cusi Cram, Dan Gunderman, Peter K. Hirsch, Jennifer Krasinski, Tessa LaNeve, Lorna Peterson, and LB Thompson

The Leah Ryan Board of Directors

ADAA Award

We are proud to announce that this past November, Leah was the recipient of the Armenian Dramatic Arts Alliance "Armenian Star Award".

The Armenian Star Award is given annually by ADAA to an individual who exemplifies two or more of the following:

  • Dedication to practicing and/or furthering the arts at a high level;
  • Professional or artistic achievement in their own field/career;
  • Commitment to and advocacy on behalf of Armenian arts and artists on an international stage; and
  • Dedication to public/civic service, particularly to Armenian culture, art and causes.

The award was presented by playwright and ADAA board member Lisa Kirazian at the ADAA’s annual awards gala at the Writer’s Guild of America in Beverly Hills, CA.

We are so very thrilled Leah was recognized by this important arts organization.

• Download ADAA program

ADAA's mission is "... To Project The Armenian Voice On The World Stage Through The Dramatic Arts Of Theatre And Film."

Photo of Leah by Elizabeth O'Connor.