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The Eleventh Screenplay Reading at the JCC

The 11th WGAE/WGAE Foundation Screenplay Reading at the JCC Manhattan

New York - On June 22nd, 2011, The Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) and the Writers Guild of America, East Foundation (WGAEF) held their eleventh screenplay reading in the popular series at the JCC Manhattan. Excerpts from two new scripts, American Gothic by Scott Smith, and Citizen Kowalski by David Steven Cohen, were professionally produced with a talented cast of actors.

At 7:30 PM, the audience gathered at the JCC Goldman-Sonnenfeldt Auditorium. Despite the horrible weather, there was almost a full house that evening. First was the reading of American Gothic, which tells the story of the Booth Brothers, Edwin and John Wilkes, and their respective journeys that give both fame and notoriety to their family name. The reading featured Jack Noseworthy, Patrick Yeoman, PJ Sosko, Robert Mobley, Jason Jurman, Gary Swanson, Mark Bailey, and Megan Lappin. This was followed by a question and answer session with writer Scott Smith, moderated by WGAE President, Michael Winship, Emmy Award-winning senior writer of Bill Moyers Journal.

AMERICAN GOTHIC by SCOTT SMITH tells the story of the Booth brothers, Edwin and John Wilkes. They were the sons of Junius Brutus Booth, the greatest Shakespearean actor of his day. Edwin grew up to surpass his father’s stature on the stage. John gravitated toward a more flamboyant style of acting, and became something of a matinee idol. Then he achieved a far greater fame by assassinating Abraham Lincoln.

SCOTT SMITH is the author of two novels, A SIMPLE PLAN and THE RUINS. He adapted A SIMPLE PLAN for the screen, starring Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton, and Bridget Fonda in 1998. The screenplay won many awards, including an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, as well as numerous awards for best supporting actor for Billy Bob Thornton. He also adapted THE RUINS for the screen in 2008. Stephen King called THE RUINS, “The best horror novel of the new century.” Stephen King also declared that Smith’s other novel, A SIMPLE PLAN, is “Simply the best suspense novel of the year.” Scott was educated at Dartmouth College and Columbia University. He lives in NYC, and is busy working on screenplays.


Next was the reading of Citizen Kowalski, a screwball comedy about a Chicago cop forced into early retirement, only to find that everything he believed in his entire life is a tapestry of lies. This realization propels him to “find the loose thread on said tapestry and unravel.” The reading featured John Sharian, Jim Palumbo, Wayne Federman, JD Williams, Phyllis Somerville, Tracee Chimo, Reyna de Courcy, and Michael Carlsen. After the reading, writer David Steven Cohen spoke with WGAE President, Michael Winship about the ideas and philosophy behind Citizen Kowalski.

CITIZEN KOWALSKI by DAVID STEVEN COHEN is about Chicago police detective Joe Kowalski, “just Jack Law protecting John Q. Citizen from Johnny Bad News.” Sgt. Kowalski, whose heroes include Joe Friday, Robocop and Mr. Clean, is forced into early retirement by a department that can’t stand his obsession with integrity, redundancy and bad metaphors. Disillusioned, he goes home only to learn that all he believed in – his Wisconsin hometown, bowling leagues and the very fabric of his childhood – is a tapestry of lies “woven and otherwise intertwined with the yarn of deceit on the loom of despair by the Devil’s own rug-maker.” Kowalski vows “to find the loose thread on said tapestry and unravel.” And he will…

DAVID STEVEN COHEN, a screenwriter and TV writer-producer, is currently nominated for a 2011 Emmy for the PBS series Arthur. He co-wrote the animated feature Balto, produced by Steven Spielberg. David was Head Writer of Cartoon Network’s Courage the Cowardly Dog and an Emmy nominee and WGA Award winner as Executive Producer of Nickelodeon’s The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss. David’s other credits include Pee-wee’s Playhouse, Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, ALF, Living Single, and Strangers with Candy. Also an accomplished songwriter and lyricist, David wrote the libretto for the opera Lilith, which premiered at Lincoln Center in 2001. He has contributed songs to many features, TV series and recordings and was recently celebrated at the Lincoln Center American Songbook Series. David lives in Brooklyn Heights with his wife and two sons.


After the conclusion of the readings, audience members, writers, cast and crew gathered on the roof of the JCC for a wine and cheese reception.The Screenplay Reading Series is produced and directed by WGAE Lifetime Member Susane Lee, with casting by Caroline Sinclair. The next screenplay reading is planned for October 17, 2011.

The WGAE/WGAE Foundation Screenplay Reading Series at the JCC is a popular ongoing program held twice a year that began in 2006. The program encourages WGAE members to submit their unproduced screenplay excerpts to be read by a professional cast in front of a live audience. Out of the numerous submissions made by many talented writers, two are chosen for each event. After each reading, there is a Q&A session with the writer of the screenplay where he or she discusses the writing process, the original idea behind the script, and what the next steps are for their stories.