Civic center manager Emily Draffen named finalist in playwriting competition

November 22nd, 2020     Community Featured

Magnolia Civic Center Manager Emily Draffen has been selected as a finalist in The NewWorks@TheWorks Playwriting Competition in Memphis.

In connection with Playhouse on the Square, the competition provides an outlet for new playwrights to showcase their work and have a chance to see their play produced on a professional level.

Draffen and five other finalists from around the country will see staged readings of their plays that will be streamed live via Zoom in December. Two winners will then be selected and those will receive full production next season at Playhouse on the Square’s TheatreWorks at the Square. The playwrights will also receive cash prizes.

Draffen’s play is titled Everyone and Their Mother and it will be streamed via Zoom at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 6. A $5 donation will be required to reserve a ticket to the Zoomed performances.

A description of her play as publicized by Playhouse on the Square: “An old woman’s decision to ‘live her truth’ throws her adult children’s lives into chaos. George (a struggling actor) and Jackie (an exhausted mother) must learn to help themselves while their mother, for the first time in her life, does precisely as she wants. Everyone and Their Mother is a comedy dealing with the expectations we project onto family.”

Due to restrictions on public events by the coronavirus pandemic, civic center events in New Albany have been limited and few people have had the opportunity to meet Draffen.

She is a native of northeast Iowa and attended Drake University in Des Moines.

Draffen spent her first time on the stage at age 12, encouraged by her family, who are very active in the arts.

She was drawn to Memphis through theatre where she was an associate company member at Playhouse on the Square, the city’s more than half-century-old theatre company.

“I met Stephen (her husband, Stephen Garrett) at Playhouse,” she said. “We acted together, started dating and eventually got married.” They now have a daughter and live in New Albany.

This was Draffen’s first win for writing.

“I have been playwriting off and on since college but this was my first full-length play,” she said. She has another short play and has participated in a women’s improvisational writing project. “Another play may be coming,” she added.

Her performance background includes a variety of stage experience as well as storefront theatre in Memphis, performing while living in the Chicago area and doing educational theatre for Showagon at schools, libraries and gyms.

“I like all styles of theatre for different reasons,” she said. “But I prefer comedy.”

She also sings and it should not come as a surprise that her favorite role she was portrayed was Lilli, the lead in Kiss Me Kate. That was produced in tandem with the original, Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew.

In the Memphis area, she has performed at the DeSoto Family Theatre and Theatre Memphis as well as Playhouse on the Square.

In addition to theatre work, she has organized book events for Booksellers at Laurelwood {later Novel.). A couple of her favorites were writers including John Grisham and David Sedaris.

As noted, she does sing and directed the Broadway Cabaret that was presented virtually in August, and also teaches Yoga.

Although she has only been here since March, she said, “I already feel very welcome in New Albany.”

Despite the pandemic, she is working on plans for civic center events and can be reached at the Magnolia Civic Center at (662) 266-0796.

To register for the Zoom streaming of Draffen’s play, go to:

Other finalists are The Violin Maker by Christopher Smith, If Pekin is a Duck, Why am I in Chicago?  by Ann Eskridge, 7 Minutes to Live  by Richard Lyons Conlon, Shanktown by Mary Donnet Johnson and AGATHE by Angela J. Davis.

Each night’s reading will be hosted by Director of NewWorks, Jordan Nichols.  An open forum, moderated by Nichols, will begin following each night’s reading.

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