Please tell us about yourself 

Originally from Madurai, India,  she went the writer route when she decided she’d rather write about chemistry than barely pass it. After a few years working in marketing, and realizing she would never find enough synonyms for “empower”, she moved to New York City to study Dramatic Writing.

Over the last two years, she has worked as a stage manager at the Theatre for the New City, and has worked in the production, field and research departments for late night shows like Full Frontal with Samantha Bee (TBS) and The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore (Comedy Central). Her radio play, Rebuttal, was produced and published by HarperCollins in the Fall of 2016.

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What did you study?

I did my Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Visual Communication from M.O.P. Vaishnav College For Women and Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) in Dramatic Writing from New York University, Tisch School of Arts.

Tell us about your work

HarperCollins Publishers today announced that Jyotsna Hariharan has been selected as the Grand Prize winner of the HarperAudio radio drama contest for her play, Rebuttal.

The contest, which was open to currently enrolled undergraduate and graduate students and alumni of Goldberg Department of Dramatic Writing at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, awards the Grand Prize winner a publishing agreement with HarperCollins for an unabridged, multi-voice audio production.

Rebuttal is the story of two extremely opinionated, multicultural high school students, and their efforts to help each other accomplish their equally absurd goals after forming an impromptu bond at a debate contest. Hariharan is a first year graduate student in the Dramatic Writing MFA program.

Rebuttal stood out among all the very strong entries we received for this contest,” said Ana Maria Allessi, VP of Digital Innovation and Publisher of HarperAudio. “Hariharan writes pitch perfect dialog and smart, surprising protagonists. We can’t wait to record Rebuttal and share it with the growing number of spoken word fans.”

Why did you venture into audio drama?

“My play was already very dialogue-heavy because it’s about debate,” she recalls. “It’s very verbose, and stage plays usually require more action than dialogue, so I realized I could change it into a radio play where the only communication is audio.” The play, Rebuttal, ended up winning the contest’s grand prize—the chance to be recorded, produced, and marketed by HarperAudio.

It was Hariharan’s first audio drama, and in some respects the learning curve was steep. “No one’s narrating, and you can’t just have the characters say ‘we’re in the cafeteria now,’ so you have to write lines of dialogue to kind of hint at where they are,” she says. Hariharan wasn’t much of an audio consumer before Serial, which she calls “the gateway podcast,” but since starting there she’s become hooked on series as diverse as Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History, a BBC Radio 4 dramatization of Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens, and The Baby-Sitter’s Club Club (described by its creators as a show in which “a big dumb idiot and his brilliant, charming friend discuss the classic novels of Ann M. Martin in chronological order”).

How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?

“I’ve always been interested in the bonds we form in our early years. I also spent most of my high school and college years in debate contests and have always felt they had great potential as a narrative tool,” said Hariharan. “I’m really grateful to Tisch Dramatic Writing and HarperCollins for this amazing opportunity to showcase my work and have to thank Julian Sheppard, my playwriting professor, for believing in this play from its first pages.”

“We’re thrilled that Rebuttal — a smart, funny, insightful audio drama – won the Grand Prize. Jyotsna Hariharan is precisely the kind of dramatist we strive to educate here at Tisch Dramatic Writing and are delighted that her work will now be heard by a wide audience,” said Terry Curtis Fox, Arts Professor and Chair of the Goldberg Department of Dramatic Writing in the Tisch School of the Arts.