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Esteemed panel judges Lab Theater's 'Second Annual 24-Hour Playwriting Challenge

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The Laboratory Theater of Florida hosted its second annual 24-hour playwriting challenge over the past weekend. This year's challenge not only attracted five area playwrights with exceptional writing and directing talent, but an esteemed panel who agreed to judge this year's productions.

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The judges included Connie Bottinelli, Nykkie Rizley, Di Saggau, Dr. Sidney Simon, Nancy Stetson and Marsha Wagner.

Connie Bottinelli is an international documentary filmmaker and human rights advocate. Since 1986, she has written, directed and produced for a host of national TV and global cable programs including TLC, Discovery Communications (1996-2000), Lifetime TV, America's Most Wanted, Medical Detectives (1998-1999) and Court TV (1999-2005). She is the CEO and Executive Producer of Grinning Dog Pictures and has received five Emmys over the course of her career.

Nykkie Rizley is Secretary of the Board of Directors at The Laboratory Theater of Florida. After attending the University of Michigan, where she received a degree in Theater Prop Design, Nicole trained in both Chicago and New York. She now teaches Acting I, Acting II, and Acting for Seniors for Lab Theater and creates wounds and bruises for area film and stage productions. She directed House of Yes in August and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest last season.

Di Saggau writes for The Island Sun and The River Weekly. In a previous life, Di worked in radio in Omaha, Nebraska, and was director of communications for Nebraska public schools.

Dr. Sidney Simon is Professor Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is an internationally and nationally recognized authority in the areas of values clarification and values realization, self-esteem and negative criticism. Dr. Simon has published numerous books including the best seller Values Clarification and Getting Unstuck. His articles have appeared in Reader's Digest, Ladies Home Journal and Glamour, among many others. He also reviews theater for The Sanibel-Captiva Islander and The Island Reporter.

Nancy Stetson is the Arts and Entertainment writer and reviewer for Florida Weekly. Arts writer Nancy Stetson has received numerous commendations and awards for her introspective look at area theater productions.

Marsha Wagner is a reviewer for the Captiva-Sanibel Islander, an actress and community advocate. Her background includes ballet dancing in New York City and assistant directing at Radio City Music Hall. She will be bringing her production of Copenhagen to Lab Theater in March as a staged reading.

Although individual scores varied widely, the judges' consensus winner was playwright Laura Lorusso for The Hall: Last Sunday, a one-act play that featured a cement Bertie Bloomer birthday cake, neurotic delivery man with melting feet, and an apartment resident who just wanted to watch some football on the last Sunday before his life changes forever as a result of the impending birth of his first child. The 12 minute 45 second vignette sparkled with snappy dialogue, rib-splitting one liners and even a little song and dance that brought down the house.

The Laboratory Theater of Florida is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization which is dedicated to the promotion of the performing arts, through live performance, education, community outreach, experimentation and the development of ensemble work. The company features ensemble productions, produces classic works, takes artistic risks and features and challenges local performers of various skill levels.

Stay up to date with its news and events on Facebook and Twitter @LabTheaterFL. For more information, please call 239-218-0481. The theater is located at 1634 Woodford Ave. Fort Myers, 33901.

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