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We are proud to announce the recipient of the 2023-24 Rella Lossy Award. The Rella Lossy Award honors the memory of Rella Lossy, a lifelong champion of the American theatre and playwriting, by honoring the best new full-length script of a play by an emerging playwright that will premiere in Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Marin County, San Francisco County, or San Mateo County in the coming year.

Dirty White Teslas Make Me Sad

by Ashley (A.M.) Smiley
Produced by Magic Theatre
February 21 – March 10, 2024

Ashley (A.M.) Smiley is a native Afro-Franciscan writer, playwright, and part of a cultural movement of young Black Bay Area creatives in theatre, dance, poetry, and music. Her theatre background spans 17 years in production stage management, sound, and lighting design, and Smiley honed her creative voice as a Campo Santo collaborator. A self-described “sheltered weirdo Black Christian living under the hermeneutics of suspicion,” Smiley’s compelling voice speaks to current issues through original, cogent stories.

Dirty White Teslas Make Me Sad is a frank commentary about economic disparity in the Bay Area and the BVHP (Bayview-Hunters Point) as one of the last strongholds for the City’s Black population. White Teslas seem to be everywhere now. One of the most visible and symbolic differences in economic disparity is the dirty White Tesla. It signifies a level of expendable affluence that Black communities struggle to attain. Smiley states:

We can’t afford dirt, discord, disarray, or other natural characteristics because we are fighting to be human. We take care of our vehicles as a point of pride. The arrival of Teslas and their
conductors also brought about a slick new drug trade that revealed San Francisco’s disparity of care. When our wealthiest class started overdosing on uppers, San Francisco took a new interest in drug addicts and abuse. My play speaks to these issues and the struggle with hope and change amid the City’s shifting landscape. Dirty White Teslas Make Me Sad is not autobiographical; it is a lens for commentary.

Dirty White Teslas Make Me Sad follows Sloosh, an Uber/Lyft driver struggling to make sense of her future. Much of the play occurs in Sloosh’s car (not a Tesla). It is her sanctuary and chapel. We follow Sloosh as she negotiates an obtainable, though illicit, future for herself made increasingly impossible by the ongoing changes in her hometown.

2023-24 Rella Lossy Award Panelists

Lauren Gunderson (she/her) has been one of the most produced playwrights in America since 2015, topping the list thrice including 2022/23. She is a two-time winner of the Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award for I and You and The Book of Will, the winner of the Lanford Wilson Award and a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and Arthur L. Weissberger Award. Her musical adaptation of The Time Traveller’s Wife premieres on the West End this Fall. She graduated from NYU Tisch as a Reynolds Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship and lives in San Francisco.

Christian Wilburn (he/him) is a biracial, disabled writer and educator based in San Francisco. He aspires to create stories that are simultaneously diverse, fantastical, and radically empathetic. Christian’s short plays have been featured in festivals around the country. Christian is a five-time Monday Night Playground People’s Choice Award winner and winner of the inaugural Best of Playground People’s Choice Award. After receiving a commission from Playground SF, his full-length play Starlight received a developmental production at the 2023 Playground New Works Festival. Starlight continues its development in a staged reading on July 8th as part of Town Hall Theatre New Voices Series. Christian earned his MFA in Writing from the University of San Francisco.

Dawn Monique Williams (she/her) has been Aurora Theatre Company’s Associate Artistic Director since August 2019. An Oakland native, she was Artistic Associate and a resident artist at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for six seasons. She’s worked in theatre across the US including: HERE Arts Center, Profile Theatre (Portland), A.C.T., Chautauqua Theatre Company, and African American Shakespeare Company. Williams holds an MA in Dramatic Literature and an MFA in Directing.