Local Places Second In Ebell Playwright Prize

Silvetti is shown here with her husband. Photo credit:
Catheryn Brockett

Mid-Wilshire resident Jessica Silvetti placed second for 2016’s Ebell Playwright Prize with her original play, Laura.

The Ebell Theatre officially announced the winners of its annual playwright competition earlier this year.

Silvetti’s three-character piece has garnered her a $1,000 cash prize, in addition to the prestige of having her debut play win.

“It’s my first time ever applying and I actually won,” Silvetti said.

Others winners were Northern California playwright Jody Gehrman, who won first place with Tribal Life in America and West Hollywood-based author Katherine Cortez, who garnered third with A Muse of Fire.

The writers were officially feted at a March 5th ceremony at the Ebell Club on Wilshire Boulevard.

Silvetti’s Laura centers around what happens when the titular estranged daughter suddenly walks back into mother Nina’s life, and the emotional awakening they experience together.

“They see their own reflections in one another,” Silvetti said.

According to Silvetti, the play is not based on her own life. However, the author does concede that no fiction is created in a vacuum.

“Anything that you write, there’s always going to be something autobiographical,” she said. “There’s always a piece of one’s self in one’s work. Certainly, you’re inspired by moments in your life.”

Silvetti said she originally embarked on the writing journey that became Laura six years ago.

“It was something I kept coming back to,” she said.

Silvetti is a New York University theater major who, of late, has been scripting and directing short films and webisodes, often with her husband and creative partner Ethan Kogan. Three months before the Ebell Playwright Prize deadline, she said, “I decided to bunker down to complete the play.”

Born in Mexico to a musician father and a mother who worked on films as a production coordinator, the Valley-raised Silvetti grew up visiting movie sets since an early age.

At NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, she prepared to become an actress and for years performed as a member of the Actor’s Gang, the Tim Robbins-founded Culver City-based theater group.

However, along the way, Silvetti’s interest in writing and directing deepened.

“It was something I was always passionate about and that writing bug was always there,” she said.

A decade-long Mid-Wilshire resident, Silvetti said she draws much inspiration from her walkable neighborhood, which she and Kogan like to stroll with their boxer mix, Barkley, and frequent the local coffeehouses.

She said she has witnessed her neighborhood explode in the last 10 years and she loves the familial area where she lives.

“It feels like a little community,” she said. “I love living in this area. … It’s changed a lot in the last decade but it’s so central to [every part of L.A.]. I’m not too far from the beach and I don’t always have to use the freeway. I can also walk to the museums and restaurants.”

Silvetti’s work mostly centers around female characters because she said she feels that while ageism in Hollywood has decreased in recent years, there is still a dire need for more complex female roles beyond the stereotypical, two-dimensional wife/girlfriend/mother parts.

Silvetti said her minor in women’s studies at college helps her inform such writing.

Up next for Silvetti is writing and directing a four-part bilingual web series for Alzheimer’s Greater Los Angeles, due later this year. She additionally said she would be submitting “Laura” to more play competitions and festivals.

The Ebell Playwright Prize is sponsored by the Ebell Women’s Club of Los Angeles, which was founded in 1984 and is dedicated to the advancement of women in every branch of culture, including literature and the arts and sciences.

According to an online statement from Playwright Prize Chair Cynthia Comsky, the honor, which has been presented now for at least three years, was inspired by a playwriting prize first awarded by the Ebell Theatre in 1928.

An eight-woman committee—including Comsky; marketing consultant Laura Foti Cohen; writer/editor Claudia Lagresa; and actress Robin Riker—were this year’s judges.

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