2016 AML Awards Finalists #5: Drama, Film, and Video Series

We are excited to announce the 2016 Association for Mormon Letters awards finalists in the Drama, Film, and Video Series categories. Middle Grade Novel, Young Adult NovelPoetry, Short FictionComics, Novel, Picture BooksCreative Non-fiction, and Religious Non-fiction finalists were announced previously. There will also be a Criticism award, but there will not be finalists for that category. The final awards will be announced and presented at the AML Conference at Utah Valley University on April 22. The Smith-Pettit Foundation Award for Outstanding Contribution to Mormon Letters and the AML Lifetime Achievement awards will also be presented there. The finalists and winners are chosen by juries of authors and critics. The finalist announcements include blurbs about each of the books and author biographies, taken from the author and publisher websites.


The judges for the Drama award considered only the written scripts, not the production, or any music that might have been part of the play.

Matthew Greene. Gregorian. Working Artist Theatre Project, New York City.  August.

Gregorian portrays one family’s journey through the bloodiest century in human history as four generations discover the gravity of a name passed from father to son. The play explores the cyclical effects of genocide on humanity, the consequences of denial, and the essential place these stories hold in our existence. Beginning with the Gregorian family’s own tragic roots in the Armenian Genocide, through the rise of the Nazi Party, across the killing fields of Cambodia, and the continuing crisis in Africa, they do all they can to hold on to heritage, history, and hope.

Matthew Greene’s original play ADAM AND STEVE AND THE EMPTY SEA had its sold-out world premiere at Plan B Theatre in January where it was named “Best Original Play” by the 2013 Salt Lake City Arty Awards. It subsequently had a run at the 2013 New York International Fringe Festival and was presented as part of OUTReach’s LGBTQ Youth Summit. His other plays include JOB WELL DONE (national finalist, American College Theatre Festival), BREAD OF AFFLICTION (Society for the Study of Jewish American and Holocaust Literature) and #MORMONINCHIEF (New York International Fringe Festival). His film BOY WITH BLUE was awarded Best of Fest at the Oceanside Film Festival. He is currently workshopping his play GREGORIAN with the Working Artists Theatre Project, following a successful staged reading for the Armenian Society of New York earlier this year. He currently works as a teaching artist with Opening Act, an organization that provides theatre education to underserves high schools. A California native, Matthew earned a B.A. in Theatre at Brigham Young University and currently lives in New York City.

Jenifer Nii. Kingdom of Heaven. Book & lyrics by Jenifer Nii, music & lyrics by David Evanoff. Plan B Theatre Company, Salt Lake City, March -April.

Marriage, motherhood, and faith were enough for MaryJane–until one day she opens her mouth to sing and finds her true self. Now her newfound direction threatens to alienate her husband and closest friend, and destroy the life she’s worked so hard to build. A poignant portrait of one woman who realizes her true nature and has the courage to give it a voice. A quest for self-acceptance in a culture focused on perfection and one Mormon housewife’s desire to do it in drag.

Jenifer Nii is a Salt Lake City-based playwright. Productions include five World Premieres at Plan B Theatre Company (WALLACE, THE SCARLET LETTER, SUFFRAGE, RUFF!, KINGDOM OF HEAVEN). First Asian American playwright professionally produced in Utah. Two-time nominee for the Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award (SCARLET LETTER, SUFFRAGE). Her latest play, THE WEIRD PLAY, will debut as part of Plan B Theatre Company’s 2017/2018 season.

Morag Shepherd. Burn. Sackerson Theater Company, Salt Lake City. September-October.

Allison’s skin feels hot.
Her younger daughter won’t stop running around, the older won’t stop asking questions.
Allison’s husband is worried. She tells him to stop worrying.
Allison’s ex-boyfriend won’t leave her alone.
Allison is having dreams again; she feels like she’s unraveling.
Allison’s skin feels hot.

Morag Shepherd, originally from Scotland, is the current winner of the Plan-B Theatre grant from The David Ross Fetzer Foundation for Emerging Artists for NOT ONE DROP, which premieres at Plan-B in March 2017. She is also the resident playwright at Sackerson in Salt Lake City, where her plays THE WORST THING I’VE EVER DONE (performed in a box by one actor for an audience of one at a time), BEFORE THE BEEP (performed in weekly installments via voicemail), BURN, and POPPY’S IN THE SAND have premiered, the latter also playing Great Salt Lake Fringe and San Diego International Fringe Festivals.

Javen Tanner. The King’s Men. Sting and Honey Company, Salt Lake City, September-October.

With the death of Queen Elizabeth and the arrival of King James, Shakespeare and his company are made the king’s personal players, The King’s Men. England will be ruled by a man for the first time in 45 years. Set at a time when men played female characters on stage, the play explores men’s perceptions of women, and women’s perceptions of men’s perceptions of women. All roles in the play are played by women.

Javen Tanner holds an MFA in Acting from the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, California, where he was awarded the Craig Noel Fellowship. After completing his MFA, Javen moved with his wife, Tara, and their two children to New York City, where he worked as Associate Artistic Director of Handcart Ensemble, a Manhattan based theatre company specializing in verse drama (named one of New York Theatre’s “Fifteen People of 2006”). Javen has taught acting at New York University’s Playwrights Horizons Theatre School, Brigham Young University, and is currently the chair of the theatre department at The Waterford School. Javen’s poems have appeared in magazines and journals throughout the country, and he has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.


Masterminds. Jared Hess, director. Story and screenplay by Emily Spivey, Chris Bowman and Hubbel Palmer.

A comedy based on the 1997 Loomis Fargo Robbery in North Carolina. Stars Zach Galifianakis, Kate McKinnon, Owen Wilson, Kristen Wiig, Jason Sudeikis and Leslie Jones.


The Next Door. Barrett Burgin, director and co-writer.

Short noir drama. Two Mormon missionaries become concerned when someone they teach goes missing. As they search for the answers, they find themselves plunged into a world of danger and deceit.

Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made. Jeremy Coon and Tim Skousen, directors and writers.

Documentary. In 1982, in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, Chris Strompolos, eleven, asked Eric Zala, twelve, a question: “Would you like to help me do a remake Raiders of the Lost Ark? I’m playing Indiana Jones.” And they did it. Every shot, every line of dialogue, every stunt. They borrowed and collected costumes, convinced neighborhood kids to wear grass skirts and play natives, cast a fifteen-year-old as Indy’s love interest, rounded up seven thousand snakes (sort of), built the Ark, the Idol, the huge boulder, found a desert in Mississippi, and melted the bad guys’ faces off. It took 33 years to complete. And is the subject of a book and a new documentary.

Saturday’s Warrior. Michael Buster, director. Douglas C. Stewart, story. Lex De Azevedo, Heather Revarino, Michal Buster, screen adaption.

Saturday’s Warrior is a LDS musical fantasy that originated on the stage in 1974. With music by Lex de Azevedo and book and lyrics by Doug Stewart, it is based on the idea that we existed before we were born into this life, that we had relationships with, and maybe even made promises to, those with whom we would be sharing our earthly journey. It is also the age old story of the prodigal son who struggles with his faith as he faces peer pressure and the social issues of the day.


The Split House. Annie Poon, director and writer.

Annie Poon’s short stop motion animation film The Split House depicts and reconciles her personal struggle with bipolar disorder. The title comes both from the separated emotional nature that Poon experienced in the treatment of her condition, and the location of Split, Croatia, where she served as a missionary. Her film spanned 10 years in creation, summarizing her experiences and difficulties. The Split House is on view at the Brigham Young University Museum of Art in Provo through Summer 2017.

 Video Series

Adam & Eve. Davey & Bianca Morrison Dillard, directors and writers. Four episodes.

He’s the only man on earth. And she’s just not that into him. Picking up twenty minutes after they’ve been kicked out of Eden, Adam & Eve follows the courtship of the first man and first woman – they’ve been tasked with populating the earth, but he’s more enthusiastic about the idea than she is. It’s a typical coming-of-age story, with a guy and girl out on their own for the first time, figuring things out, coming to terms with their sexuality, making sense of God’s silence, and making their first fumbling forays into romance. Only this time the future of the human race is at stake.

Last Chance U. Greg Whiteley, director. Netflix Original. Six episodes.

Last Chance U follows a group of young men training to become the future stars of the NFL. Based at East Mississippi Community College (EMCC), it takes us on a journey to understand the real men of the gridiron at one of the most successful, but least known athletic programs. Each player has incredible talent and drive to be the best, but each face their own unique struggles both on and off the field. As their season takes an unexpected turn, the methods of this unconventional team are deeply called into question. With much to lose, they are constantly reminded of the stakes.



Studio C. Jared Shores, series producer, co-creator, and Matt Meese, co-creator and head writer. BYUtv.

One of BYUtv’s most popular original series, the sketch-comedy show Studio C brings you memorable characters like Scott Sterling, the Bisque Man, and the Awkward Avoidance Viking. Join the cast–including Whitney Call, Mallory Everton, Jason Gray, and Matt Meese–to enjoy more hilarious sketches and characters.

The Talking Fly. Steve Olpin, director. Documentary series, available on YouTube.

The Talking Fly is a series of short documentaries by filmmaker Steve Olpin, which celebrates the idea of Doing, Going and Giving Back.

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