The Stanley Drama Award

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Congratulations to our 2016 Stanley Drama Award winner Mike Bencivenga for Bad Hearts.

The Stanley Drama Award was established in 1957 by Staten Island philanthropist Alma Guyon Timolat Stanley and endowed through the Stanley-Timolat Foundation to encourage and support aspiring playwrights. The national Stanley Award competition is administered by the Wagner College Theatre program, listed for the last decade among the top five college theater programs in the country in the Princeton Review’s annual Best Colleges Guide. The award carries with it a monetary prize along with the distinction of joining the illustrious list of past Stanley Award winners.

The Stanley Drama Award has a long and distinguished history. Past winners include Terrence McNally’s “This Side of the Door” (aka “Things That Go Bump in the Night”), Lonne Elder III’s “Ceremonies in Dark Old Men,” and Jonathan Larson’s “Rent.” Among those judging for the Stanley Award have been playwrights Edward Albee and Paul Zindel, actresses Geraldine Page and Kim Stanley, and TV producer/pioneer talk-show host David Susskind.


Mike Bencivenga

SYNOPSIS: Bad Hearts

On a fall day in 1975, Margaret ‘Mags’ Esposito unexpectedly comes home from college to her suburban Long Island home. She returns hoping to find love and acceptance in the war zone of a family she was raised in. Her younger brother, Eddie, who appears to be winning his lifelong battle with stuttering, joyfully greets her. But Mags’ return and her new found confidence rubs her mother, Joyce, the wrong way. Joyce sees in Mags all that she wants and will never become. The weight of being married to a man she no longer loves and a life spent raising children she was never sure she wanted has made her bitter, hard, and hateful. Mags’ father, Tony, is equally depressed having grown up convinced he’ll die, as all the men in his family have, of a heart attack at age 50. Mags tries to shake them out of it but learns that bringing hope to a broken soul is like bringing a match to a gas pump. Something is bound to explode. BAD HEARTS is about the fragility of dreams and the toxicity of despair. And about the treacherous and tragic place some of us unfortunately call home.

BIO: Mike Bencivenga

In the theater, Mike Bencivenga has written, directed, produced, and acted in one-acts and full length plays (with MTC and the Lightning Strikes Theater Company), performed improv comedy (as one of the Chainsaw Boys), and has written and directed sketch comedy in New York, Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles. The full-length plays he’s written include Single Bullet Theory, Couplets, Billy & Ray, Summer on Fire, and Bad Hearts. In 2013 Billy & Ray won the prestigious W. Keith Hedrick award for best play. It was produced in 2013 at The Falcon Theater under the direction of the legendary Garry Marshall. The show moved to The Vineyard Theater in 2014, also directed by Garry Marshall, where it enjoyed an extended sold out run. In December of 2014 Mike's political comedy Summer on Fire won the Christopher Wolk prize for excellence in playwriting from the Abingdon Theater in New York. Summer on Fire had its world premiere in 2016 at The Scorpion Theater in Calgary, Canada. He is currently working on an original full-length comedy commissioned by The Purple Rose Theater in Chelsea, Michigan and is looking forward to further productions of Billy & Ray planned for the U.S. and in London.

On film Mike wrote, directed and produced Losers in Love starring Nick Searcy in 1993 and in the fall of 2001 he co-wrote and directed Happy Hour starring Anthony LaPaglia, Eric Stoltz and Robert Vaughn. Happy Hour was awarded the Audience Award for Best Picture at the 2004 Florida Film Festival and the prestigious PRISM Award for the accurate depiction of alcohol abuse among other honors. Mike has written a number of other screenplays including Running Gun about the life and times of Wild West folk legend Billy the Kid and Taliesin, the story of the early, scandalous years of the iconic architect Frank Lloyd Wright. He’s looking forward to the release in 2016 of Great Plains, an original suspense drama he wrote for MarVista Entertainment.

In addition to his work in theater and film Mike is an Emmy winning producer who has worked over 30 years at WABC-TV in New York. Mike lives in Astoria, New York with his lovely wife Jen and is tremendously honored to be the recipient of this year’s Stanley Drama Award for Bad Hearts.


Congrats to finalists Harold Ellis Clark and Alan Goodson