Theatre TCU instructor Ayvaunn Penn has been selected as one of the finalists for the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s annual National Playwrights Conference, the country’s premiere program for new play development. This distinct honor puts Penn and her work, For Bo: A Play Inspired by the Murder of Botham Jean by Police Officer Amber Guyger, among the top five percent of submissions nationwide.
Each summer, six to eight finalists—selected through a multi-round process for their artistic excellence—are chosen from among 1,500 submissions to be further developed and workshopped during a week-long residency at the National Playwrights Conference in Connecticut. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s conference will be virtual.
For Bo, which was premiered as a staged reading by Theatre TCU students earlier this year, will automatically be a finalist for the 2021 National Playwright Conference selection pool. Given the choreography and physicality of the play, conference staff felt For Bo would be better suited for the in-person conference next summer.
For Bo is a fictional narrative that unpacks the unfortunate tragedy that befalls the Jones family when brother and son Bo Jones is murdered in his own home by police officer Amy Guy. Through contemporary free verse poetry, rhythm, and percussion this play explores the issues leading to Bo Jones’ death and how society, particularly the black community, grapples with the resulting trauma through social media.
The play is part of a movement started by Penn’s organization, Black And Making It, which promotes black excellence in all art mediums and education. The #ForBo Initiative aims to use the performing arts as a catalyst for positive social change by fostering conversations that heal racial divides through empathy, examining issues within the American criminal justice system and promoting healthy relationships between all, but especially African-American civilians and police officers.
Founded in 1964, the National Playwrights Conference has developed more than 700 plays. The O’Neill Theater Center’s conferences and programs have served as a launchpad for renowned dramatists such as Tony Award Winner Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton), Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize Winner August Wilson (Fences, The Piano Lesson) and Golden Globe Winner Regina Taylor (Crowns), among many others.