DALLAS/FORT WORTH, Texas (April 11th, 2023) – After a nationwide search, Amphibian Stage announces the 15 artists selected to share their talents at SparkFest 2023.  5 writers and 10 actors were selected among a high volume of applicants, both locally and nationwide. Artistic Director Kathleen Culebro remarked on making these decisions. “In our 24 years of business, I’ve never received so many play submissions or had so many talented actors share their work with us. This is the first year we are focusing on a specific people group for SparkFest, so we had no idea what the turnout would be. Not only did the artists show up but their work is even more thrilling than I could’ve imagined. I’m giddy at the thought of these immensely talented individuals coming together to amaze and inspire the city of Fort Worth.”


Playwrights whose submissions were selected will receive time with actors and directors to fine-tune their plays. After the rehearsal process, their work is presented for the public (including invited theatre leaders from across the country).


Actors invited to compete in person will perform monologues, scenes, and “cold readings” for the public. The 1st Place winner will receive $5000; the 2nd place finalist will receive $4000; the 3rd place finalist will receive $3000; audience favorite will receive $1000. Finalists will be judged by notable figures in the performing arts industry from outside of Texas. The judging panel is made up of Taylor Blackman, Spencer Gualdoni, Kate Moore Heaney, and Sharifa Yasmin. Competition dates are June 8 through 10. 


SparkFest ‘23 Playwrights


The Ushers by Yussef El Guindi – Staged Readings on June 7: 8PM, June 10: 11AM

Yussef El Guindi was born in Egypt, raised in London and now based in Seattle, Yussef El Guindi’s work frequently examines the collision of ethnicities, cultures and politics that face immigrants, Arab-Americans and Muslim Americans in particular. El Guindi holds an MFA in playwriting from Carnegie-Mellon University. He is the recipient of many honors, including the Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award, the Stranger’s Genius Award, and the 2010 Middle East America Distinguished Playwright Award. El Guindi’s previous work has been seen at A Contemporary Theatre in Seattle; Denver Center for the Performing Arts; Pony World Theatre in Seattle, and Broken Nose Theatre in Chicago; Artists Repertory Theatre in Portland; Portland Center Stage; Center Repertory Company at Walnut Creek, CA; and at Mosaic Theater Company (DC), and more.


Take My Milk for Gall by Leela Velautham – Staged Readings on June 8: 8PM,  June 10: 3 pm 

Leela Velautham was born and brought up in the UK. Alongside an academic career in sustainability research, she has been featured in the Best of Playground SF 24 and 25 and twice in the best of Playground NY, is a two-time semi-finalist of the Bay Area Playwrights Festival  2021 and 2022 (with the plays “The Empty Crusade” and “Modern Love”, respectively) and won the University of Oxford’s New Writing Festival in 2011 for her play “Schroedinger’s Hat”. A full production of her one-act play “Post-Scarcity Possibilities” was staged as part of the 2022 Meganne George Women’s Work Short Play Festival at the New Perspectives Theatre Company. She is currently a member of the New Perspectives Theatre Company’s 2022 Full-Length Lab.


The Handless King by Harley Elias – Staged Readings on June 9: 8 pm,  June 11: 2 pm

Harley Elias is an Indian-Iraqi-Jewish playwright and performer from New York City. He has been the recipient of residencies at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, with Resonance Ensemble, a Fulbright Grant, two Samuel French OOB Awards, Young Playwrights Award, the Hester-Franklin Prize, and his Play #3 is published by Samuel French. He is currently under commission from Miami New Drama and Theater J. As an actor he has performed in several Broadway shows and national tours. Harley has a BA and MA in History and Art History from Stanford and is currently pursuing an MFA in Playwriting at Brown.


Iron Henry by Roger Calderon – Staged Reading on June 4: 6PM

Roger Calderon has produced, written and directed high-profile events and galas for New York’s theatrical industry and LGBTQ+ non-profit world. He has co-produced benefits honoring Broadway luminaries such as Angela Lansbury and Patti LuPone, as well as written remarks for Tony Award winners and nominees such as Billy Porter, Cynthia Nixon, Harvey Fierstein, Jeremy Irons, Vanessa Williams and Kathleen Turner. As a screenwriter, Roger’s most recent short film scripts, Laredo, TX (2020) and Collared (2021)advanced to the semi-finals round of the NYC Midnight Short Screenplay Challenge. His short film script, Public Domain Day (2021) received an Honorable Mention in the NYC Midnight Screenwriting Challenge.


Feeding my Cat, Incorrectly, Several Times Over by Shyama Nithiananda – Staged Reading on June 11: 6PM

Shyama Nithiananda is a Dallas-based playwright, director, actor, and dramaturg. Most recently, her play St. Joseph of Arimathea’s Home for Semi-Orphaned Strays was featured in Southern Methodist University’s New Visions, New Voices Festival in 2021. She was also a recipient of the 2021 Rosenfield Award for Playwriting and 2021 Garland Wright Award for Directing at SMU where she earned her BFA in Theatre Studies with emphasis in acting, directing, and playwriting, as well as a minor in religious studies. Shyama is thrilled to be working with Amphibian on SparkFest in a playwriting capacity after appearing as an actor in SparkFest 2021 and 2022.


SparkFest ‘23 Acting Competition Finalists


Lois Abdelmalek – Philadelphia, PA
Ari Derambakhsh – Redondo Beach, CA
Savannah Yasmine Elayyach – Dallas, TX
Ahmad Kamal – Alexandria, VA
Haneen Arafat Murphy – South Orange, NJ
Victoria Nassif – Chicago, IL
Andrew Nicolas – McKinney, TX
Jamie Rezanour – Houston, TX
Mariana Saba – Northport, NY
Christian Tannous – Sugarland, TX
Other SparkFest Events Include

Light Up the Runway: June 1
Performance by Tejas Dance: June 3
Performance of VOICES UNVEILED: June 14


For more information, or to set up interview with Amphibian Stage leadership, contact Evan Michael Woods at evan@amphibianstage.com


Amphibian Stage 2023 Season At A Glance

Baba: April 21 – May 7

Sara Schaefer, Stand-Up Comic Residency: May 16 – 18

River Butcher, Stand-Up Comic Residency: May 25 – 27

SparkFest: June 1 – 17

  • Festival of new plays, community events, and special events
  • Acting competition with high profile judges and cash prizes

Miss Molly: July 21 – August 13

  • World Premiere!

Gabe Mollica, Stand-Up Comic Residency: September 5 – 9

The Visit: October 20 – November 12

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