Columbia Playwrights Nominated for Samuel French Off Off Broadway Festival; Playwriting Student Darius M. Buckley Wins

Angeline Dimambro
August 15, 2023


The Samuel French Off Off Broadway Short Play Festival has announced the winners of its 2023 competition, and current playwriting student Darius M. Buckley is among the honorees.

Buckley was given the award in recognition of his play, 18, which tells the story of two teenage Black boys in juvie as they reflect on the lives they once lived and what the unknown future holds. This play in verse is a coming-of-age story that explores how one moment can transform our lives forever. As one of the six finalists, Buckley’s play will be published and made available for licensing by Concord Theatricals.

“Witnessing the extraordinary storytelling showcased in this years’ Top 30 plays has been an absolute delight,” said OOB Festival Artistic Director Casey McLain in a statement to Playbill. “Our playwrights continue to set the standard for excellence in the short play sphere, and we are thrilled to welcome the winners to our Off Off Broadway Festival Plays publication series as part of its 48th edition.”

Read more about all the winners of this year's competition here.

Original: August 9, 2023

Four Columbia Playwrights have been named semi-finalists for the Samuel French Off Off Broadway Short Play Festival. They are: alumnus Matt Barbot ’17 and current Playwriting students Darius M. Buckley, Justin Aaron Halle, and Leah Plante-Wiener.

2023 marks the 48th iteration of the annual festival, which has served as a doorway to future success for many aspiring playwrights. Each year, the festival accepts applications for unpublished plays and musicals up to 15 pages in length. From the pool of applicants, 30 semi-finalists are chosen to present their play during festival week, which consists of four nights of staged reading sessions presented before a judging panel of theatre industry professionals. This year’s staged readings will take place at the Vineyard’s Dimson Theatre from August 8-11, 2023. Click here for ticket information.

A select number of plays will then advance to the final round, which will take place August 12, 2023. From the finalists, six authors will be selected for publication in the Off Off Broadway Short Play Festival Series, which is published and licensed by Concord Theatricals.

Read more about the Columbia playwrights and their nominated plays below:

Natalie Wood Was Not Puerto Rican

Written by Matt Barbot

In Natalie Wood Was Not Puerto Rican, an unsuspecting Sam falls head over heels during a game of dominos: Ana, recently displaced from her home in Puerto Rico, is going for a run in the park where Sam and his elderly friend Herbie play. But when he discovers that his new leading lady hates his favorite Broadway musical (and its iconic movie adaptation), Sam finds himself struggling to make a love connection.

Matt Barbot is a Nuyorican writer from Brooklyn, NY. Matt will be workshopping his new play The Beautiful Land I Seek (La Linda Tierra Que Busco Yo) with Fault Line Theatre as part of their inaugural New Plays in Development series. “Spray Cap,” Matt’s contribution to Professor Lynn Nottage and Miranda Haymon’s The Watering Hole theatre event at Signature Theatre in NYC, featured the voice of Liza Colon-Zayas. His 24Hour Play, Frijoles, starring Raul Esparza, is available to view on YouTube. In 2018, El CoquÍ Espectácular and the Bottle of Doom received its world premiere at Two River Theater. Princess Clara of Loisaida and Saints Go Marching were featured on Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater Company’s “The Mix” list. Matt’s first play for young audiences, Stoo’s Famous Martian American Gumbo, was commissioned by Peppercorn Theatre. Matt was a New York Theatre Workshop 2050 Fellow and has an MFA in playwriting from Columbia University.


Written by Darius M. Buckley

18 tells the story of two teenage Black boys in juvie reflecting on the lives they once lived and what the unknown future holds. This play in verse is a coming-of-age story that explores how one moment can transform our lives forever.

Darius M. Buckley is a dramatist, published author, performing artist, and native Detroiter. He studied Broadcast and Cinematic Arts at Central Michigan University and is currently pursuing an MFA in Playwriting at Columbia University. A few of his playwriting credits include: The Fly & Incredibly Dope Adventures of Tyrone Jenkins: A Detroit Hip Hop Musical (CMU and the Detroit Fringe Festival), Thin Places (115 Short Play Festival), and The Bridge (Columbia University). Darius has also written and directed films such as: The DEFY Film, 5: A Visual Poem, American Thriller, Wonder Boy, and Making Tyrone: A 1VK1 Mini Documentary. His literary publications include Wonder Boy: A Science Fiction Short, Only The Golden Sky Knows, and his first novella, HAZE: Book One. His calling is to write soulful Black stories that inform, inspire, and heal. Stories that embody the pain, joy, and magic of young Black voices.

Horror Play

Written by Justin Aaron Halle

A Jock, a Cheerleader, a Nice Guy, a Stoner, a Virgin, and a Token Minority walk into a room… In a genre-bending exploration of tropes and identity, Horror Play asks, who will come out alive?

Justin Aaron Halle is a queer, Jewy, and New York-based playwright and pansy. Their plays include Case Studies: A New Kinsey Report (Exponential Fest and The Brick), Cowgirl (Columbia @ Roundabout Prize Finalist), and Delaware, Come Home (Lucille Lortel, published in Best of Red Bull Theater’s Short New Plays). Justin’s monologue “Judy New Year” was recently published in WE/US: Monologues for the Gender Minority (Smith & Kraus) and their MFA thesis play, a gay-ass meditation on masculinity, mysticism and the Old Testament called Vile Isle, was performed at Columbia University under the mentorship of Jen Silverman.


Written by Leah Plante-Wiener

In a chapel in the middle of the desert, two girls meet for the first time in years. Together, they must grapple with their beliefs, an act of forgiveness, and the thought of an existence beyond the violence that has forged them.

Originally from Montreal, Canada, Leah (she/her) is a New York-based playwright currently pursuing her MFA in playwriting at Columbia University. Her work has been produced through Soho Playhouse, the Chain Theatre, the Road Theatre, Playwrights Horizons Theatre School, Columbia University, SUNY Purchase, the Broke People Play Festival, and Round the Bend. Leah is obsessed with mythmaking, the body and its shadowy realms, the dreamlike and the grotesque, and obsession itself. Proud recent graduate of the NYU Tisch dramatic writing BFA program.