Two fully produced webisodes were screened and excerpts from eight original TV pilots were performed by professional actors in front of a sold-out crowd of students, faculty and industry professionals at the Asylum Theater on West 26th Street in New York City in a showcase hosted by the MFA Program in Television Writing.
The evening led off with Mallory Baysek’s riveting SHESPN, which tells the story of a hot-shot lesbian NFL analyst who loses her primetime gig after an altercation in a bar goes viral. She is demoted to the network’s struggling women’s sports show, where she must team up with a crew of underdogs to boost the show’s ratings before it — and her career — are benched for good.
Brittany Ramjattan’s moving comedy, Maya of Brooklyn, tells the story of a 1960s immigrant homemaker who lies to take charge of Brooklyn’s sole Hindu temple in order to marry off her kind, but homely son.
Galen Foote’s funny and touching Life with Fury explores what happens when an irreverent rock star, who is suffering from aphasia and no longer able to sing, returns to the small town — and neurotic son — he abandoned 20 years earlier.
One of two webisodes screened was Lisa Davey’s Growth, which features Broadway musical theater star Leslie Kritzer. This irreverent comedy tells the story of an insecure woman who suddenly becomes the confident, assertive person she’s always aspired to be. When she learns that a brain tumor is responsible for the change, she has to choose whether to revert back to her old self or leave the tumor in place — and continue living her best life — even though it may kill her.
Alan Kingsberg, founding director of Stony Brook’s MFA in Television Writing, welcomed everyone to the Asylum Theater by pointing out, “since television is a writer’s medium, it is appropriate that at least for this one afternoon the writers are running the Asylum.”
Kingsberg went on to say that the quality of all the pilots, many of which have won national awards, are on a par with shows that are on the air and streaming. Projects for the showcase were supervised by Kingsberg and TV Writing Professors Scott Burkhardt and Jim Jennewein; webisodes were supervised by Professor Kristin Lefcoe.
Other pilots presented were written by Laura Burns, Nelson Downend, Emma Gwynneth Gutt, Ada Lee Halofsky, Tamar Haviv and Noelle P. Wilson.
Stony Brook’s MFA in Television Writing, now in its fifth year, is the most comprehensive TV Writing MFA on the East Coast and is designed to enable writers to build portfolios that can launch their careers. If Sunday’s showcase is any indication of the talent of the program’s graduates, their work will soon be streaming directly to living rooms everywhere.