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(LPC Photography/Leilani Carr)

The Leah Ryan Fund is pleased to announce the winner of the 2024 Leah Prize, Kaela Mei-Shing Garvinʼs Ping Pong Play. In Garvin’s play Yining and Anjali, best friends and competitive ping pong players, try to keep up with each other at the end of the world. Told non-chronologically, the work imagines a speculative future informed by our present, with militarism and climate change shaping how Yining and Anjali can connect. The play will have a public reading during Vassar Collegeʼs Powerhouse Theater Season (June 21st to July 28th) on their campus in Poughkeepsie, NY on June 29th.

The Leah Ryan Fund also awards honorable mention citations to Ella Boureau’s FUCKING AJAX! An Appalachian Gay Soul Suicide (with Music), Makeda Decletʼs Darlings and Samah Meghjeeʼs Maybe You Could Love Me.

The finalists for this year’s award are Kendra Augustin, Katie Đỗ, Brittany Fisher, Alyssa Haddad-Chin, Julia Izumi, Shanti Reinhardt, Nia Akilah Robinson, Esperanza Rosales Balcarcel and Bailey Williams.

“Each year, itʼs always a privilege and an honor to remember Leah Ryan and her spirit by adding another strong theatrical voice to our growing list of winners,” said board member Ed Cheetham.

“I feel honored and excited to receive The Leah, especially for a play that’s so close to my heart. I’m grateful to the Leah Ryan Fund for recognizing Ping Pong Play and for the opportunity to further develop this work; to Gingold Theatrical Group’s Speakers’ Corner where I wrote its first draft; to my parents who enrolled me in youth sports despite my unathleticism; and to my friendships that inspired this play, sustaining joy and laughter through personal and global changes,” Garvin said.

Kaela Mei-Shing Garvin (they/she) is a writer, performer, educator, and new work advocate. Kaela’s plays include Tiger Beat (2024 2ST Reading, 2021 Bay Area Playwrights Festival, 2021 Seven Devils Conference finalist), High School Coven (2023 Strand Theatre Baltimore Production, 2017 Corkscrew Festival), Call Out Culture (2022 O’Neill NPC Finalist, 2021 NADIA Festival, 2019 Ars Nova’s ANTFest), Harpers Ferry 2019 (2022 Know Theatre of Cincinnati production, 2021 Kendeda finalist), and The Well-Tempered Clavier (2020 BAPF finalist, 2019 Paul Stephen Lim Award.) Kaela is a current member of Ma-Yi’s Writers Lab and has developed work with companies including Breaking the Binary, the Alliance Theater, Pipeline Theater Company, and Gingold Theatrical Group. Commissions include work with Yangtze Rep (Project YZ), EST/Sloan, Montana Repertory Theater, and College of the Holy Cross. Kaela has received six Kennedy Center awards and is a founding member of Undiscovered Countries, a Brooklyn-based queer incubator of new interdisciplinary art. Kaela has taught playwriting at Cornish College of the Arts, Freehold Theatre, and Indiana University, and they’ve worked in the literary departments of Luna Stage in New Jersey and the Playwrights Foundation in San Francisco. They work as the Programming Associate for the Tank NYC.

About the Leah Ryan Fund
The Leah Ryan Fund began giving out The Leah in 2010 to honor the memory of Leah Ryan, and to encourage and support the work of brilliant and unrecognized women, trans, and non-binary playwrights. It is the purpose of the prize to perpetuate the integrity, compassion, and creativity that Leah herself possessed and inspired in others.

Winners of The Leah playwriting prize receive a $5,000 cash award and a public reading and summer workshop as part of the Powerhouse Theater Program at Vassar College. As hoped, the prize has been a springboard for winners who have subsequently won other competitions, have received full-staged productions of their work, and/or have gone on to successful careers in theater, TV, and film.

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The Leah Ryan Fund helps sustain and support writers facing individual challenges and systemic oppression so they can keep writing, connecting, creating, and thriving. The Fund currently offers an annual playwriting prize (The Leah) and an annual award for writers facing a serious illness (The Vladimir), and the newly created commission (The Boost).

The Leah Ryan Fund was established in 2008 to honor the memory of Leah Ryan, a woman of letters who wrote plays, poetry, essays, lyrics, adaptations, and collaborated with performance artists.