2017 Feature Winners Judy Soo Hoo & Isaac Ho

Cadaver Dog

When a young autistic Latina rescues a stray cadaver dog, she stumbles upon a 15 year-old cold case that no one wants solved.

We found each other working in live theater. Separately we were both playwrights, struggling to find our voices in a community of nomads and dreamers. Together we discovered our voices created harmony in a dissonant and often contradictory world.

In live theater, the audience shares the same space, breathes the same air as the actors who portray the characters, but for the characters to come alive, they must be grounded in the human condition.

For us, this was the most important aspect of theater we wanted to bring to our screenplays.

We have a shared love of mysteries, especially old British whodunits with all their assorted characters and their deep sense of place. We were fascinated with cadaver dogs and how they were oblivious to our human uneasiness toward death. We also knew we didn’t want a professional investigator at the center of our story. Since both of us have family members with autism, we wanted to show some of what they experience on a daily basis.

These were the pieces that began our journey into the world of Cadaver Dog.

Cadaver Dog took nearly a year to write: three major restructuring of the story events, and close to three dozen drafts. We searched for signs of life in the flat, computer-generated voices reciting our dialogue. We relied on close friends for constructive criticism (some of which was brutal but honest). We took comfort in the pure, unconditional love of a dog. We were determined to write a script that reflected our artistic sensibilities and stayed true to our commitment to diversity and honest representation.

And over time, the characters became as real to us as the close friends we had known for years.

Lastly, we discovered that when you’re passionate about something, that something becomes a metaphor for life with all its joys and disappointments.