The Stanley Drama Award is given by the Wagner College Theatre for an original, unpublished full-length play or musical or thematically related set of one-act plays that has not yet been professionally produced.
Since 1957, the Stanley Award has been given at least 60 times. Twice — in 1964, and again in 1969 — the Stanley Award was given to two playwrights for two different plays. In 1987, no award was made and all finalists were carried over to following year. And in 1995, we have no record of the Stanley Drama Award being given, no reference can be found online to a 1995 Stanley winner, and our business office has no record of any payment being made for the Stanley Award prize.
The Stanley Drama Award was originally given as part of the New York City Writers Conference, a 10-day program held each summer at Wagner College for aspiring fiction writers, poets and playwrights from 1956 through the late 1960s. Though a playwriting award was given at the inaugural conference, it was not until the conference’s second year, 1957, that the award was named for benefactor Alma Guyon Timolat Stanley of Dongan Hills, Staten Island.
Stanley Drama Award winners
|2019||Some Other Verse, Carl L. Williams|
|2018||Incident at Willow Creek, Benjamin V. Marshall|
|2017||The Showman and the Spirit, Elisabeth Karlin|
|2016||Bad Hearts, Mike Bencivenga|
|2015||The Good Bet, Bob Clyman|
|2014||Out of Orbit, Jennifer Maisel|
|2013||The Return of Tartuffe, Brian Mulholland|
|2012||The Perfect Wife, Karen L. Lewis|
|2011||Eyes Forward, Philip Gerson|
|2010||The Restoration of Sight, Richard Martin Hirsch|
|2009||Memory Fragments, Sam Wallin|
|2008||Stray, Ruth McKee|
|2007||Guided Tour, Peter Snoad|
|2006||Farmers of Men, Richard Aellen|
|2005||Mother, May I, Dylan Brody|
|2004||Be Our Joys, Joseph Zaitchik|
|2003||Skin of a Lawyer, Richard Kalinoski|
|2002||How High the Moon, Timothy Jay Smith|
|2001||The Pagans, Ann Noble (Massey) — winning play prev. listed as And Neither Have I Wings to Fly (wr. 1995)|
|2000||Shadow Plays, Frank Basloe|
|1999||Flight, music by James Scully; book by Steve and Elise Seyfried|
|1998||Gone Astray, Jennie Staniloff Redling|
|1997||The Job, Shem Bitterman|
|1996||Cold War Comedy, Thomas S. Hischak|
|1995||No award on record|
|1994||Tierra Del Fuego, Robert Alan Ford|
|1993||Rent, Jonathan Larson|
|1992||Boca, Christopher Kyle|
|1991||Planet of the Mutagens, Mary Fengar Gail|
|1990||Beast, Susan Arnout Smith|
|1989||Washington Square Moves, Matthew Witten|
|1988||Norm Rex, Phil Atlakson|
|1987||no decision made, all finalists carried over to following year|
|1986||Cue the Violins, David Graham Richmond|
|1985||Interstates, Daniel A. Dervin|
|1984||The Mountains of Arafat, Geoffrey Brown|
|1983||Cafe Con Leche, Gloria Gonzalez|
|1982||Jonas, Billy Bly|
|1981||Sissy and the Baby Jesus, Barbara Allan Hite|
|1980||Private Opening, Norman Wexler|
|1979||The Stag at Eve, Robert Riche|
|1978||Cutting Away, Barry Knower|
|1977||Past Tense, Jack Zeman|
|1976||A Safe Place, Carol Klein Mack|
|1975||Jonathan! A musical play in two acts suggested by characters in the novel “Jonathan Wild,” by Henry Fielding; book & lyrics by Alan Riefe; music by Robert Haymes|
|1974||Son of the Last Mule Dealer, Gus Weill|
|1973||Carnivori, C. Richard Gillespie|
|1972||Fortune Teller Man, Marvin Denicoff|
|1971||Obtuse Triangle: A Romantic Comedy in Two Acts, Bernard “Ben” Rosa|
|1970||Three Sons (Of Sons & Brothers), Richard Lortz|
|1969||A Happy New Year to the Whole World Except
Alexander Graham Bell, Bernard Sabath
Two one-acts: The Club and The Little Gentleman, Yale Udoff
|1968||Bag of Flies, Venable Herndon|
|1967||The Prize in the Crackerjack Box, William Parchman|
|1966||To Become a Man, Albert Zuckerman|
|1965||Ceremonies in Dark Old Men, Lonne Elder III|
|1964||Hothouse, Megan Terry|
|Thompson, Joseph Baldwin|
|1963||Two one-acts: Funnyhouse of a Negro and The Owl Answers, Adrienne Kennedy|
|1962||This Side of the Door, Terrence McNally
(later revision titled, “And Things That Go Bump in the Night”)
|1961||La Loca (La Fiesta), Ernesto Fuentes|
|1960||The Busy Martyr, George Hitchcock|
|1959||The Apple Doesn’t Fall, Gene Radano|
|1958||Hear that Sweet Laughter (Published by Dramatists Play Service, 1961, as Clandestine on the Morning Line: A Play in Three Acts), Josh Greenfeld|
|1957||To Learn to Love, William I. Oliver|
ALMA TIMOLAT STANLEY
Mrs. Stanley was the widow of Robert C. Stanley, former board chairman of the International Nickel Company of Canada Ltd. She was known as a patron of cultural and educational groups on Staten Island and elsewhere in New York City.
A Staten Island Advance article of June 7, 1962 announced that Mrs. Stanley was to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Tampa, to be conferred by former Wagner College President David M. Delo. According to the Advance,
… she has established scholarship programs at Wagner College, Stevens Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania.
She is a patroness of the Metropolitan Opera, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and the Stratford (Conn.) Shakespearean Festival.
Mrs. Stanley has been active in the Island’s Red Cross chapter since its inception in 1917, and has been a leader in the work of the Society for Seamen’s Children.
Following Mrs. Stanley’s death on Jan. 6, 1971, an Asbury Park Press article recounted her support of the Visiting Nurse Association of Staten Island, adding that “Mrs. Stanley was active in many Staten Island community groups and was named Woman of Achievement by the S.I. Advance in 1963, Woman of the Year by the Soroptimist Club in 1961, [and] received the Distinguished Citizen’s Award from Wagner College in 1953.”
Support for the Stanley Drama Award after Mrs. Stanley’s death was continued by the Stanley-Timolat Foundation and Mrs. Stanley’s son, Robert C. Stanley Jr.
1957 Stanley Drama Award winner:
William I. Oliver
The inaugural Stanley Drama Award was announced in the flyer for the 1957 New York City Writers Conference as well as in a mailing from NYCWC director Gorham Munson. A few details:
- Candidates could not submit themselves for the award. “A candidate must be proposed by a teacher of drama, a producer or director, a play agent, a playwright or a play reviewer.”
- “The candidate must attend the full session of the NYC Writers Conference [July 16-25] and carry out the duties of a Fellow [though those duties were not enumerated].”
- The drama workshop leader that year was H.R. Hays.
- The winner would receive a $500 prize, plus living and travel expenses for attendance at the conference. The winner’s play would “be produced on the closing nights [that is, the last three nights of the conference] by the Corn Cob Theatre, the summer theatre of the Staten Island Theatre Workshop, under the direction of Vincent Zangara.”
- Submission deadline was May 1; the winner was to be announced by June 1.
Whether the announcement date was missed, or just the press release, it was not until June 20 that the college announced the first winner of the Stanley Drama Award: “William I. Oliver, a graduate student at Cornell University. The award-winning play is ‘To Learn to Love,’ a three-act study of young sailors in the Canal Zone. Mr. Oliver attended the Drama Department of Carnegie Institute of Technology, has worked in the Cornell University Theatre for the last four years, and has been a director of a summer theatre.”
William I. Oliver spent the majority of his career (starting in 1958, the year after winning the Stanley Award) as a professor of drama at the University of California at Berkeley. Following his death in 1995, the U.C. Faculty Senate published this obituary written by his colleagues Travis Bogard, Henry May and Warren Travis:
William I. Oliver, Dramatic Art: Berkeley
The distinguished theatrical director, William I. Oliver, died suddenly on March 17 in San Jose, Costa Rica, where he was teaching and directing at the University of Costa Rica's School of Dramatic Arts. He leaves his wife, Barbara, and three children, Michael, Anna, and Soren.
A retired professor of Dramatic Art at the University of California, Berkeley, Oliver was born in Panama City, Nov. 6, 1926, the son of Methodist teaching missionaries, Walter and Anna Skow Oliver. He was educated at Methodist schools in Panama City and the Canal Zone. During the second World War, since he was equally fluent in Spanish and English, he served there as a translator in the U.S. Navy.
In 1946, he left the Canal Zone and entered the theatre department of the Carnegie Institute of Technology’s School of Fine Arts in Pittsburgh to study acting. He played two summer seasons at Woodstock, N.Y., opposite such stars as Lillian Gish. In 1950, he married a fellow drama student, Barbara Marsh, and together they moved to North Dakota to head the Fargo/Moorhead Community Players.
In 1953, the Olivers left North Dakota for Cornell University, where he studied for the Ph.D. For his doctoral dissertation he translated and wrote critical assessments of Federico Garcia Lorca and Lope de Vega.
He joined the faculty of the Department of Dramatic Art at Berkeley in 1958 and served as a teacher, director and administrator until his retirement in 1991. He taught stage direction, dramatic literature and criticism in classes that were distinguished by his lively and inquiring mind.
His work as a stage director with departmental students included many memorable productions, among them Ben Jonson’s “Bartholomew Faire,” the Jacobean melodrama “The Changeling” (with a young Stacy Keach), “Hamlet,” “Peer Gynt,” “Danton’s Death,” e. e. cummings’ “him,” Sartre’s “The Devil and the Good Lord,” O’Neill’s “Ah Wilderness!” and Giraudoux’s “Electra.” The wide range of his play selection was increased as he worked in the popular U.C. summer theatre, the Old Chestnut Drama Guild, where he directed standard classics such as Noel Coward’s “Fallen Angels,” Clarence Day’s “Life with Father,” Pinero’s “The Amazons” and Philip Barry’s “Holiday” and “The Animal-Kingdom.”
His directorial energies were often employed beyond the university theatre. He staged short plays for San Francisco’s One-Act Theatre Company and Berkeley’s Aurora Theatre, where he also appeared as an actor, playing with Barbara Oliver in “The Gin Game.”
In both Latin and South American companies, his talents as a critic and as a stage director are well-known. In 1966, he traveled to Santiago, Chile, where he taught at the University of Chile and directed ITUCH, the national theatre, in the Chilean premiere of Peter Weiss’s “Marat-Sade.” In Mexico City in 1974, in addition to classes at the School of Fine Arts, he directed Arthur Schnitzler’s “La Ronde.” He went three times to Costa Rica, where he both taught and staged productions, including Wilder’s “The Skin of our Teeth,” Euripides’ “Orestes” and Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors.” During his fourth visit, he was preparing Albee’s “Seascape” in his own translation.
He was for several years a judge and critic at the prestigious El Paso Chamizal Festival of Golden Age Theatre, and in 1991 he was invited to present a paper in Cadiz at the first conference on educational theatre to be held in Spain.
As a translator, he was prolific, moving plays and novels and works of criticism from and to Spanish with ease. As a dramatist, he was the author of a trilogy on Spanish themes, “The Antifarce of Sir John and Leporello,” “The Masks of Barbara Blomberg” and “Dumbshows of the King.” The first two were premiered at Berkeley, the third was published in Spanish in a special edition, commemorative of the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s voyage.
In his teaching, as in his directing, Oliver displayed astonishing energy, insight and imagination. He had a penchant for long walks with his Scotty dog along Mendocino beaches, but his true happiness was found at rehearsal, facing a lighted stage, director’s script in hand, at once goading and inspiring his students, whether professional or amateur, to performances that often surprised the doers with the unexpected range and depth he elicited from them. In his work the lights of theatrical pleasure, thought, and emotion burned bright. He has left a darkened stage behind him.
1958: Josh Greenfeld
On June 6, 1958, the Staten Island Advance announced that “the 1958 Stanley Award goes to Josh Greenfeld of Manhattan for his play ‘Hear That Sweet Laughter’ … [which] centers around a restaurant owner in a city ‘northern in size, southern in influence.’ The author … studied playwriting under Kenneth Rowe at the University of Michigan and John Gassner of Yale.”
On July 6, the Staten Island Advance announced, “A group of actors from within the Dongan Hills Players will present ‘Hear That Sweet Laughter’ ... tomorrow at 8 p.m. in the Coach House of the Richmond County Country Club. The play will be given as a dramatic reading with scenery and props. The director is Robert H. Nutt of Dongan Hills. ... The author, Josh Greenfeld of Manhattan, won the $500 Stanley Award for his work.”
The July 9 issue of the Sea Hawk Daily, the NYC Writers Conference newsletter, introduced “Josh Greenfeld of New York City as this year’s Stanley Award Fellow,” mentioning that his “play is under option to Aldrich, Bowman & Shurtleff, off-Broadway producers. Mr. Greenfeld is a free-lance magazine writer, often writing on sports. In the June Esquire he had an article on Fangio, world champion automobile racer.” [And a bit of NYCWC trivia: The Sea Hawk Daily was written by Wagner alumnus Paul Zindel ’58 M’62 H’71, himself an aspiring playwright. He produced the newsletter in return for his tuition to the NYCWC.]
The New York Age of July 12, 1958 included a brief, “Actors Sought For ‘Sweet Laughter’ ”: “Casting is now in progress for ‘Hear that Sweet Laughter,’ a comedy-drama of Negro life by Josh Greenfeld. Winner of the 1958 Playwriting Award of the New York Writers’ Conference, it will be produced by the firm of Alden Aldrich, Ross Bowman and Michael Shurtleff. Actors who are interested should contact the producers whose offices are at 117 West 13 Street. Rehearsals begin in August with a late September opening planned.”
A year later, the April 9, 1959 issue of the Wagnerian, Wagner College’s student newspaper, reported that Greenfeld had won a grant of “$110,000 from the Ford Foundation. The money will be used to finance the production of this play in the fall of 1959. Mr. Greenfeld retitled his play, ‘Clandestine on the Morning Line.’ ”
“Clandestine” was published in 1961 by Dramatists Play Service, which noted that “the premiere production … was given by the Arena Stage, Washington, D.C. The play was selected for presentation under the Ford Foundation’s Program for Playwrights in 1959. The production was directed by Alan Schneider.”
The online Lortel Archive notes that “ ‘Clandestine on the Morning Line’ [was] produced by Actors’ Playhouse, 100 Seventh Ave. South, New York — opened Oct. 30, 1961, for 24 performances — directed by Allen Davis, starring James Earl Jones (won 1962 Obie Award, Best Actor) and Rosetta LeNoire.”
And, finally, Wikipedia provides the following biography for Josh Greenfeld:
Josh Greenfeld (born 1928) is an author and screenwriter mostly known for his screenplay for the 1974 film “Harry and Tonto” along with Paul Mazursky, which earned them an Academy Award nomination and its star, Art Carney, the Oscar itself for Best Actor. Greenfeld also wrote “Oh, God! Book II” and the TV special “Lovey” and is the author of several books about his autistic son, Noah Greenfeld.
The trilogy, “A Child Called Noah,” “A Place for Noah,” and “A Client Called Noah,” detail the effects that Noah’s disabilities place on the Greenfelds and the extraordinary lengths that the family went through to find the very best care available for their son. His wife, Fumiko Kometani, is a Japanese writer and has won the Akutagawa Prize, Japan's most prestigious literary award; she too wrote about their son and his developmental disability. His older son, Karl Taro Greenfeld, a special contributor to Portfolio and Details, wrote his own story of growing up with Noah entitled “Boy Alone: A Brother's Memoir.”
Among Greenfeld's plays are “Clandestine on the Morning Line,” “I Have a Dream,” “The Last Two Jews of Kabul,” “Whoosh!,” and “Canal Street.” His novels include “O for a Master of Magic,” “The Return of Mr. Hollywood,” and “What Happened Was This.”
In 1968, Greenfeld signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.
Greenfeld attended Brooklyn College; he received a B.A. from the University of Michigan and an M.A. from Columbia University.
1959: Gene Radano
The June 15, 1959 issue of the Staten Island Advance featured the headline, “Mafia Story Wins 1959 Stanley Prize.” The story reads: “Gene Radano of 209 East 87 St., Manhattan, is the winner of the 1959 Stanley Award for his play, ‘The Apple Doesn’t Fall,’ it was announced today at Wagner College. … This year’s prize-winning play deals with the impact of the Mafia on Italian-Americans living in New York City.”
The same day’s New York Times says,
This year’s winner of the Stanley Playwriting Award is Patrolman Gene Radano, a warrant officer attached to the Lower Manhattan Magistrates Courts. …
Mr. Radano, who is 41 years old, was born in East Harlem and lives at 209 East Eighty-seventh Street. He is the father of two daughters and two sons. Mr. Radano has been a member of the Police Department since 1946.
“The Apple Doesn’t Fall” is a contemporary play, dealing with the impact of the Mafia on an Italian family in Manhattan. …
Besides “The Apple Doesn’t Fall,” Mr. Radano has written six other plays, none of which has been produced on Broadway.
The following month, on July 13 (during the NYC Writers Conference), the Times followed up with another story:
The program for the 1960 NYC Writers Conference noted that Radano’s “The Apple Doesn’t Fall” has been “optioned for Broadway production but has not to date opened.”
The following year, the Aug. 17 issue of the New York Daily News reported that a new play by Radano, “The Opening of a Window,” was in rehearsals for an opening at the Off-Broadway Theatre Marquee, 110 E. 58th St., on Sept 21. The story, titled “Cop’s Play to Open,” said,
If “all the world’s a stage,” then it stands to reason that playwrights can come from any place. One of the newest playwrights, Gene Radano, is a member of New York City’s Police Department. …
A member of the force since 1946, Radano has been writing since 1943. To avoid criticism of “moonlighting” — working at another job while in the department — he will be on vacation for a month, beginning this week, when rehearsals begin.
On Sept. 1, 1961, the New York World-Telegram ran a more substantial story about Radano:
Radano was also the author of two books, “Walking the Beat: A New York Policeman Tells What It’s Like on His Side of the Law” (World, 1968) and “Stories Cops Only Tell Each Other” (Stein & Day, 1974).
Kirkus Review panned “Walking the Beat,” which was evidently a fictionalized account but marketed as non-fiction:
Although pegged as non-fiction, and the author swears he heard it all, this hazy view of the heroes of the precinct lacks the immediacy and veracity of authentic interviews or straight-forward reporting. Curiously defensive, the author, who is obviously not a cop himself, clips and pastes “case” episodes and dirty stories, unfunny and out of context. Some of the unhappy lot consists of inter-station house politics, unfair pressure from superiors, civic and judicial stumbling blocks to the follow through on arrests. The whole sticky business is seen as through the eyes of Paul, a rookie, and he is painfully initiated into the politics, the hopelessness of it all, the pecking order. Fascinating material is diluted and mangled by sensationalism of the quavering, supra-masculine, bogus Hemingway variety. Hopped up homage to the “police farce” and the long-suffering men in blue.
1960: George Hitchcock
A June 1960 Wagner College press release (date unspecified) announced that George Hitchcock of 2808 Laguna St., San Francisco, had won the 1960 Stanley Award for his play, “The Busy Martyr.” The play was nominated by Arnold Colbath, a drama professor at Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C., where “The Busy Martyr” had been staged on May 6, 7 and 8. The release said that “a production of the play is also planned during the fifth session of the New York City Writers Conference from July 12-22.”
The press release acknowledged the advice given to the Stanley judges by Richard Watts Jr., drama critic for the New York Post.
The release also named three plays for honorable mention:
- Joe LeSueur, “A Cool Wind over the Living.” Part of the New York School of poetry and longtime roommate and sometime lover of Frank O’Hara, LeSueur is perhaps best remembered for his posthumously published memoir, “Digressions on Some Poems by Frank O’Hara” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003). “A Cool Wind” was taped for the second season of WNTA’s highly acclaimed series, “The Play of the Week” (air date March 27, 1961).
- Nishan Parlakian, “Plagiarized.” Parlakian taught drama, speech and English literature at John Jay College and was a renowned authority on Armenian theater as well as a playwright. “Plagiarized” was one of several of his plays that were produced and published.
- Gloria Demby Maddox, “Black Monday’s Children.” Bernard L. Peterson’s “Early Black American Playwrights and Dramatic Writers” includes an entry on Maddox: “Former student playwright at Fisk University, where she was also a member of the Fisk Stagecrafters. … After graduating from Fisk in the late 1940s, she became director of the Theatre of Wee Folks in Selma, Ala.” According to Peterson, an early version of “Black Monday’s Children” was produced as a one-act play in the 1940s by the Fisk University Stagecrafters. A copyright for “Black Monday’s Children: A Play in Three Acts,” by Gloria Demby Maddox, was filed on Aug. 17, 1959.
The July 14, 1960 issue of the Seahawk Daily said, “George P. Hitchcock, the Stanley Fellow in Drama, lists as his occupation: writer; stage director. He has contributed frequently to the literary quarterlies and little magazines, and is himself associate editor of the San Francisco Review. Scenes from ‘The Busy Martyr’ will be presented by the Dongan Hills Players on July 21.”
Hitchcock had a remarkable career before winning the 1960 Stanley Award, and an even more noteworthy life after it. Here is Hitchcock’s extraordinary obituary, written by William Grimes, published in the Sept. 4, 2010 issue of the New York Times:
George Hitchcock, whose poetry magazine, Kayak, born in the cultural ferment of the 1960s, was one of the most distinctive, eagerly read literary journals of its time, died on Aug. 27 at his home in Eugene, Ore. He was 96.
His death was confirmed by the poet Robert McDowell, an editor of “One Man Boat: The George Hitchcock Reader” (2003).
Mr. Hitchcock, a former actor, playwright and political organizer, founded Kayak in 1964 and for the next 20 years ran it as a one-man show. He designed the magazine, edited it, printed it, illustrated it and organized the collating parties where its pages were stapled together, slipped into mailing envelopes and stamped.
With great ingenuity, he created Kayak’s archly cruel rejection slips: Victorian engravings depicting a beheading, or a mountain climber slipping into a crevasse, with a brush-off caption appended.
He was, as he liked to say, Kayak’s dictator. “A kayak is not a galleon, ark, coracle or speedboat,” read the motto printed with each issue. “It is a small watertight vessel operated by a single oarsman. It is submersible, has sharply pointed ends, and is constructed of light poles and the skins of furry animals. It has never yet been successfully employed as a means of mass transport.”
Although he leaned toward surrealism and the dreamlike style of the deep imagist school, Mr. Hitchcock included a wide variety of poets, publishing the early work of Philip Levine, Raymond Carver, James Tate and Charles Simic.
“He was the pre-eminent maverick independent magazine publisher,” said Howard Junker, the editor of Zyzzyva: The Journal of West Coast Writers and Artists. “He was open in his tastes, unflagging in his energies, knew everyone and kept the thing going against all odds.”
George Parks Hitchcock was born on June 2, 1914, in Hood River, Ore. He attended the University of Oregon, where he was a reporter on the school newspaper, and received a bachelor’s degree in 1935.
After school he worked as a reporter for The Western Worker in San Francisco and as the sports editor of The People’s Daily World, for which he wrote a sports column under the byline Lefty. He also became friends with Kenneth Rexroth, who encouraged his interest in poetry.
When the United States entered World War II, he enlisted in the Merchant Marine, which sent him to the South Pacific and put him to work as a cook and waiter.
After the war he traveled throughout California trying to organize dairy unions. He later taught at the California Labor School.
In the 1950s, while working as a landscape gardener, he began writing plays and acting with two San Francisco repertory companies, the Interplayers and the Actor’s Workshop.
During the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 1957, the House Un-American Activities Committee summoned him to testify in San Francisco, where he delivered what may well have been his finest performance.
When asked to state his profession, he answered: “I am a gardener. I do underground work on plants.” He then refused to answer questions about membership in the Communist Party, “on the grounds that this hearing is a big bore and waste of the public’s money.”
The director of the Shakespeare Festival demoted him to spear-carrying roles.
Physically imposing — a hefty 6-foot-4 — Mr. Hitchcock cut a flamboyant, dandyish figure. “He reminded me of those bigger-than-life character actors in Hollywood movies, like Wallace Beery and Charles Laughton, or like Vitamin Flintheart, the ostentatiously dressed and extravagantly posturing character in Dick Tracy comic books,” the poet Morton Marcus wrote in his memoir, “Striking Through the Masks.”
In 1958 Mr. Hitchcock became an editor of The San Francisco Review, which had published his two-act play “Prometheus Found.” Soon after the review ceased publication in 1963, Kayak was born.
It made an immediate impact. Mr. Hitchcock had a strong personality, visual flair and keen eye for writing talent. The long list of poets and writers who found a home in his pages included W. S. Merwin, Anne Sexton, Robert Bly, Margaret Atwood and Hayden Carruth. Criticism, reviews, the occasional prose piece and Mr. Hitchcock’s collages rounded out the content.
Kayak enjoyed fights. It set up in opposition to revered publications like The Kenyon Review and The Hudson Review, and nourished a spirited contempt for what it saw as the overly intellectual poetry of writers like Robert Lowell and Richard Wilbur.
Creatively frugal, Mr. Hitchcock acquired an offset press from the Pacific Steamship Line that had been used to print menus and learned to run it himself. He printed one issue on paper that the Army had rejected for target-practice use.
Kayak operated outside the world of foundation grants and government support, although the National Endowment for the Arts, unsolicited, gave the magazine two grants. Mr. Hitchcock used most of the money to publish books by Mr. Simic, Carver, Carruth and others. He used $500 to create a prize for the best poem about Che Guevara.
In 1970 Mr. Hitchcock moved the Kayak operation to Santa Cruz, Calif., where he had been hired to teach playwriting and poetry at the University of California, Santa Cruz. In 1984 he rang down the curtain, and Kayak ended its run after 64 issues.
“Any more, and it would risk seeming an institution,” Mr. Hitchcock said. “After that, ossification and rigor mortis.”
An early marriage ended in divorce. He is survived by his longtime companion, Marjorie Simon; a sister, June Harman of St. Helena, Calif.; a son, Stephen, of Carbondale, Ill.; two grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.
Mr. Hitchcock was rather cavalier about his creative brainchild and its influence. “In 1964 I found most American poetry magazines extraordinarily boring,” he told the magazine Caliban in 1986. “I thought that Kayak might relieve the tedium, c’est tout.”
1961: Ernesto Fuentes
The 1961 Writers Conference was the first to involve Wagner College English professor Willard Maas. A minor poet who had not published in years, Maas was nonetheless well known in New York City for his experimental filmmaking as well as the wild parties he threw in his Brooklyn Heights penthouse apartment with his wife, experimental filmmaker Marie Menken. Maas and Menken were the real-life inspirations (if it can be called that) for the lead couple in Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (See the Winter 2013-14 issue of Wagner Magazine, pages 18-23.)
In the April 13, 1961 issue of the Advance, the first results of Maas’s wide network of celebrity contacts were made evident: the judges for the 1961 Stanley Drama Award included “Molly Kazan, dramatist and wife of movie director Elia Kazan; playwright Edward Albee, and Dr. John Hruby, chairman of the drama division of Wagner College and director of the school’s Varsity Players.” Instructors for the conference were Albee, novelist Saul Bellow and poet Robert Lowell.
A June 14 press release announced the Stanley winner as Ernesto Fuentes for “La Loca.” Fuentes, born in Artemisa, Cuba and a graduate of the Municipal Dramatic School in Havana, had lived in the U.S. since 1950. His street address was 282 E. 35th St., Brooklyn.
The press release also “announced that the play will be produced on the Wagner campus July 20-22 by the Hilltop Summer Theatre.”
A separate press release dated June 13, announcing auditions, called the play “a drama of passion and violence … set in a South American country in modern times.” The venue for the campus staging would be the Main Hall auditorium. The release also said that Fuentes “has written five plays, two of which have been optioned for professional production.”
An extremely clever June 30 press release had Willard Maas’s fingerprints all over its prose:
Attention all goats interested in acting
There is a small but important acting role for a goat in the Hilltop Summer Theatre production, “La Loca,” according to the director, Dr. John Hruby.
If you are interested in appearing in the production, to be presented on the Wagner College campus July 20-22 as part of the New York City Writers Conference, submit your application to the director.
The role, as described in the script, requires that you be a good listener, inasmuch as the leading lady confides in you quite often.
Garbage and tin cans will be supplied to keep you happy, Dr. Hruby said. He added that temperamental goats need not apply inasmuch as he’s having enough trouble dealing with another of the performers: a stage-struck rooster.
A July 12 press release from the college was supplemented with original reporting, probably by theater critic Jack Reycraft, when it ran in the July 15 issue of the Staten Island Advance:
The following week, however, after Reycraft had actually seen the production, he wasn’t nearly so generous:
Interestingly, “La Loca” apparently has both a “before” Stanley Award story, and an “after” story.
In the May 27, 1959 edition of Dorothy Kilgallen’s syndicated column, “The Voice of Broadway,” she said, “Ernesto Fuentes, an unknown Cuban playwright, has had his first drama, ‘La Loca,’ accepted by Roger L. Stevens for fall production. The plot revolves around the Cuban revolution as it affected families in the Oriente Province. Some years ago, author Fuentes was a dishwasher in a New York restaurant.”
Kilgallen’s column, first published in 1938, ran in more than 140 newspapers nationwide.
A Wagner College press release of June 14, 1961, confirmed that “La Loca” “was at one time optioned by producer Roger L. Stevens, but the option expired due to production conflicts.”
Roger Lacey Stevens was an American theatrical producer, arts administrator and real estate executive. He was the founding chairman of both the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (1961) and the National Endowment for the Arts (1965).
On March 5, 1968, seven years after “La Loca” won the Stanley Award, a new copyright was filed for the play, with a revised name: “La Fiesta, a play in three acts by Ernesto Fuentes. … Appl[ication] states prev[iously] reg[istered] as La loca.”
And five years after that, on Oct. 18, 1973, the Columbia University newspaper, the Spectator, published an advertisement: “Columbia Players presents Ernesto Fuentes’ LA FIESTA November 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 8:00 p.m., Wollman Auditorium.”
1962: Terrence McNally
The first press release on file for the 1962 Stanley Drama Award competition, dated March 26, announced the judges: playwright Edward Albee, actors Geraldine Page and Kim Stanley, producer David Susskind and Wagner drama professor John Hruby. The release added, “A staged reading of the winning script will be given as part of the conference’s annual meeting.”
The following day, an article in the Staten Island Advance also named the instructors for the 1962 NYC Writers Conference: dramatist Edward Albee, poet Kenneth Koch and novelist Kay Boyle.
There were a couple of irregularities in the 1962 competition.
First: Though Stanley Drama Award submissions were supposed to be plays “that [have] never been produced professionally,” Terrence McNally’s submission, “This Side of the Door,” had been produced by Richard Barr on Jan. 1, 1962 at the Cherry Lane Theater as part of Barr’s Playwrights 1962 series, directed by Martin Fried and featuring Estelle Parsons and William Traylor — several months before its submission for the Stanley Award.
Second: For the second year in a row, Edward Albee was one of the Stanley Award judges. Albee, however, should probably have recused himself from the judging that year because he and McNally had been romantically involved since 1960.
Aside from those irregularities in choosing the 1962 Stanley winner, there is no denying that it was the first time the award had gone to a playwright with a major career ahead of him. The award winner was announced in a press release dated July 7.
The release said, “This year’s winner, Terrance McNally [sic], a resident of Manhattan, graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Columbia University in 1960. During his senior year he wrote the school’s varsity show entitled, ‘A Little Bit Different.’ He has also been a stage manager for the player’s workshop at the Actors Studio in Manhattan.”
Richard Stayton, in a 1992 Los Angeles Times Magazine story on an upcoming revival of McNally’s “It’s Only a Play,” gave a painfully frank description of McNally’s first drama:
His first serious attempt at playwriting occurred in his early 20s and was a one-act titled “This Side of the Door.” That rough beginning might have ended his playwriting career.
“It’s the only play I’ve ever written that was so autobiographical I found it painful to watch,” he says. “I put that play away. I don’t know where it exists.”
In fact, a crudely typed original script of “This Side of the Door” exists in the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. To read it is to find very little evidence of the later, mature McNally. In it, an alcoholic, abusive, failed salesman rages at his “fairy son”: “Want to hear about my problem?” the father drunkenly asks. “I was born with a perpetual, perennial, eternal and life-ever-after hard-on.”
Though McNally said “he put that play away” [referring to “Door”], the Gale study guide for his play, “Master Class,” says that, “after revisions, [‘This Side of the Door’] became ‘And Things That Go Bump in the Night’,” which premiered on February 4, 1964 at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis and ran on Broadway in 1965 for 16 performances — a two-week run.
Four runners up won “awards of distinction” in the 1962 Stanley Drama Award competition:
- Gene Radano, the 1959 Stanley winner (evidently, the later Stanley Award rule against submissions by previous winners had not yet been imposed)
- Herbert Schapiro of New Brunswick, N.J. His obituary ran in the Oct. 31, 2014 issue of the New York Times:
Herb Schapiro, a writer and teacher whose idea to create a stage play from the collected essays of poor city kids resulted in a hit musical, “The Me Nobody Knows,” died on Oct. 17 at his home in Brooklyn. He was 85.
His son, Mark, said the cause was complications of non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
Called “a dark and lovely rock-folk musical” by the New York Times critic Clive Barnes when it opened at the Orpheum Theater Off Broadway in May 1970, “The Me Nobody Knows” tells the stories, largely in their own words, of a dozen children, mostly black or Puerto Rican, and what it was like for them to grow up poor in New York City.
Mr. Schapiro called it a “ghetto ‘Under Milk Wood,’ ” referring to the Dylan Thomas drama peopled by the inhabitants of a Welsh fishing village.
In December of that year, the show moved uptown to Broadway, where it ran for nearly a year, joining “Hair,” the celebrated musical with which it shared a contemporary score and immersion in the culture of young people.
- Camille Atherton of Brooklyn. According to a pair of published obituaries, Camille Marie Atherton, 86, a resident of Gresham, Oregon, died Thursday, May 20, 2010. Atherton was born and raised in Chicago, but she later moved to New York in 1952 to advance her career and raise her family. She lived there until 1999. Atherton received her bachelor’s degree from the New School in New York City, then her master’s degree from Hunter College, becoming a rehabilitation counselor for the state of New York. For pleasure, Camille was an amateur playwright, gardener and gourmet chef. She was divorced. She moved to Oregon in 2001.
- Augusta Walker, then of New York. Her obituary, written by Baltimore Sun staff writer Jacques Kelly, ran in the Oct. 11, 2000 issue of that paper:
Augusta Walker, 86, novelist, playwright, yoga devotee, Waverly resident
Augusta Walker, a novelist, playwright and yoga devotee, died Thursday of cancer at Genesis Eldercare Long Green Center. She was 86 and had lived on Greenmount Avenue in Waverly.
Miss Walker wrote four novels, including a much-praised 1954 work, "Around a Rusty God." The novel, a tale of a boy who raised goats, was translated into several languages and was condensed by Reader's Digest.
Marjorie Snyder, a critic for the Boston Herald, said the book had "the simplicity and beauty of a fable; a delicate tale with universal appeal and ineffable charm."
Miss Walker wrote "The Eating Valley" in 1956, "A Midwest Story" in 1959 and "A Back-Fence Story," published in 1967.
In 1954, her short story, "The Day of the Cipher," won the O. Henry Award for the best short story of the year. It had been published in the Yale Review.
In 1992, when she was 78, she won the Baltimore City Artscape Award for her play, "Herbert's Major Breakthrough," which depicts a husband smashing through the walls of the apartment he shares with his wife. As he knocks down a wall with a sledgehammer, he wants to know "what's really out there on the other side!"
In 1974, when high New York rents troubled her, Miss Walker moved to Mathews Street in Baltimore, where she had a backyard vegetable garden with a grape arbor.
"She was a resourceful woman who lived off the garden all summer," said David Diorio, a friend and publisher of Icarus Press in Towson. "She made her own clothes and went to the Goodwill. Money was not important to her. It was her spiritual search that was the important thing in life."
Mr. Diorio said Miss Walker traveled through the neighborhood on the bus. She wheeled groceries in a wire cart.
"Very few [people] really knew about her earlier success as a novelist," Mr. Diorio added.
Several times a week, Miss Walker walked to the Siddha Yoga Center in the Marylander Apartments at University Parkway and St. Paul Street to prepare it for classes and vacuum its floor.
She became interested in the teachings of mystic philosophers while on a fellowship in England in the 1950s. She was a follower of the Armenian mystic George I. Gurdjieff.
"You never got the sense that life had treated her poorly," said Alice MacArthur of Washington, a friend. "She was a vigorous person, intelligent, kind, quiet. But she spoke her mind."
Born on a farm outside Cincinnati, Ohio, Miss Walker received bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.
She taught at Lingnan University in China until 1950, when she was forced to leave by the Communist regime. She later studied for a doctorate in comparative literature at Columbia University.
A memorial service for Miss Walker will be at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Stony Run Friends Meeting House, 5116 N. Charles St.
She had no immediate survivors.
1963: Adrienne Kennedy
Adrienne Kennedy submitted the script for her one-act play, “Funnyhouse of a Negro,” in her application for Edward Albee’s playwriting workshop at the 1962 NYC Writers Conference. In that year’s contest for the Stanley Drama Award, however, Kennedy was passed over in favor of a script by Albee’s then-boyfriend, Terrence McNally. Kennedy submitted “Funnyhouse” again for the Stanley in 1963 — and won. It also won a 1964 Obie Distinguished Play award for its production by the East End Theater in New York, which opened in January of that year, and has been translated into several languages from English. In 1964, “Funnyhouse” was published, in full, in the Wagner Literary Magazine, No. 4 — a publication edited by Willard Maas, director of the NYC Writers Conference in 1963. It was also later published by the theatrical publisher, Samuel French.
According to an April 8 press release, the judges for the 1963 Stanley Award were actor Shelly Winters, playwright Edward Albee, Living Theatre co-director Julian Beck, and Wagner College drama professor John Hruby.
Here is the introductory biography to her Wikipedia entry:
Adrienne Kennedy (born Sept. 13, 1931) is an African-American playwright. She is best known for “Funnyhouse of a Negro,” which premiered in 1964.
Kennedy has been contributing to American theater since the early 1960s, influencing generations of playwrights with her haunting, fragmentary lyrical dramas. Exploring the violence racism brings to people's lives, Kennedy's plays express poetic alienation, transcending the particulars of character and plot through ritualistic repetition and radical structural experimentation. Much of her work explores issues of race, kinship and violence in American society, and many of her plays are “autobiographically inspired.”
In 1969, New York Times critic Clive Barnes wrote, “While almost every black playwright in the country is fundamentally concerned with realism — LeRoi Jones and Ed Bullins at times have something different going but even their symbolism is straightforward stuff — Miss Kennedy is weaving some kind of dramatic fabric of poetry.” In 1995, critic Michael Feingold of the Village Voice wrote, “with [Samuel] Beckett gone, Adrienne Kennedy is probably the boldest artist now writing for the theater.”
Kennedy is noted for the use of surrealism in her plays, which are often plotless and symbolic, drawing on mythical, historical, and imaginary figures to depict and explore the African-American experience.
The second part of Adrienne Kennedy’s 1963 Stanley Award-winning package was “The Owl Answers,” a one-act experimental play. Wikipedia summarizes the play:
It premiered in 1965 at [Lucille Lortel’s] White Barn Theatre in Westport, Connecticut one year after Kennedy's most well-known piece, the Obie Award-winning “Funnyhouse of a Negro.” Though written as a companion piece to “Funnyhouse of a Negro,” “The Owl Answers” is most commonly produced with another of Kennedy’s one-acts, “A Beast’s Story.” This production of two one-acts was named “Cities in Bezique” when it appeared Off-Broadway. [It premiered in January 1969 at the Public Theater.]
In “The Owl Answers,” an African-American girl dreams of establishing a heritage and imagines she is applying to bury her father in Westminster Cathedral. Historical figures scorn her, doubting the possibility of a black girl having that heritage. She argues that her father was white and her mother was his family’s cook. As a child, she had to enter through the back door when she wanted to visit her father.
The setting of the play shifts between the New York City subway, the Tower of London, a Harlem hotel room, and Saint Peter’s. Each setting utilizes the structure of a subway car and is filled with the sounds of the subway. Themes include identity, mortality, memory, and race relations.
According to a July 12 brief in the Berkshire Eagle (Pittsfield, Mass.), the judges named Timothy M. Sheldon of Hawthorne House, Devon Road, Pittsfield, for an award of distinction in the Stanley Award competition. In 2003, the Berkshire Eagle ran Sheldon’s obituary:
Timothy M. Sheldon, 65, of 46 Bartlett Ave. and Tophill Farm, Devon Road, Lee, died Sunday, June 22 while undergoing surgery at Berkshire Medical Center. He had been selected as Pittsfield’s poet laureate in April by the city’s Cultural Council and presented with an plaque by Mayor Sara Hathaway on April 30.
He was planning poetry programs for the Pittsfield schools and for public speaking and reading engagements during his two-year tenure, and had recently presented the mayor with a sheaf of new poems.
Born in New York City on April 15, 1938, son of Kenneth P. and Lorna Lowes Sheldon, he attended Haverford College in Pennsylvania and later received his master of fine arts degree from Yale Drama School. He had been a longtime resident of Lee, and also had lived in Montana, Kansas City, Mo., and Boston, and had spent a summer in Nigeria.
He was a 20-year veteran of the Army Reserve.
Mr. Sheldon was employed at Home Depot and Bousquet Ski Resort in Pittsfield. He was a contributor and editor for Animal Life Magazine. He frequently read his work to audiences at the WordPlay gatherings at Papyri Books in North Adams and at the Poetry Group in Springside Park in Pittsfield.
His verse play, “Rose Hill,” was broadcast on National Public Radio by WGBH-FM in Boston in 1974 and 1975 in 24 hourly episodes. His most recent drama, “The Poetry Show,” will be presented later this year by the Berkshire Writers Room. One of his poems appears in this week’s issue of Berkshires Week.
While at Haverford, he began a friendship with Peter Rockwell, whose father, Norman Rockwell, used Mr. Sheldon as a model for two of his paintings: the window-washer cover for the Saturday Evening Post of Sept. 17, 1960, and an Army Reserve poster for which, in 1983, Mr. Sheldon was interviewed on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” He was a member of the National Rifle Association, a nature photographer and an author.
He leaves his former wife of 24 years, Rosemary Sheldon of Lee; a stepdaughter, Rochelle O’Gorman of Lee, and a stepson, Mark Caruso of Ponte Vedra, Fla.
1964: Megan Terry + Joseph Baldwin (dual)
In 1964, the Stanley Drama Award was given to two playwrights for two dramas submitted entirely on their own: Megan Terry of Manhattan for “Hothouse” and Joseph Baldwin of Lincoln, Neb. for “Thompson.”
According to a June 15 story in the Advance, the judges for the 1964 Stanley Drama Awards were Arnold Weinstein, author of “The Red Eye of Love” and head of the NYC Writers Conference drama workshop; Michael Smith, associate editor and drama critic of the Village Voice; Wagner drama professor John Hruby, and English professor J.J. Boies, Writers Conference coordinator.
Joseph Baldwin, ‘Thompson’
During the 1964 NYC Writers Conference, John Hruby directed a production of Joseph Baldwin’s “Thompson” in the Main Hall auditorium, played by veterans of the Staten Island amateur stage.
From the Nebraska Authors website: Joseph B. Baldwin, born 1918-05-18 Tazewell, Tenn., died 1994-12-27 Lincoln, Neb. Joseph Baldwin was a renowned poet and playwright whose work appeared regularly in College Verse, Sou’wester, Prairie Schooner, and Southwestern Review. His one-act play, “Engine 8444,” was inspired by his lifelong love of trains and was performed in New York City in 1974 and on the Nebraska Television Network in 1979. Baldwin earned his B.A. in English at the University of Texas, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in speech and dramatic arts from the University of Iowa. He worked as a professor of speech, dramatic arts and theatre arts at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. In addition to “Thompson” and “Engine 8444,” his titles include “Almost Too Many,” “Bachelor of the Year,” “The Finer Things: A Farce in One-Act” (1961), “The Waiting Game,” “He and She,” “At Last, He Said No,” “Snow for the Lovers” and “Committees Forever: A Comedy in One Act” (1963).
Joseph Baldwin’s article, “Producing New Plays in the University Theatre,” was published in the Educational Theatre Journal, Vol. 7 No. 1, March 1955, pp. 22-26. Use this link to download a PDF of the article.
Megan Terry, ‘Hothouse’
During the 1964 NYC Writers Conference, Arnold Weinstein led a staged reading of Megan Terry’s “Hothouse” on the Guild Hall terrace, read by “professional actors of the Off-Broadway stage.”
From Megan Terry’s Wikipedia profile: Megan Terry (born July 22, 1932, as Marguerite Duffy) is an American playwright, screenwriter, and theatre artist having produced more than 50 discrete works for theatre, radio, and television. She is perhaps best known for her avant-garde theatrical work from the 1960s where, as a founding member of New York City’s Open Theater, she developed an actor-training and character-creation technique known as “transformation” that she used to create her 1966 work, “Viet Rock,” the first rock musical and the first play to address the war in Vietnam.
From the Broadway Play Publishing website: Megan Terry’s plays include “Breakfast Serial,” “Calm Down Mother,” “Keep Tightly Closed in a Cool Dry Place,” “Hothouse,” “Ex-Miss Copper Queen on a Set of Pills,” “The People vs Ranchman,” “Goona Goona,” “Mollie Bailey’s Traveling Family Circus: Featuring Scenes from the Life of Mother Jones,” “Pro Game,” “Body Leaks,” “Sound Fields” and “Objective Love.” She has published over 45 plays. Most have been translated and produced worldwide. She has won a number of major writing awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and an Obie Award for “Approaching Simone.” She was elected to lifetime membership by the College of Fellows of the American Theatre, installation at the Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C., in recognition of “distinguished service to the profession by an individual of acknowledged national stature.” In 1992 she was named Nebraska Artist of the Year. Ms. Terry is photographer and co-editor of “Right Brain Vacation Photos: New Plays and Production Photographs, 1972–1992.” Ms. Terry has a degree from the University of Washington, certificates in acting, directing and design from the Banff School of Fine Arts in Banff, Alberta, Canada, and was awarded the Yale-ABC Fellowship: Writing for the Camera at Yale University. She has had a long association with the Omaha Magic Theatre in Omaha, Nebraska, as playwright in residence, photographer, performer and musician.
From the website, enotes.com: In her play, “Hothouse,” inspired by her relationships with her mother and grandmother, Terry explores the expectations society places on female behavior. While admiring her treatment of feminist themes, some critics faulted Terry's reliance on autobiographical material. [Note that this website, as well as Wikipedia's bibliography, gives 1974 as the date for “Hothouse,” though Terry won the Stanley Award for “Hothouse” in 1964.]
1965: Lonne Elder III
The 1965 Stanley Drama Award went to Lonne Elder III, “formerly of Jersey City,” for his play, “The Ceremonies in Dark Old Men.”
A brief published in the June 26 issue of the Newark Evening News said,
Composer-playwright Rick Besoyan and actress Blanche Yurka judged the competition ...
A professional actor since 1954, Elder was in the original presentation of “A Raisin in the Sun.” “Ceremonies” is his second full-length play. The young Negro writer’s first major theatrical work, “A Hysterical Turtle in a Rabbit Race,” won a $3,000 award from the John Hay Whitney Foundation.
The introductory biography for Elder’s Wikipedia profile says,
Lonne Elder III (Dec. 26, 1927 – June 11, 1996) was an American actor, playwright and screenwriter. Elder was one of the leading African-American figures who aggressively informed the New York theater world with social and political consciousness. He also wrote scripts for television and film. His most well-known play, “Ceremonies in Dark Old Men,” won him a Drama Desk Award for Most Promising Playwright and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. The play, which was about a Harlem barber and his family, was produced by the Negro Ensemble Company in 1969. In 1973, Elder and Suzanne de Passe became the first African Americans to be nominated for the Academy Award in writing. [They were nominated for] Best Adapted Screenplay ... for the movie “Sounder,” starring Cicely Tyson, Paul Winfield, and Kevin Hooks.
Later in the Wikipedia entry on Elder, it specifically addresses “Ceremonies”:
In 1965, “Ceremonies in Dark Old Men” was given a reading at Wagner College on New York’s Staten Island. The reading of the play propelled him to a fellowship in screenwriting at the Yale University School of Drama in 1966 and 1967, and won him several other financial awards. ...
The Negro Ensemble Company’s  “Ceremonies in Dark Old Men” was one of the most meaningful theatrical events of the late 1960s, a culmination of Elder’s meditations on the black family unit in a hostile American society. Edith Oliver from The New Yorker stated in her review, “Ceremonies is the first play by Lonne Elder III to be done professionally, and if any American has written a finer one I can’t think what it is.” James Baldwin wrote, “ ‘Ceremonies in Dark Old Men’ is the most truthful play I have seen in a long time. Everyone connected with it deserves a prize, especially the author, Lonne Elder III.”
“Ceremonies” garnered positive reviews, and was the runner-up for the 1969 Pulitzer Prize in drama, along with several other drama awards. The play deals with a 1950s Harlem family—Russell B. Parker, a barber (portrayed by Ward in the original production) who spends most of his time reminiscing about his glory days as a vaudeville dancer, his two unemployed sons, who live on the edge of the law, and his daughter, who resentfully supports the family.
Elder said in the New York Times: “I wrote to write, out of my guts and my heart, I wanted to cause some kind of wonder in the minds of people. I don’t rant or rave about the terror of our racist society. It is never directly stated, it is just there.”
By the time it was revived in 1985, the New York Times noted, “the play had become a contemporary classic.” The subsequent productions of the play nurtured the stage careers of several prominent actors, including Denzel Washington, Billy Dee Williams, Keith David, and Laurence Fishburne. A profound influence on the works of August Wilson and films such as “Crooklyn” and “Boyz in the Hood,” “Ceremonies” remains the definitive black American family drama and the blueprint for how to tell that story.
1966: Albert Zuckerman
The 1966 Stanley Drama Award went to Al Zuckerman for his play, “To Become a Man.”
In the author’s profile from “Writing the Blockbuster Novel,” first published by Macmillan in the mid-1990s, his publisher said,
Albert Zuckerman has been a literary agent and book doctor to some two dozen blockbuster novels. He is the founder of Writers House, a firm that represents hundreds of leading writers in all categories. Author of two published novels, winner of the 1964 [sic] Stanley Drama Award, former writer for three television series, Zuckerman has also taught playwriting at the Yale School of Drama. He lives in New York with his wife and still takes on projects by new authors.
A donor story published on the Yale Giving website gives a little more detail of Zuckerman's background:
The impeccably preserved Victorian-era townhouse on West 26th Street in New York City is where Yale School of Drama alumnus Albert (Al) Zuckerman ’61 MFA, ’62 DFA has based his notable business for more than thirty-ﬁve years. Al is the founder of Writers House, one of the largest literary agencies in the world. Writers House represents writers and illustrators of ﬁction and non-ﬁction, for both adult and juvenile readers. Books are everywhere at Writers House: one can’t turn one’s head without being confronted by the works of best-selling, prize-winning authors: Ken Follett, Erica Jong, and Stephen Hawking; as well as numerous Nobel Prize, National Book Award, and Pulitzer Prize recipients.
Before immersing himself in the world of books, Al was an ambitious young playwright. After graduating from Princeton, he served in the U.S. Navy and then went to work for the State Department. One of Al’s plays, published in Best Short Plays of 1956, became the impetus for his application for admission to Yale School of Drama.
“Going to Yale was a life changing experience,” Al declares. “The inﬂuence of John Gassner, then head of the playwriting department, was transformative. Gassner taught me everything: how to build a scene, how to construct a character.” Upon graduation, at Gassner’s invitation, Al stayed on to teach ﬁrst-year playwriting. “I came to the realization that I could help other writers.” He has been doing just that ever since.
Zuckerman died in 2011.
1967: William Parchman
An April 7 press release announced that the judges for the 1967 Stanley Drama Award would be George C. White, president of the Eugene O’Neill Memorial Theatre Foundation, and Ben Tarver, co-author of “the current off-Broadway musical hit ‘Man with a Load of Mischief.’ ”
The 1967 competition was still part of the NYC Writers Conference program, and a formal production of the winning entry was held in conjunction with the conference in July. Wagner English professor Jack Boies was identified as the NYCWC director.
A June 13 press release announced the selection of seven Stanley Award finalists:
Claris Nelson, New York City — Her plays include “Rue Garden” (Cafe Cino, 1962), “Medea” (Cafe Cino, 1962), “Neon in the Night” (Cafe Cino, 1964), “The Girl on the BBC” (La MaMa, 1965), “Passing Fancy” (London: Samuel French, 1994), “To the Land,” “A Road Where the Wolves Run” (Circle Rep, 1972) and “The Clown: A Fantasy” (1967). In later life, under the name Claris Erickson, she was an actor in the Circle Repertory Company.
A.R. Gurney Jr., West Newton, Mass. — His Wikipedia entry summary reads, “Albert Ramsdell Gurney Jr. (Nov. 1, 1930 – June 13, 2017), as pen name A.R. Gurney (sometimes credited as Pete Gurney), was an American playwright, novelist and academic. He is known for works including ‘The Dining Room’ (1982), ‘Sweet Sue’ (1986/7) and ‘The Cocktail Hour’ (1988), and for his  Pulitzer Prize-nominated play ‘Love Letters.’ His series of plays about upper-class WASP life in contemporary America have been called ‘penetratingly witty studies of the WASP ascendancy in retreat.’ ”
Bruce Kessler, New York City — Among his plays are “Son of Fricka” (La MaMa, 1963), “The Collapse” (La MaMa, 1964), “Not Entirely Non-Descript but Persephone in the Sun” (La MaMa, 1969). He is referred to in “Playing Underground: A Critical History of the 1960s Off-Off-Broadway Movement” as one among “other, largely forgotten La Mama playwrights.”
David Watmough, Vancouver, B.C., Canada — His Wikipedia bio reads, “David Arthur Watmough (Aug. 17, 1926 – Aug. 4, 2017) was a Canadian playwright, short story writer and novelist. Watmough was born in London, England, and attended King’s College London. He has worked as a reporter (the Cornish Guardian), a ‘Talks Producer’ (BBC Third Programme) and an editor (Ace Books). He immigrated to Canada in 1960, to Kitsilano in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he lived for 40 years with his partner, ex-Californian Floyd St. Clair (1930–2009), an opera critic and, from 1963 till his retirement in 1996, a University of British Columbia French professor. He became a Canadian citizen in 1967. Watmough lived from 2004 to 2009 in Boundary Bay and before his death had been living at Crofton Manor, a Vancouver assisted-living facility. In 2008 he published his autobiography, ‘Myself Through Others: Memoirs’.” The only one of his works written in 1967, according to his Wikipedia selected bibliography, is “Names for the Numbered Years: Three Plays.”
Robert Kornfeld, New York City — The Riverdale Press ran an extended obituary on Sept. 1, 2010: “Robert Kornfeld, a successful playwright, photographer and journalist, who was responsible for creating the Riverdale Historic District, died while recovering from pneumonia at the Allen Pavilion in Inwood on Aug. 23. He was 91. ... He wrote numerous plays, including ‘The Art of Love,’ ‘The Celestial’ — which opened at the governor’s mansion in Wisconsin — and ‘Passage in Purgatory,’ produced off Broadway and in Shanghai. ‘The Gates of Hell,’ considered by many to be Mr. Kornfeld’s best, had an extended run at the Theater for the New City in the East Village.” For the rest of his amazing obituary, go to https://bit.ly/2MJ19JL.
Wayne F. Maxwell Jr., New York City — The author’s bio in his 2005 children’s book, “The Little Blue Lamb,” says, “The late Wayne F. Maxwell Jr. was born in Kansas, raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and graduated from Tulsa University’s theater department. His talents as an actor-director-playwright were seen On- and Off-Broadway, Los Angeles, and London’s West End. He loved children and wrote lovingly for them while waiting for calls for stage and film work.” A description of the Wayne F. Maxwell Jr. papers, housed in the University of Tulsa’s McFarlin Library, says, “The Wayne F. Maxwell Jr. papers consist of the typescripts and/or photocopied typescripts of five plays, two screenplays, five short stories, and several untitled poems written by Wayne F. Maxwell Jr., a University of Tulsa speech major (Class of 1954), actor, director, and playwright. Some of Maxwell’s plays were written and produced while he was a student at the university. Further information about Maxwell and his activities with the University of Tulsa theatre may be found in The Kendallabrum, 1951-1955.”
William Parchman, Mineola, N.Y. was finally named as the winner of the 1967 Stanley Award for “The Prize in the Crackerjack Box.” — Parchman was one of four playwrights to receive a $3,500 grant in 1968 under the Eugene O’Neill Foundation-Wesleyan University fellowship program, sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation. His play, “The Mocking Bird,” was performed in July 1969 at the Playwrights Conference sponsored by the Eugene O’Neill Memorial Theater-Foundation in Waterford, Conn.
1968: VENABLE HERNDON
The 1968 Stanley Drama Award went to Venable Herndon for “Bag of Flies.”
Venable Herndon was born on Oct. 19, 1927 in Philadelphia and died Dec. 8, 1999 in New York. He was the son of Hunter Venable and Isabelle Kearney (Flaig) Herndon.
In 1969, the year after winning the Stanley Award, Herndon won the Writers Guild Award for his screenplay of “Alice’s Restaurant,” written with director Arthur Penn.
According to the website, Prabook.com, Herndon earned his high school diploma from Lawrenceville School, 1945; his bachelor’s degree from Princeton University, 1949; and his master of arts degree from Harvard University, 1951. From 1951 to 1967, he worked as an advertising copywriter for the Gimbels and Bamberger’s department stores, and as an account executive for Hicks and Greist Advertising, New York. He worked as a studio screenwriter from 1967 to 1974 for United Artists, Paramount and Columbia films. From 1975, he taught in the dramatic writing program at New York University.
Following Herndon’s death, the Princeton Alumni Weekly published “Memorial: Hunter Venable Herndon ’49”:
Ven died Dec. 8, 1999, of acute Leukemia. He was 72. He came to Princeton from the Lawrenceville School and majored in modern languages, graduating with high honors. He was a member of Cloister Inn. He served in the Army.
After graduation Ven became a playwright and screenwriter as well as a teacher of those arts at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. He was still active in teaching there until just before his death. His best known screenplay was his 1969 collaboration with the director Arthur Penn on “Alice’s Restaurant.” The movie starred Arlo Guthrie and was based on Guthrie's song of the same name. He was also the author of a book about the life of James Dean.
He is survived by his wife, Sharon Anson, and a daughter, Isabelle Molinaro. The class extends its deepest sympathy to them both.
Playbill published an obituary by Kenneth Jones, “NYU Dramatic Writing Professor Venable Herndon, 72, is Dead,” on Dec. 15, 1999:
Venable Herndon, a playwright, biographer and screenwriter who taught in New York University's dramatic writing program, died Dec. 8 in Manhattan. He was 72 and the cause of death was acute leukemia.
An associate professor of screenwriting in NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, Mr. Herndon earned his bachelor’s in French literature at Princeton and his master of fine arts in comparative at Harvard, and penned such plays as “Until the Monkey Comes ... ” (staged in New York, Chicago and Berlin), “Bag of Flies” and “Independence Night.”
His screenplays include “Alice's Restaurant” (directed by Arthur Penn), “Too Far to Walk” (for Otto Preminger), “Uncle Sam's Wild West Show” (for Paul Mazursky) and more.
“He came here originally to teach in the film school, which he started doing in 1975,” said Mark Dickerman, chair of the NYU Tisch dramatic writing program. “He was always considered a screenwriting teacher, though he certainly had intense and important relationships with playwrights. He was a terrific dramaturg, and students sought him out. Venable would say things aloud that most human being don’t. He was always controversial, provocative and outrageous.”
Both playwrights and screenwriters would make the trek to Mr. Herndon’s NYU office (the door always was open) for advice about work, Dickerman told Playbill On-Line. “He was very blunt, but he had such affection for the person whose work he was talking about that, as blunt as he became, people never objected,” Dickerman said. “Venable got people to think in vital ways about themselves, which he thought was important if they were going to be good writers. He became a habit for people. Once you were Venable-ized, that was it.”
In addition to his dramatic writing, Mr. Herndon was founder and editor of the literary journal, Chelsea Review (1958-1966) and penned a biography, “James Dean: A Short Life.”
He is survived by wife Sharon Anson and daughter Isabelle Molinaro of Manhattan.
1969: Bernard Sabath + Yale Udoff (dual)
Two winners were named for the 1969 Stanley Drama Award, the last time dual winners were named:
- “A Happy New Year to the Whole World Except Alexander Graham Bell,” Bernard Sabath
- Two one-acts: “The Club” and “The Little Gentleman” by Yale Udoff
Other than the names of the winning plays and playwrights, we have no information on file for the 1969 Stanley Awards.
Bernard Sabath, ‘A Happy New Year to the Whole World Except Alexander Graham Bell’
A manuscript of “A Happy New Year” is housed in the University of South Florida Library. Described as “a play in five scenes,” the play is about how “Samuel Clemens turns down Alexander Graham Bell’s appeal to invest in his new invention, the telephone.”
Sabath was fascinated by Mark Twain. A second play written in 1969 was titled, “The Man Who Lost the River: A Play About Sam Clemens.”
In December 1985, Chicago Tribune critic H. Lee Murphy wrote about two more Mark Twain plays written by Bernard Sabath, giving more information about the playwright’s interest in the author of “Tom Sawyer” and “Huckleberry Finn”:
The playwright Bernard Sabath has been absorbed by Mark Twain ever since Sabath’s own boyhood years ago in a small town upriver from Twain’s hometown of Hannibal, Mo. Now, in the sesquicentennial of Twain’s birth, Sabath is finding new forums in which to indulge his affection.
New York’s Circle in the Square Theatre recently announced that it will produce Sabath’s “The Boys In Autumn,” a memory-filled meeting of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn when they have grown into old age, circa 1924. The play will star George C. Scott and is tentatively set for a late spring opening. It has been a while coming, since a 1981 production in San Francisco starring Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas got no Broadway offers.
Closer to home, the Theatre of Western Springs [in suburban Chicagoland] is presenting the Midwest premiere of Sabath’s companion piece titled “Hannibal Blues,” which centers on a single reappearance by Tom’s first sweetheart, Becky Thatcher, in Hannibal, also in the 1920s.
The 52-year-old Sabath, an instructor for years at Northwestern University before a recent migration to Sarasota, Fla., to try his hand full time at playwrighting, finished “Blues” in the late 1970s. But the show has had just a single major showing, by the StageWest Repertory Co. last year in Springfield, Mass.
“I guess I’ve always been fascinated by the Mississippi River and Mark Twain,” Sabath said in an interview last week. “You have to know his characters pretty well before you can bring them up to date.”
A visit to last week’s opening in Western Springs found “Hannibal Blues” a curious consideration of the adult Becky. Long gone are the innocent pigtails and white lace frocks. This cynical visitor is a firebrand of a tomboy, wearing a man’s fedora and hiking boots and projecting a hard-bitten feminist outlook that might give any modern-day activist cause to blanch. Her untethered independence is punctuated by recitations from Emile Coue, a French exponent in the 1920s of a distinctive type of positive thinking. Most of the rest of her dialogue could have been penned by the radical philosopher Ayn Rand.
There isn’t much of a plot here. Becky falls and injures herself while exploring the same cave where she and Tom became lost years before and ends up spending an evening with a God-fearing Roy Fulton and his son Ben. As Becky sits on the clapboard front porch, her tales of big cities and the jazz bands she has known pose quite a contrast to Hannibal’s humble agrarian setting. At first wide-eyed, the elder Fulton is ultimately liberated by the conversation, driven to a telephoned reconciliation with his runaway wife in California.
The stories aren’t particularly colorful, and the characters seem somehow indistinct even at the end of two hours. Nonetheless, the cast never falters. A lanky, angular Terry Fanning, who has been acting with this group for a decade, invests Becky with a noble pridefulness that balances her less-sympathetic rebellious side. Noel Smith drawls his way through the part of Roy Fulton, while Mark Jolicoeur exhibits a fine adolescent awakening as son Ben. Ted Kehoe’s direction is attentive to the backwoods trappings of the play.
When “The Boys in Autumn” was staged in April 1986 at the Circle in the Square, New York Times critic Frank Rich was not impressed. (And no mention was made of George C. Scott playing in the production.)
Rich wrote, “While this [Broadway] season never did produce any cutthroat competition for the honor of best play, the worst play sweepstakes is being bitterly contested right up to the final hour. ‘The Boys in Autumn,’ a terminally innocuous speculation about Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer in middle age, almost makes one long for ‘The Boys of Winter,’ a Vietnam war drama that had been the prize 1985-86 turkey until this point. ... Mr. Sabath has ... given the men lurid secrets that reduce two of the most beloved characters in our cultural heritage to extras in a Harold Robbins novel.”
“Autumn” was later staged at Honolulu’s Hawaii Theatre, in June 2010, featuring “Wheel of Fortune” host Pat Sajak as the adult Tom Sawyer. It is not clear whether or not the production was ironic in intent.
Yale Udoff, two one-acts: ‘The Club’ & ‘The Little Gentleman’
Yale Udoff, a successful playwright and screenwriter, was at the beginning of his career when he won the 1969 Stanley Drama Award for his two early one-act plays, “The Little Gentleman: A Domestic Fantasy in One Act” and “The Club.”
In his November 2005 review for Backstage magazine, Dave DePino writes:
In ‘The Little Gentleman,’ surreal and darkly comedic, we meet cute-as-a-button 2-year-old Ronald [played by an adult actor], who speaks perfect English, with an English accent. His mother is more concerned with gifts from her husband and battling with her mother about her own upbringing than with realizing that her child needs special attention. Aunt Sylvia arrives, adding to the dysfunction and giving Ronald a good look at the sad family he’s been born into.
“The Little Gentleman” has been published three times — twice in collections, and once in a magazine:
- “Best Short Plays 1971,” ed. Stanley Richards (Phila., Pa.: Chilton Book Co., 1972)
- “9 Modern Short Plays: Outstanding Works from Stage, Radio and Television,” ed. David A. Sohn and Richard H. Tyre (Bantam Books, 1977)
- Literary Cavalcade magazine (March 1972)
“The Little Gentleman” was staged at least twice, according to the playwright: once in the Pacific Resident Theatre in Venice, Calif., in February 2005; and again in November 2005 at the Laurelgrove Theatre in Hollywood, Calif. For the Laurelgrove Theatre production, “The Little Gentleman” was staged together with another Udoff one-act play, “Nebraska,” under the umbrella title, “States of Mind.”
The second half of Udoff’s two-part Stanley Award-winning submission, “The Club,” is set in a steam room, where a group of Jewish men in their 60s nervously wait for their secret agreement to take place. An old Italian joins them, threatening their stability, and bringing their agreement to fruition. [Synopsis provided by the author on his website, yaleudoff.com.]
Udoff received his greatest critical acclaim for his first full-length stage play, “A Gun Play,” which premiered at the Hartford (Conn.) Stage Company in early 1971. New York Times theater critic Mel Gussow gushed, “Its author, Yale M. Udoff, is a discovery. … I suspect that even more will come later.” And when the play moved to New York’s Cherry Lane Theatre that October, Times theater critic Clive Barnes wrote, “There is a cold and fine madness to … ‘A Gun Play.’ … It is to be recommended, largely for itself but also partly for the very evident promise of Mr. Udoff. When you are seeing his second and third plays, it will be agreeable to recall that you saw his first.”
Udoff had many writing credits following “A Gun Play,” but none that met with such critical acclaim. Among those credits are the screenplays for Nicolas Roeg’s confusing “Bad Timing/A Sensual Obsession” (1980) and “Eve of Destruction,” starring Gregory Hines.
Born in 1935, Udoff is a graduate of Michigan State University, attended Georgetown Law School, and served as an infantry officer in the United States Army. His wife, Sally Shulamit Udoff, died in 2010. Yale Udoff died July 19, 2018.
For more details about Udoff’s work, visit the playwright’s website, yaleudoff.com.
Yale Udoff died July 19, 2018 in Burbank, California. He was 83.
Stewie Griffin and ‘The Little Gentlemen’
Ronald, the titular character in Yale Udoff’s “The Little Gentleman” is described in the play’s stage notes as “a child somewhere between the ages of one and three. … He speaks with a British accent. The fact that he is being portrayed by an adult actor should not be used to burlesque the dramatic situation.”
To those familiar with the Fox Television animated series, “Family Guy,” this description will remind them of one of the recurring characters, Stewie Griffin, an (initially) evil baby genius. Stewie speaks in an Oxbridge accent, though it’s never entirely clear how many other characters can understand him except for the family dog, Brian; the baby and the dog are the most intelligent members of the family.
We wrote to Udoff on Aug. 17, 2018, asking if he had ever heard of any connection between Ronald and Stewie. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to us, Udoff had died four weeks earlier. His associate, Alicia Beach, did reply to our email, however, saying, “While Yale is no longer with us to answer your query, what I can say is that I did hear such speculation from Yale directly.”
A search on the Internet for questions about the origin of the Stewie character on “Family Guy” disclosed not one but two claims of possible plagiarism — but neither involved “The Little Gentleman.” The two similar characters at issue are Barry Ween, created by Judd Winick, and Jimmy Corrigan, created by Chris Ware. Both characters appeared in graphic novels named for them.
Of the two similar characters, only one was first published before the first broadcast of “Family Guy” — and that character is the least similar to Stewie.
Stewie first appeared in the 15-minute “Family Guy” pilot, which aired after the Super Bowl on Jan. 31, 1999.
Chris Ware’s “Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth” first appeared in Acme Novelty Library #5, published in the spring of 1995. While several images of Jimmy reproduced from the graphic novel series do bear a striking resemblance to Stewie Griffin, the truth is that Jimmy Corrigan is portrayed in the novel mostly as an adult with little resemblance to Stewie. Here’s the “incriminating” comparison most often presented on the Web:
Judd Winick’s character, Barry Ween, actually bears a closer resemblance, both graphically and in character traits, to Stewie Griffin. In “The Big Book of Barry Ween, Boy Genius,” we find a boy of about 10 with a head shaped similar to Stewie’s, the sideways football. Like Stewie, Barry is a genius, probably smarter than anyone else in the world; and, like Stewie, he has a penchant for high-technology devices, especially weapons. Here is a comparison image:
The problem with allegations of plagiarism of Barry by Stewie, however, is timing: Winick’s character did not make his first appearance until several weeks after the first airing of the “Family Guy” pilot. “The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius, Vol. 1” was published in March 1999. “Barry Ween” was almost surely already in production when the “Family Guy” pilot first aired, so it is virtually certain that Barry was not copied by Stewie — but neither is it conceivable that Stewie could have been copied from Barry, who had not yet appeared in print.
And neither Barry Ween nor Jimmy Corrigan bear any resemblance to Yale Udoff’s character, Ronald, in “The Little Gentleman.” The only thing we can learn about the dual origin controversies related to the Stewie character in “Family Guy” is that certain features of fictional characters seem to recur without necessarily arising from plagiarism.
1970: RICHARD LORTZ
Judges for the 1970 Stanley Drama Award competition were announced — for the first time, NOT in conjunction with the (now defunct) NYC Writers Conference. “Guest judge” was Wagner alumnus Paul Zindel ’58 M’62, whose new play had just opened Off-Broadway, “The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds.” (It won the 1971 Pulitzer Prize as well as an honorary Wagner doctorate for Zindel.) The other judges were Lowell Matson, chairman of the college’s new Department of Theatre and Speech, and English professor J.J. Boies, director of the competition. The submission deadline was May 11.
A July 27 press release announced the six finalists for the 1970 Stanley Drama Award:
- Lewis Colca, Manhattan, “Buzzards Bay,” “a 1970 version of high comedy.” According to the Granville (Ohio) Sentinel, the Welsh Hills Players of Newark, Ohio, presented the premiere of “Buzzards Bay” on March 20, 1973.
- Gerry Carroll, Los Angeles, “Bruce,” “a historical drama of Robert Bruce of Scotland.” “Bruce” was one of the plays developed in 1971 at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's National Playwrights Conference.
- Bronson Dudley, Manhattan, “Leftovers,” “a satiric fantasy with musical interludes.” A memorial blog about Dudley said, “Bronson was an actor and playwright. ... None of his plays hit it big, but he had a successful early career as a dancer on the stage and a late career as a character actor in TV and films. His most memorable film role was Bill in Steve Buscemi’s 1996 ‘Trees Lounge.’ ... Bronson was born January 27, 1920 and died Shrove Tuesday, February 20, 2007.” According to a New York Magazine theater schedule, “Leftovers” was staged in July and August 1972 by the New York Theater Ensemble, 2 E. 2nd St., Manhattan. Three years later, according to New York Times writer Phyllis Funke, “Leftovers” was staged in an innovative production by the Writers in Residence company in Great Neck, Long Island. Funke said the one-act play “deals with the meeting between an aging actress and an aspiring young playwright, both of whom need to talk.”
- Craig Clinton, Woodmont, Conn., “A Lamentable Disposition,” “an ‘absurd’ play.” In its 1971-72 season, Playwrights Horizon in Manhattan staged Clinton’s “A Shared Thing/Lunch Hour”; the following year, “Lunch Hour” was staged at the Manhattan Theater Club, 321 E. 73rd St. Today, Clinton is professor emeritus in the theatre department at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, which he joined in 1978. He says, “My primary interests in theatre are in the areas of directing and playwriting. Undergraduate studies at Antioch College and San Francisco State [B.A. 1967, M.A. 1969]. Graduate study at Yale Drama School and Carnegie Mellon University [Ph.D. 1972]. Publications include pieces on Tennessee Williams, Trevor Griffiths, William Inge, and Tom Stoppard.”
- M. Sullivan, Pittsburgh, Pa., “Matilde,” “a series of three related one-acts.” Mary Eileen Sullivan, writing under the pseudonym L.M. Sullivan, also published “Cinder Box: An Illusion in One Act With Marches, Dances, a Limerick & Canzonets,” with co-authors Joseph Meyer & Rebecca Red-Shaw, 1970; “Happy House: A Play in Two Acts,” 1972; and “Baron’s Night, or Catch as Catch Can,” in “New Plays By Women,” ed. Susan LaTempa (Berkeley, Calif.: Shameless Hussy Press, 1979).
- Richard Lortz, Manhattan, “Three Sons,” “a drama based on the prodigal son story.”
On Aug. 18, Wagner announced that Richard Lortz had won the Stanley Award for “Three Sons,” “which has as its central theme the return of the prodigal son.” The press release went on to say:
A native of New York City who also maintains a home in Belle Harbor, Long Island, Mr. Lortz holds a degree in creative writing from Columbia University and has had two novels published both here and in England, “A Crowd of Voices” and “A Summer in Spain.” In the 1950s he wrote many television plays for such CBS-TV series as “Suspense,” “Danger” and “The Web,” and had another play, “The Journey With Strangers,” produced off-Broadway in 1958. Currently, his play, “The Others,” a supernatural drama, is being filmed in England by Carter De Haven and Eric Winter with the screenplay written by Gillian Freeman, scenarist for “Leather Boys” and “One Cold Day in the Park.” Another play, “The Juniper Tree,” will be produced at the new Sybil Thorndike Theatre in London this season.
In addition to writing, Mr. Lortz paints, and has exhibited his paintings in several one-man shows. Represented by Mary Dolan of the Gloria Safier Agency, he presently works in an editorial capacity for Media Horizons, publishers of trade magazines. …
Dr. Lowell Matson, chairman of the Department of Speech and Theatre at Wagner College … will direct a full production of “Three Sons” at Wagner in October using a professional cast.
When it was premiered in October 1970 on the Wagner College Theatre stage, “Three Sons” was retitled “Of Sons and Brothers.”
On April 6, 1971, a Wagner College press release announced that “Of Sons and Brothers” was “scheduled to premiere on Broadway in the coming fall season. … The drama will go into rehearsal in the late summer under the direction of Alan Schneider, known for his direction of Edward Albee plays and as director of ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.’ The drama was optioned for Broadway production at its opening night on the Wagner campus. … Lortz’s drama centers on the Biblical prodigal son story but the action takes place in a West Side laundromat.”
Nothing appears to have come of Schneider’s planned Broadway production of Lortz’s prodigal-son drama — but the following year, Lortz’s “Voices” opened on April 3, 1972 at Broadway’s Ethel Barrymore Theatre. It ran for just one week — eight performances. Perhaps mercifully, no reviews can be located.
In 1973, “Of Sons and Brothers” resurfaced, this time under the title, “Prodigal,” opening on Dec. 16 at the Circle Theater — later known as the Circle Repertory Theater — which, while located on Broadway was not a “Broadway” theater; because of the number of seats, it was considered “Off Off Broadway.”
A Dec. 14 preview story by Staten Island Advance theater writer Elaine Boies (wife of Stanley Drama Award director Jack Boies) was titled, “Stanley Award Drama Did Better at Wagner.” (No bias, of course.)
By any name, [“Prodigal”] is a powerful reworking of the prodigal son theme into an emotionally charged contemporary family drama.
The playwright deals with love and compassion, jealousy, sin, penance, and expiation of guilt followed by further transgressions. It is a search for oneself, a search for one’s soul.
Willie Nathan [the titular prodigal son] never finds it. Or does he?
Returning to the fold — his family’s Laundromat — as mysteriously as he left it seven years ago, Willie dredges up conflicting passions among his parents and two brother.
Willie has stolen from his father, and squandered $50,000. Is he to be forgiven, welcomed, accepted, or shunned and punished?
Lortz’s drama is laden with anguished family confrontations that hinge on Willie, the middle child, the “handsome prince,” the favored one who has learned to use his charm to con the world.
He returns home broken, spent, having wallowed in the dregs of depravity until he was born again of a new innocence — he says.
Slowly, subtly, the playwright lets the audience become aware that it, too, is taken in by Willie’s magnetism. Is he a Christ figure — or a devil? Or simply a man who failed in his quest for the Grail? …
At Wednesday night’s preview, it was apparent that several roles, especially Willie, were seriously miscast.
Reticent though he is, the playwright had to agree that the 1970 Staten Island production was superior to what’s happening now.
Salem Ludwig, who recreates the father role he originated at Wagner, and Judd Hirsch as Saul, the eldest son whose love is taken for granted, are superb. The others are wrong for their parts.
Lortz’s play is still there, simmering provocatively beneath the surface presented by the cast.
To find it, the critics will have to close their eyes and conjure up characters more appropriate to the playwright’s words. It’s a tough job.
Too bad they never saw it at Wagner.
Clive Barnes reviewed the opening night’s performance at the Circle Theater for the Dec. 18 issue of the New York Times:
“The Prodigal” … is a conventional family melodrama with Biblical overtones. It is set in a laundromat on Manhattan’s West Side and it concerns the return of Willie to the family home.
Willie has been away for seven years. When he left he stole $50,000 as a personal going-away present, and on his travels he seems to have done everything from killing onward. His life sounds spectacularly decadent, but it is difficult to know whether the author means us to believe him or not.
Mr. Lortz’s language is as high‐flying as Icarus. There is validity to this story of three brothers: Saul, the hard‐working eldest brother who counts the petty cash and drives a white Cadillac; the thriftless but beautiful middle brother, Willie, prodigal and charming; and the youngest brother, Joey, planning a runaway but not, presumably, with any of the family fortune. Add a Jewish mother with chicken soup instead of blood in her veins, and a Jewish father strong on both justice and forgiveness, and you have the makings of a fairly stereotyped family ball game. The writing and dramaturgy never quite jell.
Why should the youngest brother go the way of the prodigal when he is so obviously different in temperament? Yet this incident is the only one that provides the play with its dramatic development as opposed to its characterization. The story of the prodigal is very predictable.
The big difficulty is Mr. Lortz’s lack of a way with words. This could change, and certainly he already understands how to build up an effective scene. But he must listen to the way people talk and react.
The permanent setting by Philip G. Gilliam tried to suggest both laundromat and living room and fell down somewhere between the washer and the sofa, and Marshall W. Mason's direction proved too declamatory, in a way that emphasized rather than minimized the playwright's ornate rhetoric.
The performances were good. I was particularly impressed with Judd Hirsch’s baffled, puzzled and bullying eldest brother, clumsily dealing with life’s most unfair proposition, that good guys finish last. Ted Leplat had a decently neat air of Dorian Gray sensuality as the spoiled prodigal.
All in all this was by no means an unrewarding attempt at a play, but it is an attempt essentially more notable for its real promise than its real achievement.
Richard Lortz, born in New York on Jan. 13, 1917, died on Nov. 11, 1980 at the age of 63. A New York Times article said that he died “of a heart attack while visiting his physician in the Bronx.”
1971: BERNARD ‘BEN’ ROSA
A brief in the Wagner College alumni magazine announced that “Ben Rosa, a former construction worker turned playwright, is the winner of the 1971 Stanley Drama Award for his three-character play entitled ‘Obtuse Triangle.’ Rosa, who lives at 11 Waverly Place in New York City, will receive $500 and a showcase production of his script at Wagner College in the fall.”
Aside from the subtitle of Rosa’s play, “A Romantic Comedy in Two Acts,” preserved in the list of Stanley Award winners, nothing is known of Bernard “Ben” Rosa except his birth date — June 11, 1930 — and the date of his death, Jan. 17, 2010, in West Islip, Long Island.
1972: MARVIN DENICOFF
A July 21, 1972 press release announced the finalists for that year’s Stanley Drama Award:
- Gene Boland, Los Angeles, “Nobody Sings Like Aunt Hagar’s Children.” Boland was a TV writer and actor in the late 1960s, most often referred to in material written about that period as, specifically, a black writer and actor. He was one of the first African Americans to write for network television series in the Sixties, including “Peyton Place,” “Julia” and “That Girl.” His acting credits include episodes of “Adam-12,” “Dragnet,” “T.H.E. Cat,” “Daktari” and “I Dream of Jeannie.”
- John L. ‘Jack’ Leckel, Cicero, Ill., “To Hang is to Dangle.” Leckel headed the theater program at J. Sterling Morton East High School in Cicero. Besides “To Hang,” he was the author of a number of plays with various university productions, including “Blue Is The Antecedent Of It,” “Department Store” (1973) and “Mustapha On Stilts.” He received local Emmy nominations for “As Adam, Early in the Morning,” a 1966 CBS Repertoire Showcase production co-authored with actor William Marshall, and “Nothin’ Like Us Ever Was.” His first novel, “A Warning Thunder,” is set in Louisiana immediately following the Civil War. His second novel, “A Brief Trip to the Moon,” is self-published on Amazon. Between 1979 to 2001, with co-author/illustrator Agnes M. Feeney, Leckel wrote several books about the history — and, sometimes, specifically the cooking history — of Illinois, including “The Great Chicago Melting Pot Cookbook.” In addition to these works, Leckel has published articles for educational journals. He earned his M.A. in theatre architecture from the University of Illinois at Urbana.
- Whitney Stine, Hollywood, Calif., “Maestro,” music by Fran Ziffer, lyrics by Martin Kalmanoff.
Whitney Stine, born 1930, is best known as the author of "I'd Love to Kiss You: Conversations With Bette Davis" and "Mother Goddam: The Story of the Career of Bette Davis." She is also the author of several other show-business books as well as a number of novels.
Fran Ziffer also wrote music for "Three on a Bed: A Musical Satire," words by Horty Belson & Thomas Hill (1974), and for "One Foot to the Sea" (1953) and "Dakota" (1951) at the Originals Only Playhouse, Manhattan. Born in Baltimore, Md., Frances Ziffer Burgio of Allentown, Pa., formerly of New York City, died Thursday, Nov. 7, 1996.
Martin Kalmanoff (1920-2007) was born in Brooklyn and studied piano and composition from the age of 7. He earned bachelors (1941) and masters (1943) degrees in music from Harvard. He began his career as a popular songwriter, sometimes writing his own lyrics, but mostly collaborating with either Atra Baer (his first wife) or Aaron Schroeder, though he often worked with other lyricists. Artists who recorded his songs included Sammy Kaye, Guy Lombardo, Connie Francis, Julius LaRosa, Vic Damone, Engelbert Humperdinck, Roy Rogers, Billy Butterfield and Elvis Presley. As his career progressed, Kalmanoff devoted most of his energy to operas and musicals; collaborators included Eugene Ionesco, William Saroyan, Eric Bentley and Lewis Allen. The Martin Kalmanoff papers are housed in the New York Public Library's Archives & Manuscripts department.
- Marvin Denicoff, Potomac, Md., who had submitted two plays for the competition: “Fortune Teller Man” and “Wilma’s Freak Show.”
The 1972 Stanley Drama Award went to Marvin Denicoff for “Fortune Teller Man.” The Sept. 26, 1972 Wagnerian said,
Denicoff, who is director of information services for the Office of Naval Research in Washington, D.C., won this year’s $500 award for a play called “Fortune Teller Man,” a drama about a once-serious playwright who has been ruined by trying for years to fit himself to the formulae of Hollywood scriptwriting. …
According to Denicoff, he has two careers: one in scientific research and one in writing. The former career, says the playwright, is what has supported the Denicoff household. For the Navy, Denicoff administers a basic research contract program in such fields as linguistics robotics, automata theory, pattern recognition, software development, etc.
But Denicoff, the writer, has also published many short stories over the years. They have appeared in a number of literary magazines, including Whit Burnett’s “Story Anthology.”
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Denicoff graduated from Temple University in 1949 with a degree in liberal arts. He did graduate work in literature and linguistics at Temple and Mexico City College. He worked at the Office of Naval Research from 1960 to 1983, when he helped found Thinking Machines Corporation, where he worked until 1996.
In 1985, Denicoff described to Fortune magazine writer Brian Dumaine a scheme for using computers to assist in writing plays:
Marvin Denicoff, an artificial intelligence expert and an award-winning playwright, thinks a computer could help a dramatist write plays. In his vision, still very much on paper, the playwright would draft a scene and then set up a stage on his computer screen by drawing on a rich database of stock characters, sets, and costumes. He would then instruct his electronic actors to speak and move in any way he wished until he was satisfied with the scene. The playwright could also use a computer to show his finished play to potential investors.
The Aug. 31, 1972 press release announcing that Denicoff, 48, had won the Stanley Drama Award noted that “Fortune Teller Man” was the fourth play Denicoff had written. The others were “Wilma’s Freak Show,” also submitted for the 1972 Stanley, “A Cage for a Songbird” and “The Doctor is Sick.” No record could be found of any of these shows being produced.
Marvin Denicoff died on July 1, 2013, at the age of 88. He was survived by his wife of 63 years and their four sons.
1973: C. RICHARD GILLESPIE
The New York Times of Oct. 25, 1973 announced that C. Richard Gillespie of Baltimore had won that year’s Stanley Drama Award for his play, “Carnivori.”
In a September 2012 news story, the Baltimore Times said,
C. Richard (Dick) Gillespie has his master and doctoral degrees in theatre from the University of Iowa. He started in the theatre as an actor, but found his life’s work in teaching and directing. In 1961 he founded the academic theatre program at Towson University (then Towson State Teachers College) and taught there for 37 years. During his career he directed more than 75 productions in educational, professional and experimental theatres. He has directed plays from the full literature of the theatre including the Greek, Shakespearean, Restoration, Medieval, Romantic, Oriental and Contemporary repertories. His last two productions at Towson were critically acclaimed interpretations of Tennessee Williams’ seldom-produced plays, “Clothes For A Summer Hotel” and “Something Cloudy, Something Clear.” For eighteen summers he directed summer productions in the Maryland Arts Festival. Dr. Gillespie is the author of two books: “Papa Toussaint,” a novel based on the last five years in the life of Toussaint Louverture the liberator of Haiti; and “The James Adams Floating Theatre,” the history of a show boat that sailed the Chesapeake Bay and the North Carolina sounds between the world wars and was the model for Edna Ferber’s novel, “Show Boat.” He has written several plays, one of which, “Carnivori,” won the Stanley Drama Award.
“Carnivori,” written in 1971, was based on Gillespie’s experiences as an Army Signal Corps photographer during the Korean War. The play was produced at Baltimore’s Corner Theater.
The Baltimore Times story, above, was written about a performance of A.R. Gurney’s “Love Letters” in which Gillespie and his wife, Maravene Loeschke, were about to perform. Gillespie was then professor emeritus at Towson University, and Loeschke had recently been inaugurated as Towson’s president. Like her husband, Loeschke had an academic as well as a performing background in the theater.
Gillespie died on April 2, 2016 at the age of 85.
1974: GUS WEILL
The 1974 Stanley Drama Award went to Gus Weill for his play, “The Son of the Last Mule Dealer.” Judges for that year’s award were George C. White III, president of the Eugene O’Neill Memorial Theatre Center, Wagner College Theatre head Lowell Matson and Wagner English professor J.J. Boies.
According to Weill’s resume, published by Louisiana Public Broadcasting, “Son of the Last Mule Dealer” (written in 1969) was produced Off-Broadway, and by the Actors Studio. A May 1975 New York Times brief said that “Mule Dealer” would be produced the next spring (that is, in 1976) by Phil Osterman, but no further information about that production could be found.
The announcement that Gus Weill had won the 1974 Stanley Drama Award was issued in a press release published in the Nov. 16 Staten Island Advance and the Nov. 22 Wagnerian. The release said, in part:
“The Son of the Last Mule Dealer” traces the disintegration of a man’s life. The playwright calls it “a highly personalized play that has come into its own time, thanks to the current Eugene O’Neill revival. I wrote this play in the certain knowledge that in all probability it would never see the light of day. It’s not experimental or way out; it’s simply the story of a man’s life.”
Mr. Weill calls the play “about half autobiographical” and notes that one of the most challenging aspects of its creation was that most of the characters are still living. “It’s a play that I probably should have undertaken much later in life, because the contents of the play were, at the time I was writing it, fresh and ripe. And the hurts still hurt; and the funny things … well, I haven’t gotten quite over smiling at them yet. I wasn’t writing about ghosts, you see. My ghosts were alive and well.”
The 42-year-old playwright lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana with his wife and young son, Gus. He is a graduate of the LSU School of Journalism, a former counter-intelligence special agent and former executive secretary to the governor of Louisiana.
Gus Weill was born on March 12, 1933 in Lafayette, Louisiana. He died on April 13, 2018 in Baton Rouge at the age of 85.
Weill had spent his career as a political campaign operative and P.R. specialist in Louisiana. For 20 years, he hosted a current affairs program, “Louisiana Legends,” on Louisiana Public Broadcasting. He wrote six novels, two volumes of poetry, one or two political biographies, and numerous plays, some produced Off-Broadway and on Broadway.
His final Broadway production, “The November People,” was produced at the Billy Rose Theatre (now the Nederlander Theatre), opening in January 1978. New York Times theater critic Mel Gussow panned it. “There is an aroma of stale cigars about this particular political melodrama,” Gussow wrote.
The Advocate, a Baton Rouge daily newspaper, published two recent profiles of Weill:
- April 13, 2018 — “Gus Weill, Mentor to Several Big-Name Political Strategists, Dies at Baton Rouge Home,” by Mark Ballard
- 27, 2015 — “Gus Weill, LPB look ‘Beyond the Legends’,” by Pam Bordelon
1975: ALAN RIEFE & BOB HAYMES
The 1975 Stanley Drama Award was given for “Jonathan!”, a musical play in two acts suggested by characters in the novel, “The Life and Death of Jonathan Wild, the Great,” by Henry Fielding. The book and lyrics for “Jonathan!” were written by Alan Riefe with music by Robert Haymes.
“Jonathan!” was written in 1971. Aside from that, we have found no information about the musical. At all. Anywhere.
An entry on the website, “A History of Comics,” dated Jan. 15, 2013, gives most of the information available about Alan Richard Riefe, supplemented with a handful of data points from other sources. Riefe was born May 18, 1925 in Waterbury, Conn. to German immigrant parents. After serving in the military during World War II, he was a “special student” of piano in 1947 at the New England Conservatory of Music. The following year, he was a junior at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. He married Martha Jane Daggett in 1948, but she died about 10 months later [?] following the birth of their daughter, Margaret Susan. Riefe graduated from Colby in 1950. Between 1951 and 1965, he says that he wrote 24 network TV shows. In 1955, he married again, to Barbara J.; the union produced four children. In 1965, he stopped writing for TV and began writing for magazines, comics and novels, including science fiction stories for Boys Life magazine in 1964 and 1966. He wrote numerous novels (some of them novelizations of TV shows) and numerous comic books; key his name into an Amazon search to see many of them. He died on Jan. 25, 2001 in Wilton, Conn. at the age of 75.
According to Wikipedia: Robert William Haymes, best known as Bob Haymes, was born on March 29, 1923 in White Plains, N.Y. to Marguerite Wilson, an American of Irish descent married to Benjamin Haymes, an Argentine of English descent; she had left Argentina to live in New York, eventually moving to Europe with son Bob and his older brother Dick. Bob spent much of his youth living in Paris in a townhouse overlooking the Rodin Museum, attending boarding schools throughout Europe. His career went from singer to songwriter (“That’s All”) to TV actor/host to movie actor. In 1968, he served as the national television director for Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign. [Ironic trivia: In 1972, Alan Riefe was co-author of a mockumentary book by “Richard M. Dixon” titled “Am I Your President?”, published by Curtis Books.] Bob Haymes died on Jan. 28, 1989 on Hilton Head Island, S.C., of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, aka Lou Gehrig’s disease.
1976: CAROL KLEIN MACK
An Oct. 1, 1976 story in the Staten Island Advance announced the finalists for the 1976 Stanley Drama Award. The headline read, “Wagner Nominates 6.” The article named five finalists. Go figure.
- Tim Streeter of Edina, Minn., “Minutes of the Last Meeting.” Tim Streeter starred in Gus Van Sant’s debut film, “Mala Noche” (1985). He works in communications for a medical society based in Minneapolis.
- Robert Riche of Wilton, Conn., “Last Dance Before the Music.” The play was given a staged reading in 1982 at the Walden Theatre Conservatory in Manhattan. Riche won the Stanley Award in 1979; see his information there.
- Tim Kelly of Hollywood, Calif., “In China Seas.” This play was also a finalist in the first Forest A. Roberts Playwriting Award competition, established in 1977 by the Forest Roberts Theatre at Northern Michigan University. Tim J. Kelly (1937-1998) was a playwright who also wrote under the name Vera Morris. He was responsible for writing more than 300 plays, screen plays and television scripts. He graduated from Emerson College with a B.A. in 1955 and earned his M.A. in 1956. He received the Creative Writing Award from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a Graduate Alumni Council Award from Emerson in 1983. He was the recipient of the Lindy Award in 1991.
- Harry Haldane of Annandale, Va., “Lamp.” Haldane was a prolific writer of lyrics for musicals, often with collaborator Donald Carl Eugster, among whose papers are materials for “Lamp.” Haldane’s only known Broadway production was the musical, “Happy Town,” which survived only five performances in October 1959.
- K. Mack of Manhattan, “A Safe Place.”
The 1976 Stanley Drama Award went to Carol Klein Mack for “A Safe Place,” her second play. According to the playwright’s website, “A Safe Place” premiered in mid-August 1981 at the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge, Mass., directed by Josephine Abady, featuring Cynthia Nixon and Holly Hunter. “Premiered” clearly has a very particular meaning for Mack; “A Safe Place” had previously been staged by the Women’s Project at the American Place Theatre, the nonprofit theater founded in 1963 at St. Clement’s Church on West 46th Street in Manhattan. Forty years after winning the Stanley Award, “A Safe Place” was published as one of the plays in “Without a Trace & Other Plays” by Carol K. Mack (Mill City Press, 2016).
What was “A Safe Place” about? Theater critic R.C. Hammerich, writing in the Springfield (Mass.) Morning Union in the runup to the play’s Berkshire Theatre Festival production, summarized it this way:
Arthur Anderson and his wife return from the Amazon to find one of their daughters, whom they left at a boarding school, has joined an extremist cult and disappeared, and the other daughter refuses to speak. The play juxtaposes the happenings in the school with the research conducted in the Amazon jungle. Anderson determines to trace the steps, and we are held in suspense wondering if he will bring his daughters back into a rational world.
Carol Klein Mack, a 1960 graduate of Mount Holyoke College, is a prolific author; for details, we refer you to her website, carolkmack.com.
1977: JACK ZEMAN
The winner of the 1977 Stanley Drama Award was Jack Zeman for “Past Tense.”
Jack Zeman’s obituary provided a good, succinct biography:
Jack Zeman of Overlook Drive, Woodstock [N.Y.] died Sunday, Aug. 31, 2008 at his home. He was 63.
He was born in Los Angeles, Calif. on Feb. 2, 1945, a son of the late Robert L. and Dora Goodwin Zeman. He received his bachelors at Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburgh.
A Broadway playwright/director, his first play “Past Tense,” was Pulitzer-nominated. It was awarded the Stanley Drama Award. Since its Broadway debut at Circle-in-the-Square, the play has enjoyed countless regional theater productions across America and abroad. At various times, the play has attracted the talents of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, Ellen Burstyn and Michael Higgins, George Grizzard and Barbara Baxley, Laurence Luckinbill and Barbara Feldon, Angela Lansbury and Edward Albee.
Mr. Zeman staged his second play "Funny Papers" at Harbor Repertory Theatre in New York City. He established a home there as Director and Playwright-in-Residence, as well as serving on their Board of Advisors. Mr. Zeman staged a dozen productions there, including Paul Zindel's "The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds" and his own, "Asylum for a Broken Doll."
Mr. Zeman then formed his own production company in association with Jujamcyn Theaters and later moved on to the Shubert Organization. From there, Mr. Zeman joined the staff of CBS Television Development. During his time with CBS, he wrote his first screenplay, "The Real McCoy," a finalist in the Writer's Guild East Competition. After leaving CBS TV Development, he wrote "Griffin's Ghost,” his second screenplay, also a finalist in the Writer's Guild East Competition. He wrote his first novel, "Acre Under a Green Sky." Mr. Zeman was a member of the Dramatists Guild of America.
He recently has worked at H. Houst & Son, in Woodstock.
His companion, Joseph V. Coleman died April 12, 2008.
Surviving are one brother, David William Zeman of Cannonsburg, Pa., and one sister, Valerie Ruth of Washington, D.C.
While “Past Tense” may have been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, it was not received at all well by critics, either when it was first produced in December 1977 by the Hartford [Conn.] Stage Co., or in the spring of 1980, when it was produced on Broadway.
Also note that the home of Harbor Repertory Theatre, where Zeman staged his second play, was on Staten Island. Harbor Rep was created by Jack and Elaine Boies in 1975. Jack Boies was a former English professor at Wagner College and former director of the NYC Writers Conference. Elaine Boies was theater writer for the Staten Island Advance.
1978: BARRY KNOWER
The 1978 Stanley Drama Award was won by Barry Knower for “Cutting Away.”
Knower’s biography and career were well represented in the obituaries published in the Washington Post and the Baltimore Sun following his May 2005 death. Here are selections from the Post obituary, written by Yvonne Shinhoster Lamb:
Henry DuBarry Knower, 72, a playwright, director and actor who performed on Washington area stages and was chairman of the theater department at Goucher College for 12 years, died of an inoperable brain tumor May 20 at his home in Upper Marlboro.
Dr. Knower, whose first love was writing, performed most recently with Bowie Community Theater, Silver Spring Stage and the Colonial Players of Annapolis. He also did readings of his work at the Round House Theatre and with the New Playwrights, both in Washington.
In February 2003, he received praise for his performance at the Bowie Playhouse in “I’m Herbert,” one of the four one-act plays in Robert Anderson’s “You Know I Can’t Hear You When the Water’s Running.”
A Washington Post reviewer wrote that “the best part of the evening is saved for last, a hilariously funny and deliciously performed segment called ‘I’m Herbert.’ It alone is worth the price of admission to see the razor-sharp Barry Knower and Jerri Shelton have their way with Anderson’s clever wordplay.”
Dr. Knower taught courses in dramatics and humanities, directed plays and helped improve the theater department at Goucher College from 1975 to 1987. During his tenure, he endeavored to ensure that women had substantial and challenging roles in plays. As he had done in other venues, he instituted a playwriting contest at Goucher that resulted in a prize and the production of the winning play. He was head of the theater department at the University of Tennessee from 1972 to 1975.
A number of Dr. Knower’s own 25 plays won national contests, including “Bag” (Per-SE Award), “Cutting Away” (Stanley Drama Award) and “Cleaving in Summerlight” (Playwrights’ Center of San Francisco). He was one of the first recipients of the Maryland State Arts Council’s Arts and Humanities Awards for his body of work. He was at work on a new play when he died.
“All his life, he was principally a writer,” said his wife, Rosemary Hankins Knower, an actress and writer. “The core of his creative impetus was always the plays, the writing.”
Barry Knower, as he was known, was born Aug. 3, 1932 in Birmingham [Ala.]. At Princeton University, from which he graduated in 1954, he was a member of the Triangle Club and co-wrote the books and lyrics for several shows, including “Ham ’n’ Legs.”
He was drafted into the Army during the Korean War and served in the Pentagon for two years. In 1959, he received a master’s degree from Yale University’s School of Drama. While on a writing fellowship in 1972, he earned a doctorate in theater literature and history from the University of Denver. His first job in 1959 was as artistic director of Town Theatre in Columbia, S.C.
1979: ROBERT RICHE
The 1979 Stanley Drama Award was won by Robert Riche for “The Stag at Eve.” According to a press release sent to Riche’s high school alma mater, the play is a “tough, hardhitting drama of factory life in Brooklyn.” It was given a staged reading in 1981 at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta.
Riche, a resident of Wilton, Conn., was previously a finalist for the Stanley Award in 1976 with his play, “Last Dance Before the Music.”
Riche was born Sept. 23, 1925 in Pittsfield, Mass. He earned a B.A. in literature from Yale University in 1947. According to the short biography in his self-published 2012 novel, “Brock Downsized,” “Robert Riche has been a newspaper reporter, a United Press staff correspondent in New York, a free-lance correspondent out of Paris. ... As a free-lance writer he has written travel and food feature articles ... He is the author of three novels, many plays, and several books of poetry. ... He lives in Connecticut, and spends part of each summer in Provincetown, Mass.”
Interesting note: The April 1969 issue of Negro Digest says that, “in January, Robert Riche’s ‘Message From the Grass Roots’ ran at the James Weldon John Theater Arts Center in East Harlem. Based on the life of Malcolm X, it covered a 30-year period of his life. What we get is a white playwright’s interpretation of what he wanted Malcolm to be, not the forceful, Black nationalist which Brother Malcolm was. Riche almost made him into a minor Martin Luther King Jr.”
Riche provides extensive information about himself and his career on his website, robertriche.com.
1980: NORMAN WEXLER
The 1980 Stanley Drama Award was won by Norman Wexler for “Private Opening.”
By 1980, Wexler was already hugely famous as a screenwriter. His screenplay for “Joe” was nominated for a 1971 Oscar; the script for “Serpico,” co-written with Waldo Salt, was nominated for an Academy Award in 1973. In 1975, he wrote the adapted screenplay for “Mandingo,” and in 1977 he wrote “Saturday Night Fever,” the film that made a star of John Travolta.
Born Aug. 6, 1926 in New Bedford, Mass., Norman Wexler graduated from Central High School in Detroit, Mich. in 1944. He attended Harvard University before moving to New York in 1951.
As successful a writer as he was, Wexler also suffered from severe mental illness. During one manic episode in 1972, he threatened to shoot President Richard Nixon. More than a decade after Wexler’s death, his daughter, Erica, wrote a disturbing first-person account for the London Daily Telegraph of how she and her father’s friends tried to have him committed (“The Jekyll and Hyde Life of the Man Who Wrote ‘Saturday Night Fever’,” Jan. 19, 2013).
Norman Wexler died on Aug. 23, 1999, of a heart attack.
1981: BARBARA ALLAN HITE
The 1981 Stanley Drama Award was won by Barbara Allan Hite for “Sissy and the Baby Jesus.” The award came with a $1,000 prize. The final judge for the 1981 Stanley was Broadway producer Jean Dalrymple.
“Sissy” was first given a staged reading in 1980 by a new playwrights’ program in Virginia. In February 1982, it was read at the Virginia Museum Theater in Richmond. Theater Wagon of Virginia, a traveling company, first staged “Sissy” at Mary Baldwin in May 1982. Two years later, it was staged again at Mary Baldwin. In 1985, “Sissy” won the New Script Competition of the Actors’ Contemporary Ensemble, a professional theater in Charlotte, N.C.
A 1958 graduate of Mary Baldwin College, a women’s college in Staunton, Va., Barbara Allan Hite majored in theater and English. Following graduation, she wrote, “I went to New York and wrote copy for the linen and bedding department of the Montgomery Ward catalog.” In 1959, she applied to the master’s in teaching program at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore; after earning her graduate degree in 1961, she taught at James Madison College in Harrisonburg, Va. and, later, as a high school and community college teacher.
In 2015, Hite wrote that she and her husband, Rick, had “always acted and volunteered in community and educational theater here in Norfolk and Virginia Beach. I have also written some 20 or 25 plays, most of which have been produced in one form or another, but never reached ‘The Big Time.’ Ah well.”
Most recently, Hite has self-published two books for what appear to be the Young Adult market: “Letters from Jane: The Adventures of an Abandoned Kitten” (2011) and “Wilderness Child” (2013). Both are available on Amazon.
1981 Stanley sidebar: In later years, announcements for the Stanley Drama Award competition specified that previous winners of the prize were not eligible to enter again; that rule, however, does not appear to have been in force in 1981. An Oct. 17 brief by Richard F. Shepard in the New York Times’ “Going Out Guide” cited a play being produced on Staten Island by the Harbor Repertory Theater, founded by Jack and Elaine Boies in 1978. “The play, which is a finalist in the Stanley Drama Award ... is said by its author [previously named as Robert Riche] to be autobiographical.” On his website, Riche identifies that play as “Why Is That Dumb Son of a Bitch Down the Street Happier than I Am?” Riche says that “Dumb S.O.B.” was also staged at the New Playwrights Theatre in Washington, D.C. Robert Riche had previously won the Stanley Drama Award in 1979 for “The Stag at Eve.”
1982: BILL BLY
The 1982 Stanley Drama Award was won by Bill Bly for “Jonas.”
In the introduction to his undated online essay, “The Playwright Directs,” Bly says, “Some time ago I directed a production of my play, ‘Jonas.’ I was interviewed a number of times before the play opened, and each time the inevitable question arose, ‘Do you think it’s a good idea for you to direct your own play?’ After the play opened, the reviews which appeared in the local papers each dedicated considerable space to answering this question. One critic thought I directed the play better than I wrote it, another maintained that I couldn’t do either. So it goes.”
Bill Bly grew up in Pittsburgh, Pa., earning a BA in Drama from Allegheny College and an MFA in playwriting from Carnegie Mellon University. He taught dramatic literature and playwriting for 20 years at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, as well as Hypertext Theory and Practice at Fordham University. He joined the Wagner College faculty in 1985, first as an assistant professor of English and speech/theatre (1985-89), then as the college’s director of writing programs (1989-92). He also directed the Stanley Drama Award program; Staten Island Advance theater writer Michael J. Fressola says that Bly was Stanley Award program director in 1993, when Jonathan Larson won for “Rent” — a year after he finished serving on the faculty.
1983: GLORIA GONZALEZ
The 1983 Stanley Drama Award was won by Gloria Gonzalez for “Café Con Leche.”
In the Nov. 2, 1984 issue of the New York Times, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nan Robertson wrote about Gonzalez and “Cafe Con Leche,” which was being staged on weekends by the Spanish-language theater company, Repertorio Espanol:
Gloria Gonzalez was born in New York to a Cuban mother and a Spanish father and grew up mostly among Puerto Ricans in East Harlem and the Bronx. She has been writing ever since she could remember, with a dozen years of professional credits as the author of English-language theatrical and television plays and novels. Yet “Cafe con Leche” is the first play she has ever done that is really close to home, and it is currently sending Spanish-speaking audiences into fits of laughter at the intimate Gramercy Arts Theater at 138 East 27th Street.
The comedy, which won the 1983 Stanley Drama Award and is being presented weekends by Repertorio Espanol, portrays a blue-collar Cuban family in New York. There’s a bossy, cigar-smoking grandmother, a born-loser of a father, a cousin on the shady side of the law and two American-born sons, one just home from jail, where he has earned his high school equivalency diploma.
Writing From Imagination
“I’ve done plays about Miss America and a movie mogul and chic East Siders raising money for the Black Panthers,” Miss Gonzalez said the other day. “I never believed that old saw, ‘Write about what you know.’ That’s boring and confining. I wanted to write about what I imagined.”
While this small slice of Hispanic family life has proved immensely popular, there has been “a lot of flack from the Hispanic community,” the 44-year-old playwright said. “Some people think it portrays us in a bad light, with people running the numbers and two family members going to jail. One Cuban critic practically came to blows with Rene Buch, the artistic director. He said it didn’t advance our image. Well, the critics don’t buy tickets.”
Miss Gonzalez said that “Cafe con Leche” is really about “a very gracious, loving, fun-loving family” with a lot of hope for the future. As for the comedy’s raffish side, “everybody has a friend who runs the numbers,” she said. Miss Gonzalez lives with her teen-age daughter and son in West New York, N.J., the largest Cuban community in the United States after Miami, and, she said, “there’s an old lady who comes in and collects the numbers in my beauty parlor.”
Miss Gonzalez grew up in a Spanish-speaking, multigenerational family: Abuela, the grandmother who dominates the family in the play, was patterned after the playwright’s great-grandmother — who also smoked “big, fat Cuban cigars.” She was married five times. “All her husbands died on her,” Miss Gonzalez said, “so she was always in black, always in mourning for the last one. She was just like Abuela,” played by the regal Cuban actress Ofelia Gonzalez (no relation).
Relatives Coming to Stay
“Various relatives were always coming to stay. I also had an uncle who went to jail,” Miss Gonzalez said. “I never knew what for, but he was so late for the homecoming party my family threw all the food out. He had gone to two movies in a row because he hadn’t seen a movie for two years.”
A graduate of George Washington High School, Miss Gonzalez has earned her living as a reporter and editor. For the last year, she has been a copy editor at The New York Post. “I always wanted to do plays,” she said, “but I hadn’t the vaguest idea how to write one. Dialogue had always come easy to me; my short stories were rejected, usually with the comment that my dialogue was fabulous and the rest was garbage.”
So, in the late 1960’s, she studied playwriting with Harold Kallen at the New School, and in the early 1970’s, playwriting and directing with Lee Strasberg. Her play “Curtains” was included in the anthology of the “Best Short Plays of 1976,” and four other plays have won regional awards.
Miss Gonzalez has written two novels for children, “Gaucho” and “The Glad Man.” Despite her aptitude for the spoken word, she prefers the novel form, because, she says, “It’s the only form where the writer has total control. If you write a play, it becomes the godchild of your director and your actors.”
Repertorio Espanol continued to perform “Café Con Leche” for some time. The company performed the play in May 1990 in Mandeville Auditorium at the University of California, San Diego.
Gonzalez, who lived in West New York, N.J. with her family for many years, moved to Las Vegas, Nevada in the early 1990s.
1984: GEOFFREY BROWN
The 1984 Stanley Drama Award was won by Geoffrey Brown for “The Mountains of Arafat.”
We can find no information, anywhere, with certainty about the Geoffrey Brown who won the 1984 Stanley Award, or about his play, “The Mountains of Arafat.”
1985: DANIEL A. DERVIN
The 1985 Stanley Drama Award was won by Daniel A. Dervin for “Interstates,” which the playwright described as “comedy in the absurd tradition” and inspired by ideas from Oscar Wilde and William Saroyan.
“The dead of night. A lonely interstate in the West. A stop at a service station for a gas fill-up. Chitchat with the bored attendant.” So writer Kristine Vawter begins her Winter 1987 article for the alumni magazine, Mary Washington Today, about English professor Daniel Dervin. “The lonely interstate not only intrigued him but evolved into the setting of his fourth play, ‘Interstates’.” The play was being staged by the Rude Mechanicals of Fredericksburg, Va., and the production included numerous Mary Washington alums and students.
Other plays by Dervin mentioned in the Vawter article are “Duke’s Kid” and “Jaybirds,” the first Dervin play to be publicly performed. Vawter also mentioned Dervin’s short stories, including one that won a literary prize.
Daniel Dervin was born in Omaha, Neb. in 1935 and attended Creighton University there and Regis College in Denver. After graduating, he worked for the Cook County Department of Welfare and served in the Army. He received his M.A. from Columbia University while maintaining employment in the Westchester County Penitentiary’s Rehabilitation Unit, then received his Ph.D. from Columbia’s English and Comparative Literature Department in 1970. Starting in 1967, he taught in the English Department of Mary Washington College. He is professor emeritus of English at Mary Washington University
Dervin’s scholarly output includes six books: “Bernard Shaw: A Psychological Study” (1975), “A ‘Strange Sapience’: The Creative Imagination of D.H. Lawrence” (1984), “Through a Freudian Lens Deeply: A Psychoanalysis of the Cinema” (1985), “Enactments: American Modes and Psychohistorical Models” (1996), “Matricentric Narratives: Recent British Women’s Fiction in a Postmodern Mode” (1997) and “The Digital Child: The Evolution of Inwardness in the Histories of Childhood” (2017).
In 1987 Carlton R. Lutterbie Jr., chairman of the Department of English, Linguistics and Speech at Mary Washington, told Kristine Vawter, “Dan Dervin continues to be among Mary Washington’s most productive scholars. His books on Shaw and cinema analysis are important contributions to those fields. One can always find him sitting in front of the word processor adding to his file of stories, articles, book chapters and plays. He has more pages on file in the computer than the rest of the English department put together.”
1986: DAVID RICHMOND
The 1986 Stanley Drama Award was won by David Graham Richmond for “Cue the Violins.”
A profile of Richmond was produced by combining those that appeared on promotional Web pages for two separate productions in which he had performed:
Actor and playwright David Richmond attended Wayne State University in Michigan and trained for the stage at the Academy of Dramatic Art with director John Frenald and the staff of the Royal Academy of London.
A veteran of Broadway, Off-Broadway and regional theater, Richmond’s acting career spans more than 50 productions ranging from Shakespeare, Shaw and Chekhov to “The Threepenny Opera.”
David Richmond is the co-author and co-producer, with Bob Hall, of “The Passion of Dracula,” which opened Off-Broadway at the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York starring Christopher Bernau and ran for two years, with a subsequent West End production in London at the Queen’s Theatre starring George Chakiris, Geraldine James and Roy Dotrice. It became a standard of Ginza theater in Tokyo, Japan, and had national tours in Australia, Africa and the U.S., where it starred Jose Greco as the Count. Recent major regional revivals of “The Passion of Dracula” have included productions at the Alliance in Atlanta and Actors Theatre of Louisville, where it broke all previous box office records. It was produced for television by Showtime starring Christopher Bernau and Malachi Throne.
With Steven J. Conners, Richmond co-wrote the national arena tour of “The Bugs Bunny Revue” for Warner Brothers Entertainment in New York, directed and co-produced the revival of “Dr. Silkini’s Asylum of Horror,” the original vaud-film “midnite spook show” created by Jack Baker in 1933, and produced the nostalgic revue “Big Bad Burlesque” at the Off-Broadway Orpheum Theatre in New York under the direction of the legendary Celeste Hall, to rave reviews.
Again in partnership with Bob Hall, he co-authored an adaptation of Mary Shelly’s “Frankenstein, the Modern Prometheus,” which premiered at CSC Repertory in New York and had its regional premier at Playhouse in the Park, Cincinnati, starring Paul Ukena and Catherine Miesle.
He is the author of “Parlay,” a political thriller that premiered at the George Street Playhouse starring Catherine Burns and Lou Bedford, and “Cue the Violins,” which won the Stanley Drama Award.
For the Georgia Shakespeare Festival, he adapted Dumas’ “The Three Musketeers.” In partnership with Drew Fracher, he created “Zorro” and “The Adventures of Robin Hood” for the Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati.
With director and choreographer Wendy Taucher he adapted, for the first time in English, the entire libretto of Mozart’s “The Impressario,” which premiered at the Yard on Martha’s Vineyard in the summer of 2010 and opened at Westbank, Manhattan [?] in March 2014 to rapturous reviews, with subsequent productions scheduled for New Jersey and Cape Cod, Mass.
According to the Stanley Drama Award roster, none of this year’s entries were chosen for the award, and all were carried over to the 1988 competition.
1988: PHIL ATLAKSON
The 1988 Stanley Drama Award was won by Phil Atlakson for “Norm Rex.”
“It is a strangely ironic tale,” wrote Steve Lyon for the Boise State University newspaper, University News. “A somewhat demented bully torments the residents of a small Midwestern town. Finally, collectively, the town is forced into taking a stand and asserting their rights; they plot a vengeful fate for the bully, a rational, almost overdue fate, given the circumstances.”
That was the essence of “Norm Rex,” which Phil Atlakson lifted almost straight out of a news story reported on “60 Minutes.” The story was published in November 1986 after the world premiere of “Norm Rex” at BSU’s Morrison Center — 2 years before “Norm” won the Stanley Drama Award. We have no explanation for why the play was submitted for — and won — the Stanley, despite the rule against considering plays that had already been staged.
Atlakson attended graduate school at SUNY Binghamton. Today he heads the dramatic writing program in BSU’s Department of Theatre, Film and Creative Writing. According to his faculty biography on the BSU website,
Phil has written for Paramount Pictures, Robert Redford, and 20th Century Fox Studios. He wrote and directed the award-winning independent feature, “Not This Part of the World,” and two short films, which have played numerous national and international film festivals as well as cable channels around the world, HBO, Starz/Encore, MultiCanal, et al. This past winter he directed an off-Broadway production of “Macbeth.” In February, the Classical Theatre of Harlem performed a reading of his play, “The Ascetic,” at the Schomburg Center in New York. At the same time, “The Ascetic” and his short play, “Charlotte’s Web We Weave,” are receiving full productions in Seattle. Other recent off-Broadway credits include directing and acting in his own plays, “The Rehearsal,” “The Ascetic” and “Leapfrog Through Time and Space”.
Atlakson’s impressive writing credits are listed on the IMDb website.
1989: MATTHEW WITTEN
The winner of the 1989 Stanley Drama Award was Matthew Witten for “Washington Square Moves.”
Born in Baltimore, Matt Witten is a TV writer and producer, novelist and playwright who lives in Los Angeles. He has one screenwriting credit: “Drones,” a 2014 film (based on a play written by Witten) about two Air Force drone pilots controlling an attack aircraft in Afghanistan.
“Washington Square Moves,” about a chess hustler in Washington Square Park, received a staged reading at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Conference in Waterford, Conn., and a workshop production at Theatre in Process, Boston, Mass., before being premiered at Primary Stages, an Off-Broadway venue on West 45th Street, in April 1993. It played the following month at the Mojo Ensemble in Los Angeles.
Stephen Holden, the New York Times reviewer, says,
“Washington Square Moves” has a setup that could make for a nifty satire on upward mobility, middle-class guilt and media voracity. Instead, Mr. Witten and the director, Seth Gordon, go for a warm-hearted urban realism that focuses more on character than on social structures.
The production half succeeds. Mr. Witten shows a good ear for street talk but softens the profanity, and there are too many speeches. The story, while ingenious, is resolved in a completely predictable way.
1990: SUSAN ARNOUT SMITH
The 1990 Stanley Drama Award went to Susan Arnout Smith for “Beast.”
Susan Arnout Smith (born October 31, 1948 in Anchorage, Alaska) is a novelist, television scriptwriter, playwright and essayist. Smith graduated in 1970 from the University of Colorado, Boulder, with a degree in journalism. She helped pay for school by working as a courthouse newspaper reporter for the Longmont Daily Times-Call. After graduating, she worked in Denver for a film and advertising company and then moved to Alaska, where she worked in television at KFAR in Fairbanks. Eager to pay off college loans, she left the station and took a job on the trans-Alaska pipeline where she worked for Bechtel and Company as a recreation director showing films and repairing pool stick cues. After the pipeline, she moved to Anchorage, where she anchored the nightly news on television for KENI-TV (now called KTUU). She also produced and wrote a weekly news program. The first program, one on teenage pregnancy in Anchorage, won a national award given by the Odyssey Institute in New York. She later anchored a news program at KIMO-TV.
Her first novel, “The Frozen Lady,” was published in hardback by Arbor House in 1982, and in paperback by Zebra Books in 1983. A historical novel dealing with the birth of Alaska, it traced the intertwining lives of an Eskimo man and a white woman.
Her first play, “Beast,” won the Stanley Drama Award in 1990 and was premiered in 1993 by the Tampa Players. It also won recognition from the Forest Roberts Theatre at Northern Michigan University in 1991 and was a finalist at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Playwrights Conference and for the Drama League of New York Playwriting Award.
Tracy L. Glisson summarized “Beast” in her Feb. 10, 1993 review for the Tampa Bay Times:
In the cobwebs of the subconscious, in the shadows of bitter memories and denial lurk the beasts. Hidden behind veils, they emerge to flay and consume their prey. These creatures of Susan Arnout Smith’s psychodrama, “Beast,” are the manifestations of modern fear: the emotionally abusive parent, the mentally abusive spouse, the sexually abusive guardian. Despite the script's non-stop melodramatic assault, Tampa Players’ production of “Beast” is a well-crafted and visually compelling presentation. When her young son begins manifesting a violent rage through graphic drawings, Irene cautiously consults a psychiatrist, to the consternation of her domineering, belittling spouse, Joe. Torn between love for her husband, the mounting mania of her son and a stepson's wedge-driving presence, Irene begins to reveal the dirty roots of their crisis. Irene [is] the bruised victim trapped in a generational cycle of abuse. … Man-of-the-house Joe [has a] powerful presence, his frequent rage tempered by consuming emotion and a smattering of charm. … “Beast” is … a moving production, despite the script’s pop-psych themes and unrelenting revelations of horror.
For 10 years, from the early 1990s to the early 2000s, Smith wrote essays for NPR’s Weekend Edition–Sunday.
1991: MARY FENGAR GAIL (aka FENGAR GAEL)
The 1991 Stanley Drama Award went to Mary Fengar Gail for “Planet of the Mutagens.”
We’ve found several news pieces about Gail and, because they describe some really interesting work by the playwright as well as provide personal background, we’ve included extended selections here.
Note that, in recent years, she has gone professionally by the name Mary Fengar Gael (note the spelling of the surname) — and, most recently, simply as Fengar Gael. At this writing, she lives and works in New York City. Visit her professional website at fengar.com.
“Mutagens” was first staged in July 1990 as part of the Adams-Morgan Theatre Festival at the District of Columbia Arts Center in Washington, and in Sept. 1990 as an equity-waiver production at the Miramar Theater in San Clemente, Calif.
In the Feb. 9, 1992 issue of the Pittsburgh Press, Barbara Bein wrote about the staging of what was called “the premiere” of “Planet of the Mutagens” at Olin Fine Arts Center in Washington, D.C., as part of Washington and Jefferson College’s Basic Issues Forum:
[The] science-fiction play [is] by Mary Gail of Pawtucket, R.I. The play won a W&J-sponsored contest and will be presented free of charge at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday at the fine arts center. It is part of the college’s annual Basic Issues Forum and illustrates the forum’s theme, “Dominion Over the Earth,” said Bill Cameron, a W&J theater professor who is directing the play.
The play weaves several contemporary themes: co-dependency, dysfunctional families, genetic engineering, an AIDS-like virus. Fernelle Millmore, a teenager, is gifted in learning languages and in understanding linguistics. She works with a research geneticist, Louise Weaver, to translate the speech of two highly evolved creatures, called mutagens, who were once human beings close to death. At the same time, Fernelle is trying to make sense of her relationship with her widowed father, Felix Millmore, an alcoholic professor, whom she has protected and cared for since she was a child. Felix encourages his daughter’s work with the mutagens, whom he believes hold the key to universally understood language.
“I can’t say where I get my ideas. But I’ve always been interested in evolution,” Ms. Gail said in a recent interview when she visited Olin to work with the actors and actresses in her play.
Ms. Gail admits that Fernelle’s language in the play is raw; audiences are being advised that one character’s language is profane and not suitable for persons under age 17 but essential to developing her character. Cameron agrees. “It’s part of the tapestry of the play. (Fernelle) uses the F-word, and her father starts using it, too. It’s part of Fernelle’s rebellion against her father.”
Ms. Gail has been writing plays since she was a child and holds a master’s degree in playwriting from Catholic University in Washington, D.C. She has written 18 plays, including 10 which have been produced by experimental and other theater companies and at colleges and universities in San Francisco, New York City, Atlanta and Washington, D.C.
She wrote “Planet” in 1989. In the summer of 1990, the Sundance Institute in Sundance, Utah, founded by actor Robert Redford, selected the play for a three-week playwriting workshop. Ms. Gail and professional actors worked together to revise and perfect the play. “They take a play like mine and try to do it better. They help the play’s structure, dialogue and theme.” The two-act drama was revised there, and has been revised a couple more times since.
In October 1996, “Planet of the Mutagens” was staged in the Ta Dah! Space at New York’s 28th Street Theater by the Mutt Rep performing company. Playbill said, “Simply put, ‘Mutagens’ follows a teenage linguist-savant’s attempts to translate the arcane speech of two former patients undergoing an evolutionary metamorphosis due to a genetics experiment gone awry. Do these ‘Mutagens’ hold the visionary key to the future of humankind?”
John Chatterton wrote at greater length about the 1996 Mutt Rep production for his magazine, Off Off Broadway Review:
“Planet of the Mutagens” has a story with long enough legs for a full-length play, which makes it all the more a pity that it was not successfully adapted to that medium. Instead, it falls between the two stools of a stage play and a ’50s sci-fi B-movie.
Fernelle, a teenage linguistic whiz-kid, gets a mysterious job translating tapes provided by starchy researcher Louise Weaver. The tapes run the gamut of obscure texts, translated into a smorgasbord of languages.
It turns out that Weaver has created two mutants by injecting patients of a terminal disease with a radical cure. (The details are lost in a sea of mumbo-jumbo.) The (taped) mutants are evolving into the next generation of humanity.
Most of the conflict turns on whether Weaver trusts Fernelle enough to let her work with the mutants and whether Fernelle’s dad (Felix, played as a true ’50s TV dad — with an alcoholic spin) will let her go with the mutants to an Antarctic lab where they will mutate into the next phase. ...
The script suffers from long passages of circular argument over the issues, which are simply whether Fernelle will go with the mutants and whether Dad will be allowed near them, with or without a bottle. It turns out that the mutants’ next transition ends in physical death, with Fernelle herself metamorphosing into a sideshow freak that speaks a new, universal language invented by the mutants and bequeathed to humanity. ...
An extra demerit goes to the … Mutt Rep literary manager for choosing the script. (Admittedly one, and from a playwright, that has received more than its share of laurels. Well, there’s no accounting for taste, especially among the not-for-profit dramaturgical establishment.)
In a 2007 review of Gail’s play, “Devil Dog Six,” for the San Diego Union-Tribune, local arts writer Jennifer Chung provides additional background on the playwright:
[Her] darkly humorous dramas delineate few boundaries for their women. Her female characters are smart, powerful and assertive, and are just as often misguided, foolhardy or downright wicked. Gail, who splits time between Irvine and Solana Beach, often addresses themes of gender and race in her plays.
In “Drink Me,” a drawing-room comedy and gothic mystery with a dash of the occult, an eerie trio of sisters is responsible for the disappearance of thousands of men from the streets of London.
“Jambulu” is about a team of scientists in the Mojave Desert that comes in contact with an alien life form. As the scientists become “infected” by the alien life, they begin to mutate — or perhaps evolve. The play raises questions about the future of humans on Earth, race relations and identity.
Gail counts among her inspirations such Latin American writers of magical realism as Carlos Fuentes, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Jose Donoso. And like them, she infuses her plays with elements of mystery, the supernatural, fantasy and science fiction.
“Most plays still tend to be domestic realism or naturalism. They take us to familiar worlds, which I think TV and movies do very well,” Gail said. “I think theater should take us to unfamiliar worlds in a magical way. More magic, more madness, heightened passion, acting that’s beyond verisimilitude. That’s the sort of theater I like.”
Though not a widely known playwright, Gail’s string of honors includes the Arnold Weissberger Award, Playwrights First Award, commissions from South Coast Repertory and the Utah Shakespearean Festival, and a playwriting fellowship from the California Arts Council, to name a few.
As for her background, the playwright prefers to keep her personal life to herself. “I’m a very private person, practically a hermit,” she said, “and would rather not share the history of my precarious personal life.”
What is known is that her father was in the Army and later worked as a civil engineer, and the family moved around enough that Gail attended several high schools. She graduated college and then grad school, and was living in New England, painting and writing for the theater, when her first play was produced in 1992. By 1994, she had moved to Southern California and began writing full time.
Some of her other plays include “Touch of Rapture,” “Opaline,” “Fuschia” and “Carnivals of Desire,” which was produced as part of the Fritz Blitz in San Diego in 2001.
Los Angeles Times staff writer Mike Boehm wrote an extended article, “Mary Fengar Gail’s Weird Worlds,” for the paper’s June 6, 2001 issue, using the production of her play, “Carnivals of Desire,” as an excuse:
“Keep it real” is a cultural watchword for our time, invoked by rappers justifying outrageous lyrics, pundits lampooning the truth-spinning of political handlers, and playwrights dissecting the internal dynamics of the family.
To which Mary Fengar Gail replies, in so many words, “Enough, already!”
The Irvine playwright, who remains obscure despite having won a spate of cash awards and honors for her scripts, is no friend of the real.
“I think I’m a fantasist. A perverse fantasist,” she said in a recent interview in her townhome’s bright living room, where the decor does nothing to dispel her self-assessment. Gail has turned the place, which she shares with her boyfriend, South Coast Repertory’s dramaturge, Jerry Patch, into a museum of her own fantastical artwork.
The downstairs walls are covered with colorful, distorted, medieval-influenced paintings of harlequins, demons and agitated steeds. The living room provides a stage for similarly painted mannequins of boy jugglers. More than 30 primitive masks stare from the wall of the nook where Gail writes.
Her latest fantasy, “Carnivals of Desire,” begins Thursday in Santa Ana as the first full-length play staged by New Voices Playwrights Workshop.
This is the second chance for Orange County audiences to enter Gail’s strange worlds: In 1999, South Coast Repertory staged a reading of “Drink Me,” in which a Sherlock Holmes-like detective tried to solve the disappearances of thousands of homeless men, and found that the trail led to three weird sisters — witches all — and to his own properly British aristocratic mother and a sordid secret from her past.
After “Drink Me,” South Coast awarded Gail a commission to write another play; she recently submitted the result, “Pandora’s Kiss.” Last year, “Drink Me” made the top-10 list of the Philadelphia Inquirer’s theater critic, Clifford A. Ridley, who was impressed with its world-premiere staging by InterAct Theatre Company, a small professional troupe.
Now comes “Carnivals of Desire,” in which a woebegone, Depression-era traveling carnival in the Deep South is saved through the psychic powers of its seemingly weakest member. The character, Louisa Gambollini, is an ailing, ancient object of ridicule for her fellow carnies, who would like to leave her behind to die; she saves herself — and them — by conjuring, then struggling against, a magical, younger incarnation of herself.
“Drink Me” last year helped Gail win a $5,000 fellowship from the California Arts Council; she also has won honors from, among others, New Dramatists, a prestigious New York-based playwrights organization.
All of which has yielded nothing so far in the way of high-profile productions. The reality is, Gail said, that reality is what sells, and though the dramatists who judge contests may like her work, the producers who have to sell tickets consider her “perverse fantasies” too out there to stage.
“It’s one thing to win a competition. It’s another to convince an artistic director to take a risk,” said the slender, soft-voiced Gail. She is dismissive of the dominant strain of realism in theater: “There are all these carpet-slipper plays that tread softly and offend none. They’re all family-dysfunction plays, and they’re small, imitating the reality of our own quotidian life. Theater should create its own reality.”
How, though, can a small theater do justice to a climactic scene in which tormented, entombed souls howl from the maw of a place even worse than hell — as “Drink Me” demands? How can the sudden transformations in “Carnival of Desire” be dramatized without special effects?
Gail said she always finds herself removing scenes that are impossible to stage. But she said the talents of actors and the imaginations of audiences still present a broad palette of fantastical possibilities.
“You can say, ‘This beach ball is the planet Neptune. This three-legged stool is a seat on a Ferris wheel.’ The audience has to co-create.”
She shrugs at being out of the mainstream and keeps letting her fancy roam — but only after grounding it with a great deal of research.
“If what you’re doing does not coincide with what the theater world is doing, you can’t stop.”
Gail’s youth and education apparently contained a good deal of the family dysfunction she would like to drive from the stage; she wasn’t about to detail it in an interview.
“I’m a really private person,” she said. Her father was in the Army and later worked as an oft-transferred civil engineer. Gail said she attended five high schools and became “a basket case.” She went to college and graduate school but prefers not to give details because “I feel like I was in a coma at the time.”
Reading, writing and painting were her refuges. By 1992, she said, she was married and living in Pawtucket, R.I., selling paintings and writing for a small theater in nearby Providence. The prestigious Sundance Theatre Lab, a program of Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute, accepted a script she sent, “Planet of the Mutagens.” That led to a romance with Patch, who was directing the summer program; in 1994, she joined him in Irvine.
“I came West to reinvent myself,” she said. Her invention is a self-professed “homebody” who can go days without seeing anybody but Patch and their immediate neighbors. She makes most of her money on computer stock trades for an hour each morning and tries to spend five hours a day or more writing — first in longhand, then typing her drafts into a computer.
In a separate interview, Patch, who has earned a national reputation as an expert shepherd of new plays, said he lets others at South Coast evaluate the scripts Gail submits.
“I pretty much stay out of it. To me, there’s a fairness issue. My approach is to try not to let our personal relationship color what the choice of the theater is.”
The carnival manager in “Carnivals of Desire” is named Patch Rubenstein. Gail said it is not an homage to her boyfriend; she found in her research that carnival managers in the old days were nicknamed “patchmen” because it was their job to patch things up when sweet-talking or bribery was needed to stay on the good side of the police.
Gail said she takes pleasure in writing about “people unlike myself,” but that doesn’t mean they don’t carry important imprints of her. Part of the inspiration for “Carnivals of Desire” was the slow, difficult death of a friend’s mother. Gail became interested in issues of how the old and frail are treated.
She thinks there are also some intimate personal clues about herself in these far-out plays--although she is still trying to figure them out.
“The arts tell you who you are. Almost all my plays have several [recurring themes]. One of them is fragmentation, a splitting of the self. I didn’t notice it until I wrote enough plays to look back. These are the dark issues. I can’t quite pinpoint yet what happened in my life that makes them my themes, but they are my themes.”
1992: CHRISTOPHER KYLE
The 1992 Stanley Drama Award went to Christopher Kyle for “Boca.”
Synopsis from christopherkyle.net:
“Boca” is a fast-paced black comedy set along the highways of middle America. Jay, an erstwhile orphan from Terre Haute, Indiana, hitchhikes to Florida to meet his parents. Along the way he encounters a bizarre cast of characters from contemporary America: insomniacs who prowl all-night restaurants and convenience stores, Vietnam vets who can't remember faces but never forget a name, self-help checkout girls, wandering amnesiacs, lonely divorcees and, of course, psychopaths. They're all friendly, to be sure, but between the smiles they seem to want a piece of Jay's quest. Not sure what's to be had at the end of the rainbow, Jay tries to negotiate a path through this freak show and find the parents who left him at the Salvation Army 30 years before. Premiered at Charlotte (N.C.) Repertory Theatre.
Christopher Kyle’s screenwriting credits include Oliver Stone’s “Alexander,” two films by frequent collaborator Kathryn Bigelow — “K19: The Widowmaker” starring Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson, and “The Weight of Water” with Sean Penn — and his most recent credit, “Serena,” starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, release in October 2014. He also wrote two episodes of the long-running television series “Homicide: Life on the Street.”
Kyle’s plays include “Plunge” and “The Monogamist,” both of which premiered Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons; “The Safety Net,” which premiered at Broken Watch Theatre Company in New York, and “Dessert at Waffle House, Breakfast Anytime,” produced at West Coast Ensemble. His work has been presented at New York Theatre Workshop, Primary Stages, McCarter Theatre, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Ensemble Studio Theatre, N.Y. Stage & Film, Naked Angels, Asolo Theatre and many others. A past Guggenheim Fellow in playwriting, Kyle has been the recipient of commissions from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Seattle Rep., Dreamworks and the Charles H. Revson Foundation.
Kyle is a graduate of Terre Haute (Ind.) South High School (1983), Indiana State University, and the MFA program in playwriting at Columbia University (1992). A native of Terre Haute, Indiana, he lives in Nyack, New York with his wife and two children [per his undated profile on the Playwrights Horizon website].
Note: His website, christopherkyle.net, is no longer functioning.
1993: JONATHAN LARSON
Jonathan Larson won the 1993 Stanley Drama Award for “Rent.”
Here is a description of the play, and its Stanley Drama Award connection, from the press release for a February 2013 staging by the Wagner College Theatre:
Based loosely on Puccini’s opera, “La Bohème,” “Rent” tells the story of a group of impoverished young musicians struggling to survive in New York’s Lower East Side, under the shadow of AIDS. It is an unforgettable tale of young artists learning to survive, love and find their voice.
Today, Jonathan Larson’s rock opera is a staple of modern musical theater — but 20 years ago, “Rent” was still a work in progress consisting of a developmental script and a few self-recorded songs on a cassette made by the playwright/composer himself.
The idea for “Rent” had been conceived in 1989, but by 1991 Larson was still waiting tables at a SoHo diner to pay the rent on a fifth floor, cold-water Hudson Square walkup he shared with two roommates and a couple of cats.
Fortunately, for him and for us, that’s when Larson somehow heard about the Stanley Drama Award competition, administered by the Wagner College Theatre. He sent his script along with a demo tape to Bill Bly, director of the Stanley … and waited.
“It just jumped right out,” Bly told Staten Island Advance arts editor Michael J. Fressola in 1996. “My impression at the time was that the script needed a little more work, but there was no question [as to whether it was that year’s Stanley Award winner]. It was just so obvious.”
Fressola himself today recalls listening to Larson’s “Rent” cassette in his car late in 1992 as he prepared a story about the Stanley.
“The tape was rough,” Fressola says. “Nothing about it was polished, and at first the concept sounded derivative and unwieldy — but the material proved to be terrific: smart, young, heartfelt, rousing and topical.”
According to Fressola, when Billy Bly told Jonathan Larson he’d won the competition, “a grateful Larson told him that the $2,000 Stanley prize would allow him to avoid taking a ‘straight’ job for a while and buy him the luxury of a little time to work on ‘Rent’.”
A year after “Rent” won the Stanley, it was given a staged reading at the New York Theatre Workshop, followed by a three-week studio production in 1994. A lengthy editing process, in collaboration with producers, readied Larson’s masterpiece for its Off-Broadway debut on Jan. 26, 1996 — a debut the composer did not live to see. Larson died early that very morning in his walkup flat, killed by an undiagnosed heart condition. He was 35.
After moving to Broadway’s Nederlander Theatre later in 1996, “Rent” went on to win every major theatrical award, including the Tony Award for Best Musical.
“As a piece of theatre in the 1990s, ‘Rent’ changed the course of musical history,” said Tony Award-winning actor Michele Pawk, who is directing this month’s Wagner College Theatre production. “For the first time, it brought pop music into the Broadway theatre and told a story.”
Pawk, a Wagner College professor, feels a great connection to the play and the life lessons that Jonathan Larson wrote about.
“I think what is really important is that, even though it is now more of a period piece, the ideas that are written about so beautifully in this play are still important. It’s about love, life and not wasting a second, because ‘you have no day like today’,” Pawk said.
1994: ROBERT ALAN FORD
Robert Alan Ford won the 1994 Stanley Drama Award for “Tierra del Fuego.”
Robert Ford is the co-founder (in 2005) and artistic director (since 2008) of TheatreSquared, “Northwest Arkansas’s only year-round professional theatre,” according to its website, “offering a unique audience experience in an intimate space at Walton Arts Center’s Nadine Baum Studios. In 2011, TheatreSquared was recognized by the American Theatre Wing, founder of the Tony Awards, as one of the nation’s ten most promising emerging theatres.”
Ford also teaches playwriting, screenwriting and acting at the University of Arkansas.
According to his TheatreSquared profile, Bob Ford …
… has helped produce over 50 plays and musicals and facilitated 40 development projects through the Arkansas New Play Festival. Bob has written nine full-length plays, including his first, “Tierra del Fuego,” which won the Stanley Drama Award, following development at the former Mount Sequoyah New Play Retreat in Fayetteville. Most recently T2 premiered his adaptation of “Great Expectations.” Past seasons have included “Fault” (T2), “The Spiritualist” (T2, New Harmony Project, Stages Rep in Houston, where the Houston Press called the play “at once riotously funny, musically engaging, and sweetly complex”), “The Fall of the House” (T2, Alabama Shakespeare Festival — Edgar Award nominee), “Look Away” (T2, Southern Writers Project), “Girl Band in the Men’s Room” (Hollywood Fringe—Best Theatre Award), and “ ’Twas the Night” (T2, published by Playscripts). His play, “My Father’s War” (T2, 2008), has appeared in the U.K., Italy and Germany. For T2 Bob directed “Drawer Boy” and his own adaptation of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Bob’s critically acclaimed first novel, “The Student Conductor,” was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick and a “Hidden Gem” on NPR’s Morning Edition. A professional musician, Bob has been a flutist with both SONA and NASO in Northwest Arkansas. He holds a master of music degree from Yale and MFAs in acting from Rutgers and in playwriting & screenwriting from the Michener Center for Writers, University of Texas at Austin.
Bob Ford resides in Fayetteville, Arkansas, with his wife, actress & director Amy Herzberg, distinguished professor and director of the BA and MFA acting programs at the University of Arkansas.
Visit his website at robertford.info.
1995: NO AWARD ON RECORD
Internal records for the Stanley Drama Award do not show anyone winning the award for 1995.
The Wagner College business office has no record of any prize payout for the Stanley Drama Award in 1995.
A thorough Internet search has found nobody claiming to have won the 1995 Stanley Drama Award.
1996: THOMAS S. HISCHAK
Thomas S. Hischak won the 1996 Stanley Drama Award for “Cold War Comedy.”
Hischak’s publisher, Pioneer Drama Service, has the following profile posted on its website:
Thomas Hischak was born in 1951 in Rochester, New York, and started writing plays when he was 13 years old. He went to high school in Dayton, Ohio, where he was active in theatre and wrote scripts, one of which won a playwriting award when he attended St. Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri.
After graduating with degrees in English and Theatre, Hischak taught high school for three years, writing plays for students his school. He then attended Southern Illinois University where he received a Master of Fine Arts in Playwriting from the Theatre Department and where some of his one act plays were produced.
Hischak’s first play was published in 1977 ….
Professor of Theatre at the State University of New York College at Cortland, Hischak has directed the original productions of many of the plays he has published. He received the Chancellor’s Award for Scholarship and Creative Activity from SUNY in 2003. Hischak is also the author of 17 books on theatre and film, including the prize-winning The American Musical Theatre Song Encyclopedia and The Oxford Companion to Theatre, third edition.
Thomas Hischak lives in Cortland, New York, with his wife and two children.
Another publisher, Dramatic Publishing, has updated Hischak’s biography in its online profile:
Thomas Hischak is an internationally recognized author and teacher in the performing arts and one of the foremost authorities on American musical theatre. He is the author of 42 published plays, which are performed in the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Australia. He is also the author of 27 nonfiction books about theatre, film and popular music … From 1983 to 2015, he was professor of theatre at the State University of New York at Cortland, where he has received such honors as the 2004 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activity and the 2010 SUNY Outstanding Achievement in Research Award. … Hischak is a Fulbright scholar who has taught and directed in Greece, Lithuania and Turkey.
1997: SHEM BITTERMAN
Shem Bitterman won the 1997 Stanley Drama Award for his play, “The Job.”
Bitterman studied acting at New York’s High School of Performing Arts and Juilliard; he earned an MFA in playwriting from the University of Iowa in 1985. He is an incredibly prolific playwright and screenwriter, with numerous films and stage productions to his credit, many of which won awards (including the PEN Award for his play, “Harm’s Way” ) — and many of which were also directed by Bitterman, including both the stage and film versions of “The Job.”
Here is the publisher’s synopsis of the theatrical version of “The Job,” published by Samuel French:
Frank, a down-on-his-luck con artist, is trying to go straight and sober. His hooker girlfriend wants to get married. He applies at an “agency” where a contractor places him in the perfect “job.” When Frank realizes he has been hired to murder an unemployed engineer who wants the insurance money for his family, he panics and subcontracts the hit to his old partner, a slick operator who is now making it as a fire and brimstone evangelist. There are deals, subdeals, and counterdeals, changes of mind and heart. Was Martin really knocked off? Where is the body? Will the Agency take revenge on Frank for a double cross? What really happened in Kansas City?
“The Job” premiered in Los Angeles at the Hudson Guild theater in November 1998; the following June, it was staged at the WPA Theatre in Chelsea with the same cast. Both stagings were well reviewed by theater critics in L.A. and New York — with the exception of John Simon, writing for New York magazine, from whose review we quote for sheer entertainment value:
But for the no less horrendous “After the Rain,” Shem Bitterman’s “The Job” would go unchallenged as the worst production of the lousiest play of this — or perhaps any — season. ... “The Job” requires the patience of Job to sit through.
The film version of “The Job,” directed by Bitterman with a screenplay he adapted from his theatrical script, was released in 2009. It won for best screenplay at the San Diego Film Festival; the only review of the film to be found online is part of a story on the San Diego PBS affiliate’s website about the 2009 festival.
1998: JENNIE STANILOFF REDLING
The 1998 Stanley Drama Award was won by Jennie Staniloff Redling for “Gone Astray.”
The Brett Adams Ltd. Artists’ Agency provides this synopsis of “Gone Astray”:
For nine years, a Caucasian mother steeped in Roman Catholic rituals has insisted that her abducted child is still alive. Since her daughter’s disappearance, she has frozen herself, her husband and their mentally handicapped son in a changeless state. Now, with the missing girl’s twentieth birthday approaching, a young woman of Native American origins appears at the family’s doorstep, a supposed psychic who is persuaded to recover the lost child. Soon racial and cultural beliefs clash as questions are raised about God, ghosts and the rituals we trust to protect us.
In 2016, Pittsburgh’s 12 Peers Theater posted a two-part podcast of a reading of “Gone Astray.”
Raised in Rockland County, N.Y., she lives in Suffern, N.Y., a village adjacent to Mahwah, N.J. She graduated from Nanuet High School in 1964, attended Rockland Community College and earned her BFA in English literature from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 1969.
Currently a counselor with the Center for Safety and Change in Rockland County, serving survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, she was previously a legal writer (2013-18).
She began acting in an amateur theater formed by her mother, and acted in New York into her 30s. She first ventured into playwriting in 1987. She has written a number of plays, short and long, and two unproduced screenplays. Visit her website at jennieredling.com.
1999: JAMES SCULLY, STEVE & ELISE SEyFRIED
The 1999 Stanley Drama Award went to the musical, “Flight,” music by James Scully; book by Steve and Elise Seyfried.
According to the April 19, 1999 issue of Playbill, “Flight” is “a musical based on the life of eccentric millionaire [Howard] Hughes.”
According to steveseyfried.com, “the production received two staged readings in New York City.”
The composer, Jim Scully, is a principal in the Scully Company, a real estate firm in Jenkintown, Pa., founded by his father, James D. Scully Sr. The current president of the company is Scully’s niece, Jessica Scully. See below for a phone interview with Jim Scully about “Flight.”
According to Playbill, “the Seyfrieds have spent the last 19 years writing, producing and acting in their own shows.”
The Seyfrieds have multiple websites about themselves and their theater work. Their individual sites are steveseyfried.com and eliseseyfried.com, which focus mostly on their writing, Elise as an essayist and Steve as a playwright. They have also formed two business enterprises for their theatrical productions, each with its own website: Family Stages Inc., and Rehoboth Summer Children’s Theatre. Their forte is two-person theater using their own custom scripts, some based on fairy tales and folklore, some based on history.
The Seyfrieds met in Atlanta, where they were both active in theater. They married in 1977 and spent a few years performing in dinner theaters around the southeastern U.S. Around 1980 they settled in the Philadelphia area, where they still live. They have five children.
* * * * *
Telephone interview, July 19, 2018, with Jim Scully, composer of “Flight”
I had written music for some years. I was a graduate of the Wharton School, but I had taken music lessons, too, and studied at Bryn Mawr Conservatory of Music.
In the 1980s, a former college roommate who was involved in theater in southern Delaware remarked that “my music sounds very theatrical. Why don’t you write a show? … Write about something you know.” He introduced me to the Seyfrieds.
[Scully was a history buff and had read a lot about Howard Hughes.]
We put together a little demo and entered some contests.
One day Liz Terry from Wagner College called, saying “Flight” was a finalist for the Stanley Drama Award. She ticked off the names of some of the previous winners, and my hand started shaking.
There had been 155 applicants for the Stanley Award that year.
The award program was at the Lambs that year.
[The original idea for “Flight” appears to have been Scully’s, and after the Stanley Award he worked with different collaborators than the Seyfrieds to continue developing it, including “Chicago” associate conductor Scott Cady and Manhattan Musical Theatre Lab co-artistic director Frank Evans, who died in 2017.]
We’ve had three readings of the play at the York Theatre with Jim Morgan. Our first act needs adjusting, but the rest is good. Jim Morgan’s endorsement is very encouraging, and the York Theatre’s forte is developing new musical theater.
[Current collaborators are choreographer/director Jennifer Paulson-Lee and lyricist Douglas J. Cohen.]
[I think he said that Arman Pandola was the new scriptwriter, but I cannot find such a name mentioned anywhere on the Internet … the closest I get is a Philadelphia attorney, Armando Pandola. Scully said that Pandola was “also a winner of the Stanley Award,” but nobody with a name like Pandola has won the Stanley; perhaps Scully meant that Pandola had been a runner-up, though none of the runners up for whom we have records are named anything like Pandola.]
We had retitled it “Howard,” but I’m not sure if that will be retained.
2000: FRANK BASLOE
Frank Basloe won the 2000 Stanley Drama Award for his two one-act plays, collectively titled “Shadow Plays.”
According to the May 13, 2000 issue of Playbill, one of the pieces in “Shadow Plays” was the one-act play, “Waiting,” “which recently finished a return engagement at the Currican Theatre.” “Waiting” played at the Currican from April 27 thru May 14, 2000, and was described as “a drama performed without intermission. The action takes place in a restaurant.”
Brief mention can be found online of several plays by Frank Basloe, but his only play that has drawn much critical interest is “Please Continue,” about the 1960 electric-shock experiments performed by Yale psychology researcher Stanley Milgram — and, for better or worse, none of the critical articles about the play talk about Basloe’s biography or career at all. “Please Continue” played in 2016 at the Ensemble Studio Theatre in Manhattan.
2001: ANN NOBLE (MASSEY)
In 2001, the Stanley Drama Award was won by Ann Noble Massey for her play, “The Pagans.”
Born in 1971 in Norwalk, Conn., Ann Noble grew up on Lake Forest, Ill. She graduated from Northwestern University. In 1998, she married actor Guy Massey. She is best known for her 1995 play, “And Neither Have I Wings to Fly,” set in small-town Ireland in the 1950s.
In an interview published in October 2000 in the Chicago Tribune, about the time she would have submitted “The Pagans” for the Stanley Drama Award, Massey was asked to describe her most humbling experience. She said, “I recently sent a play I was feeling very good about to a contest for new plays, and they wrote back and said it should be a novel, not a play.”
“The Pagans” was staged at Chicago’s Theatre Building by the Seanachai Theatre Company in January 2001.
Justin Hayford reviewed “The Pagans” for the Jan. 25, 2001 issue of the Chicago Reader:
Late in Ann Noble Massey’s contemporary drama, “The Pagans,” Margaret Riordan, the would-be matriarch of an Irish family pulling apart at the seams, finally lights into her haughty, moralizing sister, who's lived off Margaret's charity all her adult life: “You’ll die alone, just as you lived,” unmourned and quickly forgotten, Margaret calmly intones. It’s an uncompromising scene, a devastating climax to two hours of family devolution. But it’s ruined when Massey suddenly brings in village idiot Bobby Quinn simply to show, for the hundredth time, that he’s a lovable moron.
The scene epitomizes everything that’s thrilling and facile in this promising playwright’s new work. While Massey knows how to create highly charged situations — “The Pagans” opens on the night that prodigal son Michael returns to his boyhood home after fleeing to America with the family's entire savings five years earlier — she has a difficult time sustaining tension for longer than ten-minute spurts, usually contained in conveniently arranged two-person showdowns. And too often her choices are so broad they’re unbelievable, nearly cartoonish: Michael flaunts his newly acquired wealth by arriving — at midnight in the middle of the Irish countryside — in a perfectly pressed Armani suit.
While director Kevin Theis too often exaggerates the script’s broadness, he also pushes his cast to find the play’s human truths, resulting in an uneven but ultimately affecting evening.
The Playwrights’ Center, of Minneapolis, provides the following biography of Ann Massey on its website:
Ann Noble began her playwriting career at Northwestern University when her first play, “Two By Four,” was selected for production in the school’s studio season in 1991.
After graduation, she began her professional career by co-founding Seanachai Theatre Company (now known as ITC) in Chicago in order to produce her Irish play, the critically acclaimed “And Neither Have I Wings To Fly.” She went on to have her next three plays produced in Chicago: “The Boarding House” at the Next Theatre and Citadel Theatre, “The Pagans” with ITC, and “Ariadne’s Thread” at the Tony Award-winning Victory Gardens. Her other two plays, “Alighting Home” and “By Moonlight,” received workshops/readings at Victory Gardens, Ashland New Plays Festival with Oregon Shakes and ITC.
In 2003, she moved to Los Angeles, where she wrote four more full-length plays: “Sidhe,” “Little Women” (adapted from Louisa May Alcott’s novel), “Kairos” and “The Second Coming.” In L.A., her plays have been produced or received workshops/readings at the Theatre @ Boston Court, the Odyssey, InterAct, the Road, Antaeus and the Blank.
Her plays have also been produced at the Abingdon in New York City; Bad Habit in Boston; CCT of San Leandro, CA; Shapeshifters of Chicago; Farmington Players in Detroit; the National Theatre in Subotica, Serbia; and the WAAPA in Perth, Australia.
Her playwriting awards include Stanley Drama Award, Susan Smith Blackburn Award Finalist, Joseph Jefferson Award for New Work, Joseph Jefferson Award Nomination for New Work, Ovation Award Nomination, Garland Award, After Dark Award, LA Weekly Award, Mildred & Albert Panowski Award Finalist, Y.E.S. Theatre Fest Semi-Finalist, Route 66 National Play Contest 2nd Runner Up. She was also nominated twice for both ATCA’s Osborn Award and New Play Award.
Her two ten-minute plays, “The Green Zone” and “Philosophy 101,” have both received staged readings in Antaeus Theatre’s Annual Ten-Minute Play Festival, both in 2015 and 2016. She is also the creator/writer of two New Media Series, the award-winning, critically-acclaimed “We Have to Stop Now” (featuring Meredith Baxter & Suzanne Westenhoefer) and “Nurses Who Kill” (featuring Kathryn Joosten, Mariette Hartley, Elaine Hendrix). “We Have To Stop Now Seasons 1 & 2” both went on to become feature films.
For more about Ann Noble, visit her website, annnoble.com.
2002: TIMOTHY JAY SMITH
The 2002 Stanley Drama Award went to Timothy Jay Smith for “How High the Moon.”
Here’s how Smith describes his background in the opening to his bio on his professional website, timothyjaysmith.com:
Raised crisscrossing America pulling a small green trailer behind the family car, Timothy Jay Smith developed a ceaseless wanderlust that has taken him around the world many times. En route, he’s found the characters that people his work. Polish cops and Greek fishermen, mercenaries and arms dealers, child prostitutes and wannabe terrorists, Indian Chiefs and Indian tailors: he’s hung with them all in an unparalleled international career that’s seen him smuggle banned plays from behind the Iron Curtain, maneuver through war zones and occupied territories, represent the U.S. at the highest levels of foreign governments and stow away aboard a “devil’s barge” for a three-day crossing from Cape Verde that landed him in an African jail.
According to his LinkedIn page, Smith attended the University of California at Berkeley from 1969 to 1976, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in anthropology, city planning and economic development. From 1976 to 1997, he says, he worked as an international finance and economic development consultant “in over 40 countries, providing short- and long-term development assistance under contract to such organizations as the World Bank, UN and USAID.” Since 1997, he has been a full-time, self-employed novelist, playwright and screenwriter based in Nice, France.
His 2002 Stanley Drama Award-winning play, “How High the Moon,” was staged at Wagner College’s Stage One studio theater. Here is the synopsis that appears on Smith’s website:
During the Nazi occupation of Warsaw, a Polish youth, Mariusz, is forced to become a hustler to provide for his family. He meets a German soldier, and they fall in love even as the dangers mount for them. In a round-up of suspected homosexuals, they must betray each other to save their own lives.
A half century later, Matthew, a college boy, decides to come out during Gay Pride Week in a redneck Midwestern town. His best friend, Darla, a waitress at a local bar, loves Matthew, and tries to protect him by keeping him away from her homophobic friends. Feeling prideful, Matthew shows up at the bar where she works, and leaves with Darla’s boyfriend and his best friend, half expecting a sexual encounter. Instead, they kill him while struggling to come to grips with the deep secret of their own brutal friendship.
Woven together in a manner similar to “The French Lieutenant’s Woman,” these stories build on each other’s common themes resulting in a highly emotional conclusion.
According to Smith’s website, he is the author of five plays, five screenplays and four novels. It is not clear how many of his plays or screenplays have been produced, if any. Two of his novels have been published and a third is in press, all with small, independent presses.
2003: RICHARD KALINOSKI
In 2003, the Stanley Drama Award was given to Richard Kalinoski for his play, “Skin of a Lawyer.” The play had previously been chosen for the Basement Works playreading festival at Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany, New York, in June 2002. For some reason, “Skin of a Lawyer” is not listed among the nine other plays by Kalinoski shown on his professional website.
The Madison (Wis.) Repertory Theatre, which gave a staged reading of “Skin of a Lawyer” in September 2001, summarized the play this way:
“Skin of a Lawyer” follows Hank Banucci, a lawyer whose encounter with the formerly homeless Mrs. Chitwood forces him to examine his personal and professional life. When this unlikely interloper enters the Banucci household, Mrs. Chitwood adds chaos to an already tumultuous family gathering, and prompts a series of peculiar events. While Hank runs for district attorney, Mrs. Chitwood’s odd behavior highlights the Banuccis’ own strange insecurities as a family unit. As they explore what lies beneath the skin of lawyers and criminals, both Hank and Mrs. Chitwood seek answers about the deaths of loved ones and the unhappy family lives they have constructed.
Born and raised in Racine, Wis., Kalinoski earned his B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and his MFA from Carnegie Mellon University. Since 1998, he has been a member of the theater faculty and resident playwright at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, where he teaches creative drama, playwriting and American theater history and coordinates the annual student playwriting contest.
Kalinoski’s best-known play, “Beasts on the Moon,” won five Moliere Awards in 2001 — considered the French theater’s equivalent of the Tony Awards — most notably for Best Adaptation of a Foreign Play. In 2005, it was produced Off-Broadway at the Century Center, with a favorable review by Ben Brantley in the New York Times.
During the Spring 2014 semester, Kalinoski was artist in residence at Wagner College, where he directed the Stage One production of his play, “My Soldiers.”
You can read more about Richard Kalinoski’s work on his professional website, richardkalinoski.com.
2004: JOSEPH A. ZAITCHIK
The 2004 Stanley Drama Award went to Joseph A. Zaitchik for his play, “Be Our Joys.” At the time, the playwright was 80 years old. According to his son, Alex, Joe Zaitchik said, “They told me the competition was for aspiring playwrights, but my hearing is not so good, and I thought they said expiring playwrights.”
A June 2004 press release from U. Mass. Lowell said,
Prof. Joe Zaitchik of UMass Lowell’s Department of English traveled to the Lambs Club in New York City on April 12 to receive the 2004 Stanley Drama Award for his new play, ‘Be Our Joys.’ The play is the fifth for the Wayland resident who just began playwriting three years ago. …
Zaitchik describes the play, which takes its name from the Robert Browning poem, “Rabbi Ben Ezra,” as a comedy with a very serious theme. The three-act play revolves around three characters. T.V. personality Anthony Satchel is a Jerry Springer-type at the height of his popularity. Mary Byrd was Anthony’s college lover who he abandoned when she became pregnant 18 years earlier. Mary sought solace living as a lay Carmelite, but reappears when she realizes what Anthony has become. She and her disabled son Antonio come to see Anthony to encourage him to reject his life of coarseness and vulgarity.
Mary’s Carmelite background allowed Zaitchik to explore an area of particular interest to him ─ asceticism, or the rejection of physical pleasures.
“I’m very much interested in mysticism. This play is based on the philosophical question of why good people suffer so much,” says Zaitchik.
It was his youngest son Daniel, himself a professional actor, who got Zaitchik thinking about playwriting. Over the years, the self-described “dabbler” has published poems, short stories, academic articles and textbooks, but had not written a play.
“Once Daniel started acting in New York, I started seeing a lot of plays,” says Zaitchik. “I found myself critiquing what I saw and decided I should give it a try. I got bit by a bug. It’s exhausting, but I love it.”
Despite the accolades for “Be Our Joys,” none of his plays has been published.
“My career as a playwright has been less than moderately successful,” says Zaitchik.
Of course, with plays, publishing is somewhat less critical than having them produced for the stage, and Zaitchik’s award-winning play has received interest from numerous theatres. The American Theatre of Actors, an amateur company in New York, will present four showcase performances of “Be Our Joys” in June.
Zaitchik feels strongly that receiving the Stanley award will open doors for him in the theatre world.
“The competition was very keen. I think it may help me get an agent. And that’s what you need to get the right people looking at your work,” says Zaitchik.
Zaitchik, who has been at UMass Lowell since 1965, teaches 19th century American literature and Human Values courses, which are interdisciplinary. He says he plans to continue teaching another year or two, or ten. He’s in no rush to leave teaching.
Joseph Zaitchik was born on Sept. 16, 1924 in Belarus. His extraordinary obituary was published in the Lowell (Mass.) Sun:
Teacher and patriarch, writer, thinker, scholar, religious leader, and music lover, Joseph Zaitchik died on July 18, 2012. He lived a full and productive life. Beloved in the community, he enjoyed sharing a good joke, a hand of Texas Hold ’em with friends, and leading sing-alongs with his extended family. He relished all of this, living Emerson’s philosophy of self-reliance and Thoreau’s advice to “beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.”
In 1928, at age four, he arrived in America from what is now Minsk, Belarus. His father, Maier, a revered rabbinical scholar, had escaped his own scheduled execution, helped by his congregation to flee the violence that followed the Communist Revolution. From his early childhood, Joe understood human darkness and the face of tyranny, but he never surrendered to that darkness, or ceased his argument with tyranny. Throughout his life he retained a cheerful disposition, a hopefulness in the face of experience.
He graduated from Yeshiva High School in New York at 16 and began studies at Yeshiva University. But not inclined to any kind of orthodoxy, he soon left for California to experience a more secular life and the wide-open possibilities of America. When he returned to Boston, he married, and while studying at Suffolk University, supported his growing family as a janitor, Hebrew School teacher, and writer.
In 1954, after graduating from Suffolk with a degree in English, he began graduate work at Boston University. During this time he became the religious leader at Temple Judea in Stoneham. Emerson was his hero, and he melded Transcendentalism with his own interpretation of Judaism. He spoke movingly of spiritual life in ways that illuminated and comforted his congregants. He was deeply loved. During this period, he also served on the local Council of Churches, where he was a Civil Rights organizer and spoke out strongly against the Vietnam War. Later he was active in Temple Shir Tikva in Wayland, where he taught an entire generation of adults Hebrew and prepared them for adult Bar and Bat Mitzvah. After receiving his Doctorate from Boston University in 1965, he began a 45-year career at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. During the campus unrest in the late sixties, he was widely praised as the buffer who prevented violence and chaos at Lowell. An inspiring teacher, he developed a curriculum in Human Values in Western Culture that led to a textbook used at a number of universities. He retired in 2007, but continued to teach a course through 2011 that drew more students than there were seats available.
As he aged, he was fond of quoting Robert Browning’s poem, “Rabbi Ben Ezra”: “Grow old along with me / The best is yet to be.” And it was. In his sixties, he produced two textbooks, including one co-written with his wife Holly that explored cultural anthropology and assimilation in America. In 2004, his play, “Be Our Joys,” won the Stanley Drama Award and was produced at the American Theatre of Actors in New York City. In 2012 his novel, “The Fitting,” was highly praised as important, serious fiction. At the time of his death, he was revising a collection of short stories he had written over the past sixty years.
A master of self-deprecating humor, skeptical today about what he passionately believed yesterday, wary of certainties, he engaged in an ongoing journey of becoming. It is a journey he has shared with-and that will be continued by-his family, his friends and colleagues, and the thousands of students he taught over the years. In life and in his writing, Joe quoted Marcus Aurelius: “Pass then through this little space of time comfortably in nature, and end your journey in content, just as an olive falls off when it is ripe, blessing nature who produced it, and thanking the tree on which it grew.”
Joseph Zaitchik’s first novel, “The Fitting,” was published by Florida Academic Press in 2011, when the author was 87 years old — just nine months before his death. He had started writing “The Fitting” in the 1950s.
2005: DYLAN BRODY
The 2005 Stanley Drama Award went to Dylan Brody for his play, “Mother, May I.”
Dylan Brody is a standup comedian, author and playwright. Born in 1964, he graduated from Northfield Mount Hermon School, a private prep school in Mount Hermon, Mass., and Sarah Lawrence College. At this writing, he lives in Los Angeles with his wife.
Brody has performed in several cable TV specials and standup programs, produced a series of audio CDs of his comic stories, written one adult and two young-adult novels, and written one screenplay.
2006: RICHARD AELLEN
The 2006 Stanley Drama Award went to Richard Aellen for his play, “Farmers of Men.”
Aellen is a playwright and novelist who studied English at Santa Monica College and theater, film and creative writing at Hunter College and Columbia University.
From 1986 to 1993, Aellen wrote five suspense novels.
In 1983, he won the playwriting competition of Northern Michigan University’s Forest Roberts Theatre for his play, “Forgotten Verdict.”
“Square One” (1985), a one-act comedy, was performed at a festival of one-act comedies in the Intar Theater in New York City as part of the Manhattan Punch Line Festival but did not generate much excitement. Other plays include “Right to Remain Silent” (Actors Repertory Theater, New York), “Water Quench Fire” (Wichita State University) and “Surprise Visit” (Proudly Presents Productions, Pittsburgh).
Following “Farmers of Men,” Aellen wrote “Nobody” in 2006, which premiered in 2008 at the Southern Writers’ Project Festival of New Plays, presented by the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, to critical acclaim. Revised after comments by audience and critics, a reading of the play with the addition of music was restaged in 2009. The play examines racism in the United States of the early twentieth century, portraying Bert Williams and George Walker, two African-American vaudeville performers. The reading was praised by audience and critics.
About ‘Farmers of Men’
The play is loosely based on the life of Cesar Chavez, founder of the United Farm Workers union; politics is the backdrop rather than center stage.
A glimpse of Chavez in 1943 would find a teenager drinking beer with his buddies and yahooing the girls. Twenty years later, the buddies are still drinking beer, but Chavez is in a monastery engaged in a spiritual fast with hundreds of people outside praying for him as he receives telegrams from Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. Some mysterious alchemy has transformed Chavez from a pachuco to the leader of a social revolution.
That image of an isolated man gives us the first image of the play: Chavez as a statue, the embodiment of what he never wanted to be — an icon, a hero, an object of adoration … in short, a symbol. The play takes place as a flashback, touching on key turning points, personal as well as political. The cost of success is high, with much of it borne by his wife, Helen Chavez, and his best friend, Ray Vasquez.
2006 finalist: ‘Hollywoodland,’ a musical with book and lyrics by Alex Wexler and music by Bill Parsley.
2006 finalist: ‘Plans and Peccadilloes,’ a play by Maria Rokas.
2007: PETER SNOAD
The 2007 Stanley Drama Award was given to Peter Snoad for his play, “Guided Tour.”
Finalists for the 2007 Stanley Award were Nancy Geyer for “Versus” and Ruth McKee for “The Nightshade Family.” (McKee won the 2008 Stanley Award for “Stray.”)
About the winner
Peter Snoad’s “Guided Tour” (2006) is the story of Joe Bell, a celebrity of sorts — once a popular tour guide at Elmwood Hall, a famous Gilded Age mansion in Rhode Island. But for the last 14 years, Joe has been in jail. The African-American guide, known for his encyclopedic knowledge and folksy charm, was convicted of burning down the historic mansion he once so proudly showed to visitors. Susanna Hatch, a young law student, is convinced Joe was framed by the FBI as part of its campaign against black militants in the turbulent civil-rights era. Their discussions take Susanna and Joe on a tortuous journey across the rocky terrain of love, loyalty and cultural identity.
“Guided Tour” was given its first staged reading last year by the Hinton Battle Theater Laboratory at the Abingdon Theater, New York. The play won Centre Stage South Carolina’s 2006 New Play Contest, where it will be staged in June.
Peter Snoad is also the author of “Rosa,” a dramatic comedy about the “war on terror,” premiered by the Alarm Clock Theater at the Boston Center for the Arts. Among Snoad’s short plays are “Entitled” (staged at the American Globe Theater and Turnip Theater, New York), “Resistance” (Pittsburgh Playwrights Theater), “My Name Is Art” (Devanaughn Theater, Boston) and “A Fresh Start” (Devanaughn Theater).
A resident of Boston, Snoad characterizes himself as “a recovering actor.” Born in 1949, he has written professionally for nonprofit organizations and the news media for over 30 years. Snoad is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America, the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
About the finalists
Nancy Geyer (Houston, Texas), “Versus” — Nancy Geyer is a teacher, playwright, and novelist whose published works are “Flying South” (Charles Scribner’s Sons) and “Frailties” (Little, Brown and Company). Three of her plays have won national competitions. She has taught English at the University of Houston.
Ruth McKee (West Hollywood, California), “The Nightshade Family” — Ruth McKee is a Canadian playwright now living in West Hollywood by way of New York and San Diego. A graduate of NYU's Dramatic Writing Program, her plays have been produced or read in New York, Chicago, Ottawa, Bangladesh and Kenya. McKee is also the author of numerous short stories, two coloring books and a short animated film.
2008: RUTH McKEE
The 2008 Stanley Drama Award went to Ruth McKee of Los Angeles for her play, “Stray,” which received a staged reading that fall in the Stage One studio theater.
Finalists were Suzanne Bradbeer, “The House that Jack Built,” and Rita Gurtler, “Mrs. Pat.”
Ruth McKee’s professional website, ruthmckee.wordpress.com, provides the following profile:
Born in Ottawa, Canada in 1977, Ruth became a writer at the age of 13 when her father got a job with Unicef and moved her family to Dhaka, Bangladesh. Ruth survived her years in Dhaka by writing letters, short stories, and eventually found her way to writing plays.
From Bangladesh, Ruth moved with her parents to Kenya, where she wrote a few more plays before graduating from the International School of Kenya and moving to New York to study dramatic writing at NYU.
After college, Ruth stayed in New York, writing plays and fiction and working all kinds of odd jobs in the theater. This eventually led her to a position as literary manager and education coordinator for Young Playwrights Inc., where she had no option but to figure out how to teach writing — and fast.
Exhausted from 8 long years in New York, in 2003 Ruth moved to California to get her MFA in playwriting at UC San Diego, dragging her boyfriend Brian K. Vaughan along with her. A year later they were married, and from San Diego Ruth followed Brian to Los Angeles, where they collected two children and a wiener dog named Hamburger.
In Los Angeles, Ruth helped to found the Ovation Award-winning company, Chalk Repertory Theatre. She was a founding member of the Los Angeles Playwrights Union and taught playwriting and screenwriting at Cypress College, UC San Diego and the California Summer School of the Arts. She also continued to write plays for Chalk and other companies around the country.
In 2014, she accepted a position as visiting assistant professor of playwriting at Indiana University and made her whole crew drive cross-country for a year-long Midwestern adventure. It was an invigorating year, but not a permanent spot for the family, so in 2015 they returned to Los Angeles, where she has taken over a co-artistic producing director position with Chalk.
The playwright’s website provides the following synopsis for “Stray”:
Well-educated, middle-class couple James and Rachel have moved back to America from Uganda with their traumatized adopted son in hopes of providing him with a better life. Instead, Daniel is threatened with expulsion from school for his violent behavior. As his behavior becomes increasingly dangerous, Daniel's rocky progress is revealed through the eyes of the adults who are responsible for him — his levelheaded principal, his apprehensive teacher, and his sympathetic counselor — and James and Rachel are forced to grapple with the backlash of their choices.
Produced by Chalk Rep and the Black Dahlia Theatre, fall 2009; Cherry Lane Theatre, Mentor Project, March 2010. Winner of the 2008 Stanley Drama Award. Readings at: Black Dahlia Theatre, Ensemble Studio Theatre NY, Wagner College, Cultural Conversations at Penn State University, Abingdon Theatre NY.
In addition to “Stray” and her 2007 Stanley Award runner-up play, “The Nightshade Family,” McKee’s website lists six full-length plays and nine short plays.
2009: SAM WALLIN
The 2009 Stanley Drama Award went to Sam Wallin of Vancouver, Washington, for his mystery drama, “Memory Fragments.”
About Sam Wallin
Sam Wallin has been writing plays of all shapes and sizes for over 10 years and has had his short plays produced several times around the United States.
In 1998, Sam founded 23Productions in Portland, Oregon, which produced nine shows in three years, among them several of Sam’s own plays.
Life, work and family intervened, and Sam took a short break from writing and directing plays until 2008, when Sam signed up for Script Frenzy, which challenges playwrights to write a full-length play in one month. The result of that month of frenzy was an early draft of “Memory Fragments.” Once more entranced by the world of the stage, Sam began work on other new plays with renewed vigor.
When he isn’t writing, Sam Wallin is a librarian, a family man and the One-Minute Critic. As the One-Minute Critic, Sam records himself and others giving short book reviews, then posts them online. You can view these videos (over 250 of them at this point) at youtube.com/user/CrashSolo.
Wallin earned his B.A. in theater from Western Washington University in 1997 and a master’s degree in library science from Emporia State University in 2006. He works as a librarian for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District in Vancouver, Washington.
Synopsis of ‘Memory Fragments’
In the future, recording memories in 3-D may be as easy as recording video is today. In most cases, these memories will hold little interest to others — but when there’s a murder, the memories of the deceased will be the first place the police will look for clues.
Detective James Cloud is something of a specialist when it comes to reviewing 3-D memories, so when a headless John Doe washes up on the shore of the local river, he’s called in to crack the case.
As Detective Cloud digs through broken memories, examines recordings of psychiatric sessions, and interviews witnesses in virtual offices, he begins to realize that the death of his John Doe is the tip of a very large iceberg. In “Memory Fragments,” no one is who they appear to be, and uncovering the truth might cost more than Cloud’s corporate assets are worth.
“Memory Fragments” is a fast-paced mystery that toys with the deeper relationships between memory, evidence, theater and life, and asks the question: Without your memory, what evidence is there that you exist at all?
Other plays by Sam Wallin
“Robbed” — A 10-minute, one-man show with multimedia elements. In “Robbed,” Sean returns home after work one night to discover that his ex-lover Bill has committed suicide. Based on a true story. (Produced in Portland, Oregon, 2008)
“Rope” — A 10-minute, one man show with multimedia elements. In “Rope,” a ranting lunatic explores and articulates the state of the modern world while dangling at the end of a rope. (Produced in Portland, Oregon, 2008)
“Stumped” — A one-act dark comedy. In “Stumped,” a woman goes to the extreme to please her lover, going so far as to cut off her own arms — the ultimate act of personal beauty enhancement. But when he tries to prove his love to her in the same way, she loses interest and looks for someone new. (Produced in Portland, Oregon, 2000)
“Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing” — A one-act dark comedy. When the sheepish Shep meets Annabelle he thinks his life is going to be perfect. Then Jack appears to steal Annabelle away with his stylish looks and wolfish behavior. Shep tries everything to get the girl back, but has he lost himself in the process? (Produced: ACTF, Pasco, Wash., 1998; Portland, Oregon, 1999)
“The Short, Happy Life of Bernd Wilhelm Heinrich von Kliest” — A 10-minute comedy. A 10-year-old girl acts out the tragic life of playwright Heinrich von Kliest for her 5th grade class with the help of a friend. (Produced: ACTF, La Grande, Oregon, 1997; ATHE, Chicago, 1998; Portland, Oregon, 2000)
2010: RICHARD MARTIN HIRSCH
The 2010 Stanley Drama Award went to Richard Martin Hirsch of Pacific Palisades, Calif., for his play, “The Restoration of Sight.”
About Richard Martin Hirsch
Hirsch has written for many years, but only began writing full-time in 2005. The following is from his 2018 LinkedIn page:
I am a writer of screenplays and plays for the stage, as well as a producer/principal of CoffeeHouse Productions LLC.
As a screenwriter, I was awarded first prize in the 2004 Fade-In Screenwriting Competition (Drama) for “The Hobbyist” and have been a two-time semi-finalist (“The Mary Incident” and “Strange Luck”) as well as two-time quarter-finalist (“The Hobbyist” and “Cut”) in various Nicholl Fellowship Competitions, and also a finalist for the Diane Thomas Screenwriting Award for “Russell’s Luck.”
In October, 2013 my screenplay, a romantic dramedy titled “Leah, Light and Sound,” featuring a lead role for a female protagonist, was named a winner in the 2013 New England Women in Film and Video Annual Screenwriting Competition, as well as a finalist in the World Series of Screenwriting and Semi-Finalist/Honorable Mention in several other screenwriting competitions.
My short film screenplay, “Fast, Light and Brilliant,” is being co-produced by Room 568 Productions and CoffeeHouse Production LLC and began the first phase of filming, with me also directing, in Fall 2013.
For the majority of the past decade I have been a full-time playwright, having written over four dozen plays (including both full-length and short plays) and had over two dozen of them produced around the country. During that time I have been fortunate enough to win a number of awards for playwriting, including the 2010 Stanley Drama Award for “The Restoration of Sight.” I have also been twice nominated for an Ovation Award for Playwriting (“The Quality of Light” and “The Concept Of Remainders”), as well as twice nominated for an LA Weekly Theatre Award for playwriting (“The Concept of Remainders” and “Atonement”).
Hirsch earned his B.A. in economics and literature from the University of California Los Angeles. He is also a graduate of the UCLA Writers Program.
About ‘The Restoration of Sight’
The pursuit of scientific innovation can often exact a huge psychic cost on the innovators. To fully appreciate the accomplishment, it sometimes becomes necessary for us to examine the emotional journey of those involved. “The Restoration of Sight” follows the path of world-renowned ophthalmologist Dr. Perry Rosenthal and his development of the remarkable Boston Scleral lens, which is able to miraculously reverse certain forms of corneal disease and blindness.
Despite his significant professional accomplishments and the fact that he is considered by many of his patients a “man of miracles,” Dr. Rosenthal has always been one to view the glass as being half empty. This self-imposed psychic handicap has not only affected his personal relationships throughout his life, it has also caused him at times to question the value of his own existence. “The Restoration of Sight,” then, also acts as a kind of lens, opening a theatrical window to the doctor’s interactions with patients, colleagues, and skeptics from the health insurance industry. The play explores Rosenthal’s dramatic struggle to find his faith and fully comprehend and accept the magnitude of the gift he has provided to the world.
2011: PHILIP GERSON
The 2011 Stanley Drama Award went to Philip Gerson for his play, “Eyes Forward.” Gerson makes his home in both New York and Los Angeles.
Two finalists in the 2011 competition were also announced: Carl L. Williams of Houston, Texas for “A Woman on the Cusp,” and Paul Hoan Zeidler of Los Angeles for “NudeNaked.”
All text below comes from the 2011 Stanley Drama Award press release.
About ‘Eyes Forward’
A valuable painting stolen by the Nazis during WWII forms the background for two extraordinary love stories — seven decades apart — in “Eyes Forward.”
When Samuel takes his widowed father Otto to Germany to try to claim a portrait of Otto’s mother, the young American finds himself unwillingly drawn to Wilda, who was given the painting by her beloved grandfather. Samuel is also pulled into a powerful mystery: Did Wilda’s grandfather actually purchase the painting from Otto’s parents, or was the sale forced by the Nazis? What was the fate of the painting’s artist, who disappeared in the Holocaust? And what is the truth behind the life-long love affair between the artist and the subject of his portrait, Samuel’s grandmother? As Samuel struggles to discover the answers to these and other questions, he begins to wonder if they lie locked in the memory of the now elderly Otto, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease — or is Otto simply unwilling to remember what really happened all those years ago?
“Eyes Forward” is about the need for human connection in the present, and to the past. It is a story of love and reconciliation, and of the healing power of art.
About Philip Gerson
Philip Gerson writes for the stage, television and film. His Stanley Award-winning play “Eyes Forward” received staged readings at the Berkshire Playwrights Lab in Great Barrington, Mass., the Road Theatre in Los Angeles, the Actors Studio in New York and the Amphibian Theatre in Ft. Worth, Texas. Another play, “This Isn’t What it Looks Like,” had workshops at the Gallery Players in Brooklyn and the Telluride Playwrights Festival in Colorado in 2010. “The Last Laugh,” a farce about the French playwright Georges Feydeau, had its first reading at the Lark in New York in 2011.
Other work by Philip Gerson written for the stage includes the plays “Jumping Blind” (N.Y. Gayfest), “Night” (N.Y. International Fringe Festival), the book for the musical, “The Last Metro,” based on the Francois Truffaut film (Musical Theatre Works in New York; Colony Theatre in Los Angeles), and the books for the musical parodies “Fiddler on the West Hollywood Roof” and “West Hollywood Gypsy,” which were produced by Charity Parody Productions in Los Angeles to benefit AIDS charities with the permission of the original authors.
Gerson’s extensive television work includes two of the most popular series in TV history: “Murder, She Wrote” (for which he was story editor), and “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” (for which he was executive co-producer). Other series for which he has written include “Cover Me” (for which he also served as executive co-producer); “Legacy” (executive co-producer); “Christy” (executive story editor); “Columbo,” and “Mysterious Ways.” He wrote the TV movie, “A change of Seasons,” as well as screenplays for several studios and pilots for several networks. His original pilot, “R & D,” was published by the Writers’ Guild of America’s “Written By” magazine as one of the six Best Unproduced Sci-Fi Scripts.
Gerson is the recipient of the Film Advisory Board Award, the Prism Award from the Entertainment Industry Council, and the Dialogue Award from the Institute for Mental Health.
Finalist: ‘A Woman on the Cusp,’ by Carl L. Williams
A mentally unstable woman, tormented by a childhood trauma, attempts to write her memoirs at her brother’s insistence as a form of therapy. But the ghost writer brought in to help her is actually a psychiatrist, hired to certify her as insane so her brother can have her committed to a mental institution and gain control of their dying father’s financial empire. The brother calls in a family friend to reinforce his accusations of insanity, but the friend’s allegiances are unclear. The psychiatrist faces an ethical dilemma as he tries to discover the nature of the woman’s trauma while holding off her brother’s impatient demands that he finish the job.
Carl L. Williams is a Houston, Texas playwright who has had 30 full-length and one-act plays produced since 1998, often as the result of winning competitions. One of those earlier plays, “Under a Cowboy Moon,” was a Stanley Drama Award competition finalist in 2004; it was later produced Off Off Broadway at the Lodestar Theatre in 2007. Williams is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America.
Finalist: “Nude Naked,” by Paul Hoan Zeidler
Bennett Duquesne, a controversial Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, arrives home late and discovers one of his graduate students has been shot and seriously wounded in his living room. The police have taken his daughter, Addy, in for questioning. Addy’s boyfriend, a disreputable trust-fund baby, fired the gun, but Addy refuses to give a statement about the events of that evening. The men had been arguing over the origin of a Duquesne photograph that Addy had modeled for in her teens.
Addy is Duquesne’s creative partner, artistic confidant and his muse; although she’s now 23, she’s been modeling nude in his photos since she was six. They’ve used the events of their lives to inspire his photography for so long that neither understands how unique, fragile and entangling their relationship is. And, over the course of the play, they begin creating photos that investigate fear, pain, guilt and guns.
A media hurricane thunders to life around them, but Duquesne ignores it, putting his faith in his artistic reputation and the quality of his work. As their lives and the photos spin into a destructive cause célèbre, their attorney suggests Duquesne and Addy agree to an interview with an influential arts and culture magazine. Duquesne relents, believing it will force the media to respect his artistic bona fides and drop their obsessive coverage. But Harper’s, Esquire and 60 Minutes are no longer the major institutions on this cultural landscape — Drudge Report, TMZ and E! are.
Paul Hoan Zeidler is the pen name of Paul Michels, who realized he needed a pen name when someone else named Paul Michels already had scripts registered with the Writers Guild of America, and the L.A. County Coroner asked him to come downtown to pick up the remains of the deceased. A Milwaukee native, Zeidler moved out to Los Angeles to attend graduate school at the University of Southern California. He graduated from the USC Professional Writing Program, where he studied with Hubert Selby Jr. (“Last Exit to Brooklyn”), John Rechy (“City of Night”), Paul Zindel (“The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds”) and Jerome Lawrence (“Inherit the Wind”). Zeidler remembers Lawrence preaching something he called the Eleventh Commandment, “Thou shalt not commit television on a theater stage,” which he has taken to heart ever since. Zeidler directed his previous full-length play, “Time’s Scream and Hurry,” in two Los Angeles productions in 2008 before taking it to the New York International Fringe Festival in 2009 for a successful run at the Cherry Lane Theatre. Los Angeles stagings of his shorter works include “The Enchanter Disappears,” with the Jerome Lawrence Quintet, and “Your Mind Breathes Water,” with the Elephant Theatre Company. Zeidler is currently working on two new plays, “Woof-Woof” and “(Bounce) Like You Want It,” and trying to decide if another piece, “Jericho,” is a play or a novel. Zeidler is the founder and artistic director of Sewer Socialist Productions.
2012: KAREN L. LEWIS
The Wagner College Theatre named Karen L. Lewis, a multiple Emmy and Writers Guild award-winning television writer, the winner of the 2012 Stanley Drama Award for her play, “The Perfect Wife.”
Lewis makes her home in Saranac Lake, N.Y. and New York City.
Two finalists in the 2012 competition were also announced: Stephen Wylie for “Cages in Space,” and Richard Manley for “Life is Mostly Straws.”
All text below comes from the 2012 Stanley Drama Award press release.
Winner’s synopsis: Karen L. Lewis’s ‘The Perfect Wife’
To what lengths would you go to preserve a love based on delusion?
Paul and “Natalie” appear to share an ideal May/December marriage until Paul’s daughter, Sarah, unmasks their relationship as a sham. “Natalie” is actually Paul’s other daughter, Kathy, cast in the role of Paul’s wife by his worsening dementia.
Kathy has managed to avoid sharing Paul’s bed. But when Sarah’s attempt to drive a wedge between them backfires, Kathy is forced to make a choice that preserves his dignity and his illusion of her as the perfect wife.
Karen L. Lewis began her creative life as an actress, becoming a playwright at the suggestion of pen pal Ginger Rogers.
She won the Mary Roberts Rinehart Grant, currently administered by the Graduate Creative Writing Program at George Mason University, to complete a work-in-progress, “Ezili.” Lewis’s play, “Behind a Mask; or, A Woman’s Face,” based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott, was staged Off Off Broadway at Jean Erdman and Joseph Campbell’s Theater of the Open Eye in 1983. More recently, her Stanley Award-winning play, “The Perfect Wife,” was also selected as a semi-finalist for the Eugene O’Neill Theatre’s National Playwrights Conference.
“A stretch of employment writing for soap operas [including “All My Children” and “As the World Turns”] brought me five Emmys and three Writers Guild Awards,” Lewis says. “None of these means as much to me as winning the Stanley Drama Award for ‘The Perfect Wife’.”
Finalist’s synopsis: Stephen Wylie’s ‘Cages in Space’
After years away trying to make it as a rock musician, Tyke returns home in search of a more settled life. He’s determined to leave his failed music career behind and especially to forget Monica, his quixotic, unstable ex-girlfriend and the singer he’s been involved with for many years. When Monica tracks him down to rekindle their relationship, she surrenders her wild side. But it doesn’t take long before old habits resurface and Tyke’s aspirations for happiness are tested. Set in a dying mill town where the main employer is the state prison and inspiration comes through the ether of talk radio, “Cages in Space” asks if it’s possible to find contentment by returning to your roots.
Stephen Wylie was born in 1957 in Pittsburgh, Pa., and has lived in New York City since 1982. His play, “Rude Times,” was produced Off Broadway at the American Place Theatre and regionally at the Chocolate Bayou Theater Company in Houston. His play, “Skaters,” was produced at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco. Wylie is the winner of the Norman Lear Comedy Award and has participated in developmental programs at the Preston Jones New Plays Symposium, the Shenandoah International Playwrights Retreat and the Yellow Springs Fellowship for the Arts. He holds an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa’s Playwrights Workshop and a B.A. from Allegheny College.
Finalist’s synopsis: Richard Manley’s ‘Life is Mostly Straws’
David and Noah are brothers who shared a troubled childhood, during which they relied upon each other for survival. As adults, David went into business and made a great deal of money; Noah chose academia, becoming a professor of literature and a published poet.
Although successful by all outward signs and still very close, the fear and self-doubt of their early days lie just beneath the surface of their apparent confidence. They have made words their weapon of choice, and “Life is Mostly Straws” is a literate play, where one character uses language like a scalpel while the other wields it like a bludgeon, but each understands its power.
The event on which the drama turns is David’s chance discovery and misinterpretation of love poems that his wife Joanna has written, which he finds while alone in Noah’s apartment. Random coincidence fuels imagined fears, which escalate quickly into a confrontation that threatens to destroy everything the brothers consider sacred.
“Betrayal trumps pity,” David says early on in the first act to justify a financial retaliation. Noah repeats the line back to David at the end of the play as the deepest insecurities of each rise from shallow graves to attack.
Richard Manley lives in New York City. After two decades of success as a copywriter and advertising executive, Richard Manley started a second career writing stage plays, which he has been doing full time since 2008. Pulling from many years’ worth of personal journals, he rediscovered his passion for the sound of the language and its potential to entertain, provoke and inspire. When he returned to the States from a sabbatical in Paris in 2008, he sold his business and structured a lifestyle that would allow him to write stage plays full time. In addition to “Straws,” Manley’s recent output includes:
- “Quietus,” scheduled for a rehearsed in February 2012 by the Playwrights and Directors Unit of the Actors Studio
- “This Rough Magic,” workshopped in November 2011 by New York’s Colt Coeur Studio
- “Apparently Not,” a 10-minute play that was part of the 2011 “Scenes from the Staten Island Ferry,” staged by the Staten Island’s Sundog Theatre
- “Matches,” staged in January 2009 at the Oglebay Institute’s Towngate Theatre in Wheeling, W.Va.
2013: BRIAN MULHOLLAND
The Wagner College Theatre has named Brian Mulholland the winner of the 2013 Stanley Drama Award for his play, “The Return of Tartuffe.”
Two finalists in the 2013 competition were also announced: Rob Winn Anderson for “The Tenth Son,” and Harold Ellis Clark for “Tour Detour.”
The text below comes from the 2013 Stanley Drama Award press release.
2013 Stanley Drama Award winner
Brian Mulholland’s ‘The Return of Tartuffe’
He’s returned — that 17th century con man whose delicious comic villainy has made him an audience favorite for over 300 years. In this sequel to Molière’s comedy — written, like the original, in rhyming couplets — Tartuffe finds himself exiled to the American colonies, where he meets the target for his next swindle, the eminent author and theologian, Cotton Mather. Tartuffe’s arrival coincides with the debate raging over the controversial concept of inoculation — a debate that Mather, a fierce proponent of the idea, is losing. With one of his typical tall tales, Tartuffe swings the debate in Cotton’s favor, thus ingratiating himself and setting up Cotton as his mark.
Tartuffe also devises a unique seduction based on “inoculation theory,” while a family debate brews over the honesty of his intentions. Traps are planned — and countered; tables are turned — and countered — and finally, turned again. Will Tartuffe’s new and improved flim-flams carry the day? Has the great exploiter of over-piousness found his feeding ground in the heart of the Puritan experiment? Or will “righteousness” prevail? This comic romp will have you guessing right up to the end.
Playwright Brian Mulholland, a Rhode Island native, now lives in Cincinnati. “The Return of Tartuffe” is his first play. Mulholland’s previous theatrical experience has been as an actor. He has appeared in leading roles at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Montana Rep, Southwest Shakespeare Festival, Dartmouth Summer Repertory and Seattle’s Palace and Cirque theaters, among others.
2013 Stanley Drama Award finalist
Rob Winn Anderson’s ‘The Tenth Son’
It is the summer of 1722. The heat of the day pales in comparison to the turbulent relationship 16-year old Benjamin Franklin has with his older brother, James, and the intense passion he has found in the arms of a somewhat older Mary Beekman.
When James attempts to restrain what he considers Ben’s growing arrogance, Ben challenges him, with Mary’s help. In so doing, Ben becomes embroiled in a battle of medicine, religion and political manipulations. He must rely on all of his instincts to stealthily maneuver his way onto the pages of James’ newspaper, The New England Courant, stand toe-to-toe with an influential Puritan minister and outwit two men determined to stir the pot and control not only the paper but Boston as well.
Fall arrives, and with it comes a glimpse into the man Benjamin Franklin is destined to become. As his life is turned upside down, Ben discovers that silence is no longer an effective tool, and that in order to have a voice you must use your voice.
“The Tenth Son” also won the 2012 Brian Christopher Wolk Award from Manhattan’s Abingdon Theatre.
Playwright Rob Winn Anderson, of Orlando, Fla., is also a freelance director and choreographer. In addition to his writing and directing for the stage, he is a noted theme park director for such clients as Walt Disney World, Busch Gardens and Sea World. Upcoming productions of his award-winning work include “A Tennessee Walk” at the Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre and Jacksonville State University, and “A Fine Line” at the Clockwise Theatre. Other award-winning plays by Anderson include “The Locker” and “Broad Strokes.” Anderson was a resident playwright at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in October 2003 under Master Artist Eric Bogosian. Anderson is also an alumnus of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab, the Kennedy Center Playwriting Intensive, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and the Great Plains Theatre Conference.
2013 Stanley Drama Award finalist
Harold Ellis Clark’s ‘Tour Detour’
Set four months before the 2008 U.S. presidential election, a son, just prior to embarking on his fourth tour of duty in Afghanistan, visits his father, who’s serving a life sentence at a Central Louisiana prison. They haven’t seen each other in twenty-six years.
Playwright Harold Ellis Clark of Gretna, La., began writing plays in 2010 at the suggestion of a local New Orleans actor who was impressed with the dialogue in one of his unpublished novels, “Marrero Action,” a finalist for the 2007 William Faulkner-William Wisdom by the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society. “Marrero Action” opened in March 2011 at the Anthony Bean Community Theater in New Orleans. Among his other work is the screenplay “Urban Realities” (2000), and the play “Fishers of Men,” which opened in June 2012 at Dillard University’s Cook Theatre in New Orleans. His current work-in-progress is titled “We Live Here.” For nearly 10 years, Clark has been the host and producer of WYLD-FM’s “Sunday Journal with Hal Clark,” a four-time winner of the Best Radio Talk Show award at the annual Press Club of New Orleans Excellence in Journalism competition. Clark also works as executive associate to the chancellor at Southern University at New Orleans.
2014: JENNIFER MAISEL
The Wagner College Theatre has announced that the winner of this year’s Stanley Drama Award is Jennifer Maisel of Los Angeles for her play, “Out of Orbit.”
Two finalists for this year’s award were also announced: Chelsea Sutton of North Hollywood, Cal., for “The Dead Woman,” and Sam Byron of New York City for “Gordy Crashes.”
The text below comes from the 2014 Stanley Drama Award press release.
2014 Stanley Drama Award winner
Jennifer Maisel’s ‘Out of Orbit’
A mother and her teenage daughter.
A Jet Propulsion Lab scientist, and an underachiever.
Sara lives on Mars time, spearheading the Mars Rover Expedition, visiting a planet she cannot touch.
Meanwhile, her daughter, Lis, on Earth time, falls under the spell of cyber-cypher Edgar2330.
Sometimes it takes being worlds apart for an exploring woman and a longing-to-be-explored girl to find each other in our increasingly disconnected universe.
Jennifer Maisel has seen her work developed and produced by Rosalind Productions (Off-Broadway), Theatre J, Park Square Theatre, the Magic Theatre, Ensemble Studio Theatre NY and LA, Theater of NOTE, Gulf Shore Playhouse, University of the Arts, Playwrights’ Arena, Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey, South Coast Repertory, Rorschach Theatre, Epic Theatre, PlayLabs, PlayPenn, the Great Plains Theatre Conference, Inkwell and Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Humana Festival.
“The Last Seder” premiered Off-Broadway in 2012 after productions in Chicago, D.C., Los Angeles, St. Paul, St. Louis and São Paolo, Brazil.
PEN West Literary Award finalist “There or Here” had a critically acclaimed run at New York’s Hypothetical Theatre and was later recorded for podcast by Southern California Public Radio station KPCC. An essay Jennifer wrote about “There or Here” with director Amy Feinberg will be published this winter in “Outsourcing Life,” a book about transnational surrogacy.
“Out of Orbit,” developed at the 2010 Sundance Theatre Lab and the Gulf Shore New Play Festival, received the Ensemble Studio Theatre/Alfred P. Sloan commission for plays about science and technology.
Other plays by Jennifer Maisel include “Goody Fucking Two Shoes” (“Plays From Actors Theatre of Louisville: Humana Festival 2005”), “Eden” (Original Works Publishing), “Mad Love,” “Mallbaby,” “Dark Hours,” “birds,” “Match” and “@thespeedofJake.”
Maisel is the recipient of the Kennedy Center’s Fund for New American Plays Award and their Charlotte Woolard Award for Promising New Voice in American Theatre, as well their Roger Stevens Award for Playwrights of Extraordinary Promise. She won South Coast Repertory’s California Playwrights Competition and was a finalist for the PEN West Literary Award, the Sundance Theatre Lab, the O’Neill Theatre Conference (twice), the STAGE International Script Competition, the Jane Chambers Playwriting Award, Abingdon Theatre’s Christopher Brian Wolk Award (twice), the Ojai Playwrights Festival and the Heideman Award (three times).
Maisel has participated in several online collaborative works, including the post-9/11 “Return to the Upright Position” and the Gun Control Theatre Action series. She is a member of the DogEar Playwrights Collective, Playwrights Ink, the Dramatists Guild and the Writers Guild. She also writes for film and television.
2014 Stanley Drama Award finalist
Chelsea Sutton’s ‘The Dead Woman’
Zoe and April are on their way to dinner and a movie — the first night they’ve spent together since their friendship fell apart several years ago.
But their fun is cut short when they stumble across a dead woman lying in an alleyway beside a convenience store.
Quinn, the convenience store clerk and Zoe’s semi-boyfriend, comes out to help, but all bets are off when Zoe starts seeing the Dead Woman moving and speaking.
As the evening moves forward, reality slips and crumbles around Zoe as the Dead Woman takes control, forcing her to examine her relationship with April, Zoe’s history with a man named Simon, and her choices with Quinn — choices that, in the end, may mean life and death.
Chelsea Sutton holds a B.A. in literature from the College of Creative Studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara.
Readings of Sutton’s plays have been held at the Ensemble Theater in Santa Barbara, Cal., Inner Circle Theater, the Waking Art Project, Monstrous Little Productions, the Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights “Live @ the Libe” series, Center Stage Theater in Santa Barbara, Cal., the Skylight Theatre Company’s LAb Works, Theatricum Botanticum’s Seedlings, and the Vagrancy’s “Blossoming” new play reading series. Her plays have been produced by Monstrous Little Productions, the UCSB New Plays Festival, the Car Play Project at Westmont College, the Eclectic Company Theatre, the Secret Rose Theatre and the Looking Glass Theatre in New York. She is a recipient of the Corwin Award for Playwriting. Sutton’s Stanley Award finalist play, “The Dead Woman,” was also a semifinalist for the Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference 2013. She is currently participating in workshops with the Vagrancy, Skylight Theatre Company’s PlayLab and Eclectic Voices and is an associate artist with Rogue Artist Ensemble.
Sutton is also a fiction writer. Her fiction has appeared in Farmhouse Magazine, Spectrum, Catalyst, Fictionade Magazine, Bourbon Penn, Eclectic Voices and NYC Midnight. She is the first place winner of NYC Midnight’s Flash Fiction Contest 2011 and was an honorable mention for Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award for New Writers.
2014 Stanley Drama Award finalist
Sam Byron’s ‘Gordy Crashes’
Taking place in the days before and after the last presidential election, “Gordy Crashes” follows Gordy as he navigates displacement in the East Village following Hurricane Sandy. Exhausted and disoriented, Gordy finds himself at his ex-girlfriend’s doorstep, where he will form an unlikely and potentially dangerous relationship with her new boyfriend, a mysterious man who may ultimately help him find the strength to get closure on his break-up and help him understand the true suffering of others left in the storm’s wake.
Sam Byron is a Chicago-born playwright living in New York City. He is currently finishing his MFA in playwriting at the New School for Drama, where he was the 2012 recipient of the Steinberg New Playwrights Fellowship. In addition to “Gordy Crashes,” his plays include “Standard Aptitude” (The New School for Drama), “Animals” (Wide Eyed Productions, winner of the Fringe NYC award for Overall Excellence in Directing, Kristin Skye Hoffmann), “Brooklyn Vacancies” (finalist, New Works Program at T. Schreiber Studio, New York City), “Static” (finalist, HotCity Theater’s Greenhouse Festival, St. Louis, Mo.) and “Debt” (Horse Trade Theater, New York City, and Dillingham Center for Performing Arts, Ithaca, N.Y.). He has written numerous short plays, including “529” (Playsmiths, Manhattan Theatre Source), “Famous Dick” (UglyRhino Productions) and “How to Field Dress a Unicorn” (Billy & Co.).
Byron, who was the resident playwright for Wide Eyed Production’s 2012-13 season, is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America.
2015: BOB CLYMAN
The Wagner College Theatre has announced that the winner of the 2015 Stanley Drama Award is Bob Clyman of North Caldwell, N.J., for his play, “The Good Bet.”
Two finalists for this year’s awards were also announced: Jackson Toby of Highland Park, N.J., for “Seducing Jonathan: No Easy Task,” and Harold Ellis Clark of Gretna, La., for “Uncle Bobby ’63.”
The text below comes from the 2015 Stanley Drama Award press release.
2015 Stanley Drama Award winner
Bob Clyman’s ‘The Good Bet’
“The Good Bet” features Mark, a respected moral philosopher, who has never wavered from his bedrock belief that people are fundamentally good. Ben, on the other hand, investigates intellectual property fraud and is equally convinced that any apparent act of kindness is simply a subtler tactic for pursuing self-serving results.
Their close but unlikely friendship since childhood has always been tense, with Mark’s persistent efforts to help Ben achieve greater fulfillment matched in intensity by the seething resentment his efforts stir up in Ben.
When Ben decides to stop investigating white-collar criminals and begin turning previously law-abiding employees into them instead, thereby incurring Mark’s disapproval, he proposes a bet, ostensibly to settle their longstanding argument over human nature, but in reality with a much darker purpose in mind.
Bob Clyman’s plays have been produced Off-Broadway and at regional theaters like the Alley Theatre, Laguna Playhouse, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, San Jose Repertory Theatre, George Street Theatre, Merrimack Repertory Theatre, Colony Studio Theatre in Los Angeles, Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey and L.A. Theatre Works, in addition to touring Scotland.
His play, “Secret Order,” was initially commissioned and produced by the Ensemble Studio Theatre under the auspices of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. It was subsequently produced at 59E59 Theatre in New York, where it was nominated for an Outer Circle Critics Award for Best Script in 2008. It has since been produced at many regional theatres.
Clyman’s plays, “Tranced” and “The Exceptionals,” were both supported by Edgerton Foundation New American Play awards. “Tranced” has been produced by the San Jose Repertory Theatre, Laguna Playhouse and Merrimack Repertory Theatre, among others. “The Expectionals” was produced by the Contemporary American Theatre Festival and Merrimack Repertory Theatre, where it was nominated for Best Play and Best New Play of 2012 by the Independent Reviewers of New England.
Clyman’s Stanley Drama Award-winning play, “The Good Bet,” was also chosen for the Ashland New Play Festival in 2014.
Clyman has been awarded a number of national prizes, including a Eugene O’Neill Summer Conference Fellowship, Geraldine Dodge Fellowship, Playwrights First Award, New Jersey State Arts Council Award, Edward Albee Foundation Fellowship, Berilla-Kerr Foundation Award, Djerassi Foundation Fellowship, Shenandoah Valley Playwrights Fellowship, and a Theater in the Works fellowship.
2015 Stanley Drama Award finalist
Jackson Toby’s ‘Seducing Jonathan: No Easy Task’
“Seducing Jonathan” concerns three Rutgers University undergraduates in an off-campus apartment: Brian, a self-confident party animal in academic trouble; his friend, Jonathan, a pathologically shy National Merit Scholar, and Charlotte, the lessee of the apartment, who is studying acting and sketching at the Mason Gross School of the Arts. On the lookout for a future husband, Charlotte considers Jonathan a possibility. Although attracted to Charlotte, Jonathan fails to accept Charlotte’s invitation to lose his virginity with her on her 21st birthday. He rues his cowardice.
Brian poses naked for Charlotte’s life class at the Mason Gross School. He also agrees to pose nude for photos for a calendar she is preparing for a job interview. Jonathan bribes Brian to leave the apartment and permit him to model for “Lady Chatterley’s Guide to Flower Arranging” in Brian’s place. Initially skeptical that Jonathan’s shyness is compatible with nude modeling, Charlotte allows Jonathan to try. Jonathan overcomes his anxiety enough to pose for 12 nude photos. Charlotte reinstates her invitation for mutual seduction and waits for him in her room. The play ends with Jonathan removing his boxer shorts, throwing them into his room and giddily entering Charlotte’s room, buck naked.
“Seducing Jonathan” drew upon Toby’s experiences with teaching and learning from undergraduates at Rutgers, as well as on sociological insights into the difficulties of staggering toward adulthood in modern societies.
Jackson Toby is a latecomer to playwriting, having retired after 50 years as a professor of sociology at Rutgers University. Inspired by a vivid memory of two undergraduate courses in playwriting taught by Maurice Valency, translator of Jean Giraudoux’s “The Madwoman of Chaillot,” he set out to reinvent himself as a playwright.
Toby’s previous work includes “A Fine Romance,” which won the 17th Annual New Jersey Wordsmith Competition for unproduced plays in 2011, and from which a staged reading of two scenes took place in March 2011 at the Crossroads Theater in New Brunswick, N.J.
Toby’s latest book is entitled “The Lowering of Higher Education in America,” and he has published many professional articles as well as opinion pieces in large-circulation newspapers directed at the general public. His 15 minutes of notoriety, if not fame, came when Jane Pauley interviewed him on the Today Show about one of his articles.
Toby is a member of the American Sociological Association and the Dramatists Guild.
2015 Stanley Drama Award finalist
Harold Ellis Clark’s ‘Uncle Bobby ’63’
“Uncle Bobby ’63” is set in New Orleans in, not surprisingly, 1963. Dwight, a veteran Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee member, returns home bruised and beaten from a civil rights demonstration. His wife, Zenobia, becomes concerned when Joseph, a white SNCC member from New York who also was injured during the demonstration, arrives after being hospitalized and receives an anonymous death threat. Despite opposition from Dwight, Zenobia, a former SNCC member, calls her Uncle Bobby, a former Negro newspaper war correspondent and college professor, who doesn’t believe in nonviolence. Upon confirming the threat, Uncle Bobby and his friend, Ike, descend on the home fully armed, making everyone question if violence or nonviolence represents the most effective response to hatred.
New Orleans native Harold Ellis Clark, who currently lives in Gretna, La., was previously honored as a 2013 Stanley Drama Award finalist for his play, “Tour Detour.” That play was also a finalist in Stage West’s 7th Annual Southwest Playwriting Competition (Fort Worth, Texas, 2013), and a semifinalist at the 2013 Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference (Waterford, Conn.).
Clark’s “Uncle Bobby ’63” was also named a finalist in IATI Theatre’s Cimentos 2015 (New York, N.Y.), and in the Playhouse on the Square’s 2014 New Works@The Works Playwriting Competition (Memphis, Tenn.).
Playhouse on the Square produced Clark’s “We Live Here” in January 2015 as a result of his being named one of two winners of the company’s 2013 New Works@The Works Playwriting Competition. “We Live Here” also made it to semifinal rounds of competitions coordinated by the American Blues Theater (Chicago, Ill.), the Landing Theatre Company’s New American Voices Play Reading Series (Houston, Texas), the 2014 American Actors U.K. Play Reading Festival (London, U.K.) and the 2014 Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference.
Clark’s play, “Fishers of Men,” debuted in June 2012 at Dillard University (New Orleans, La.). It won Upstage Theatre’s 4th Annual Emerging Playwright Project Award (Baton Rouge, La., 2013). The play’s regional premiere at Upstage Theatre in September 2013 was followed by encore performances there in October 2013. It also was performed in February 2014 at Wiley College (Marshall, Texas).
Clark’s first play, “Marrero Action,” debuted in March 2011 at the Anthony Bean Community Theater (New Orleans).
His current work-in-progress is tentatively titled, “Madame Thames’ Spirit Bar.”
2016: MIKE BENCIVENGA
The Wagner College Theatre has announced that the winner of the 2016 Stanley Drama Award is Mike Bencivenga of Astoria, Queens, N.Y., for his two-act play, “Bad Hearts.”
Two finalists for this year’s awards were also announced: Harold Ellis Clark of Gretna, La., for “Madame Thames’s Spirit Bar,” and Alan Goodson of Los Angeles, Cal., for “Morgenstern in Vienna.”
The text below comes from the 2016 Stanley Drama Award press release.
2016 Stanley Drama Award winner
Mike Bencivenga’s ‘Bad Hearts’
On a fall day in 1975, Margaret “Mags” Esposito unexpectedly comes home from college to her suburban Long Island home, hoping to find love and acceptance in the war zone of a family in which she was raised. Her younger brother, Eddie, who appears to be winning his lifelong battle with stuttering, joyfully greets her. But Mags’ return and her newfound confidence rubs her mother, Joyce, the wrong way. Joyce sees in Mags everything she wants, but will never become. The weight of being married to a man she no longer loves, and a life spent raising children she was never sure she wanted, has made her bitter. Mags’ father, Tony, is equally depressed, having grown up convinced he’ll die of a heart attack at age 50, as have all the men in his family. Mags tries to shake them out of it, but learns that bringing hope to a broken soul can produce unexpected consequences. “Bad Hearts” is about the fragility of dreams, the toxicity of despair, and the treacherous, tragic place some of us call home.
In the theater, Mike Bencivenga has written, directed, produced and acted in one-acts and full-length plays (with MTC and the Lightning Strikes Theater Company), performed improv comedy (as one of the Chainsaw Boys), and wrote and directed sketch comedy in New York, Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles. The full-length plays he’s written include “Single Bullet Theory,” “Couplets,” “Billy & Ray,” “Summer on Fire” and “Bad Hearts.”
In 2013, “Billy & Ray” won the prestigious W. Keith Hedrick Award for best play. It was produced in 2013 at the Falcon Theater under the direction of the legendary Garry Marshall. The show moved to the Vineyard Theater in 2014, also directed by Garry Marshall, where it enjoyed an extended sold-out run.
In December 2014, Bencivenga’s political comedy, “Summer on Fire,” won the Christopher Brian Wolk Award for excellence in playwriting from the Abingdon Theater in New York. “Summer on Fire” had its world premiere in 2016 at the Scorpion Theater in Calgary, Alberta.
Bencivenga is currently working on an original, full-length comedy commissioned by the Purple Rose Theater of Chelsea, Mich., and is looking forward to further productions of “Billy & Ray” planned for the U.S. and London.
In film, Bencivenga wrote, directed and produced “Losers in Love,” starring Nick Searcy, in 1993. In the fall of 2001, he co-wrote and directed “Happy Hour,” starring Anthony LaPaglia, Eric Stoltz and Robert Vaughn. “Happy Hour” was awarded the Audience Award for Best Picture at the 2004 Florida Film Festival and the prestigious Prism Award for the accurate depiction of alcohol abuse, among other honors. Bencivenga has written a number of other screenplays, including “Running Gun,” about the life and times of Wild West folk legend Billy the Kid, and “Taliesin,” the story of the early, scandalous years of the iconic architect Frank Lloyd Wright. “Great Plains,” an original suspense drama he wrote for MarVista Entertainment, was released in 2016.
In addition to his work in theater and film, Bencivenga is an Emmy-winning producer who has worked for over 30 years at WABC-TV in New York. He lives in Astoria, Queens, with his lovely wife Jen.
2016 Stanley Drama Award finalist
Harold Ellis Clark’s ‘Madame Thames’s Spirit Bar’
The time: late August 1975. The place: a Jean Lafitte, Louisiana bar, as a category one hurricane douses the metro New Orleans area with rain. Roscoe, a black Vietnam veteran, confesses to Philomena, the bar’s owner, that he killed three white men during a dispute, and seeks temporary refuge there until flooding recedes on the main road. She rejects his request. He, in turn, offers her a significant sum of money, and she changes her mind. While visiting Philomena, Sheriff LaSalle gets a panicked visit from Deputy Birch. He reveals that the bodies of three white men have been found in an apparent drug deal gone bad. They bolt from the bar. Philomena enters the mysterious closet where Roscoe is hiding. Again, she demands that he leave, but he offers her more money to stay, and she obliges. Upon Sheriff LaSalle and Deputy Birch’s return, Roscoe, armed with a shotgun, holds them at bay. The spirit of Madame Victoria Thames descends from the closet. She was the love interest of a slave owner who jilted her, ending her prospects of becoming a free woman of color; she subsequently killed him at the plantation, and later herself on the banks of the River Thames. Philomena informs the men that someone always dies when the spirit enters the bar, setting the stage to see who survives this ghostly encounter.
Since beginning his playwriting career in 2010, after 18 years of writing numerous unpublished novels and unproduced screenplays, Harold Ellis Clark’s plays have won awards from Playhouse on the Square (Memphis, Tenn.) for “We Live Here,” and Upstage Theatre (Baton Rouge, La.) for “Fishers of Men.” He has been honored twice before as one of two finalists for the Stanley Drama Award for “Tour Detour” (2013) and “Uncle Bobby ’63” (2015). Clark also has been a finalist in playwriting competitions with American Blues Theatre (Chicago, Ill.), IATI Theatre (New York, N.Y.) — both for “Uncle Bobby ’63” — and Stage West (Fort Worth, Texas) for “Tour Detour.” He is a three-time semifinalist for the Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference (Waterford, Conn.) for “Tour Detour” (2013), “We Live Here” (2014) and “Uncle Bobby ’63” (2015).
Clark’s other plays include “Marrero Action.” His current work-in-progress is “The Least of These,” a companion to the award-winning, critically acclaimed “Fishers of Men,” which the Gambit Weekly (New Orleans) called “a compelling, probing exploration of violence and the challenge to save lives” during the production’s revival in November 2015 at the Ashé Power House Theatre in New Orleans.
Since 2002, Clark has served as host/producer of WYLD-FM’s “Sunday Journal with Hal Clark,” five-time winner of the Best Radio Talk Show Award at the annual Press Club of New Orleans’ Excellence in Journalism Awards Competition Gala.
2016 Stanley Drama Award finalist
Alan Goodson’s ‘Morgenstern in Vienna’
Samuel Morgenstern, an American Jew who left Vienna as a child in 1938, has seemingly made peace with his hometown, where he has been living for some years now, when he is suddenly beset by a number of unexpected visitors: his estranged daughter, Raizele, a psychologist in need of help, fleeing from her family’s past and a bad divorce; Joshua, a naïve, young American searching for some kind of identity; and Bubbe, Morgenstern’s late grandmother, murdered by the Nazis, who emerges from a glacier with which he shares his apartment, and who proceeds to cook a fresh pot of matzo ball soup every day. Can Bubbe’s soup bring these characters together and help them discover a sense of belonging as Samuel and Raizele reopen old wounds, Raizele and Joshua fall into a passionate affair neither understands, the streets below explode in xenophobic rioting, and the glacier expands further and further into the apartment?
Alan Goodson is a playwright, translator of plays, lyricist, actor and director based in Los Angeles. He has been a Dramatists Guild member since 1996. Readings of his first play, “Morgenstern in Vienna,” were enthusiastically received at Ensemble Studio Theatre/L.A., and then selected for presentation in staged readings at the Jewish Ensemble Theatre’s New Play Festival in 2015. His next play, an existentialist farce entitled “The Missing Three,” was a 2014 finalist in Playhouse on the Square’s annual playwriting competition in Memphis, Tenn., where it was presented in a staged reading. His latest play, “On A Raw Moose Day,” is an absurdist comedy, a play within a play within a play that questions our perceptions of reality.
Goodson translates plays and lyrics from German, Swedish and Hungarian into English and is the official English translator of the Finnish playwright, Bengt Ahlfors. Goodson’s translation of Ahlfors’s ironic take on Jules Verne’s “Around the World in 80 Days” has been performed at a number of regional theaters in the U.S., following the original work’s international success.
As an actor, Goodson has performed in many theaters throughout California, as well as in leading roles in European venues such as Frankfurt’s Old Opera House and Vienna’s English Theatre. He has also been seen in over a dozen American and European films and TV episodes. Goodson earned a BFA in acting from U.S. International University in San Diego and completed graduate work at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London. His activities as a director have been centered in Vienna, where he had his own contemporary theater group and where he has directed in diverse genres, from clown theater to chamber opera.
2017: ELISABETH KARLIN
The Wagner College Theatre has announced that the winner of the 2017 Stanley Drama Award is Elisabeth Karlin for her play, “The Showman and the Spirit.”
Two finalists for this year’s awards were also announced: Tess Light for her play, “Billy Joel Holds the Key to the Afterlife,” and Nicole Pandolfo for her play, “Pump.”
The text below comes from the 2017 Stanley Drama Award press release.
New Yorker Elisabeth Karlin’s plays include “The Showman and the Spirit” (finalist, Ashland New Play Festival, 2015; semi-finalist, O’Neill Playwrights Conference, 2014), “Bodega Bay” (produced by the Abingdon Theatre Company; winner of the Jerry Kaufman Award in Playwriting for 2013; published in “The Best Men’s Stage Monologues, 2014” and “The Best Women’s Stage Monologues, 2014,” by Smith and Kraus); “Wild Men of the Woods” (produced by the Playwrights’ Week program at The Lark, an international theater laboratory in New York, and winner of the Jerry Kaufman Award for 2008); “A Mother’s Prayer” (produced by the Mile Square Theatre, Hoboken); “The Mooncalf” (produced by the Abingdon Theatre Company, and represented in “The Best Stage Scenes, 2001,” by Smith and Kraus); “Lucy’s Last Date” (produced at the Third Street Theatre, Los Angeles, and named a Drama-Logue Critic’s Choice.) “The Showman and the Spirit,” the first play of a trilogy, was presented along with “Hotbed,” the second play, as part of the Project Y Theatre’s Epic Plays reading series.
Other Karlin plays — including “Dress Down Day,” “A Bone to the Dog” and “Young Men Roam the Streets” — have received staged readings on some of New York’s most prominent stages.
Karlin has also written about film for various journals. Most recently, she has been a contributor to “Alfred Hitchcock Geek,” one of the most popular Hitchcock blogs on the Internet.
Synopsis: Elisabeth Karlin’s ‘The Showman and the Spirit.’ A Bronx high school in 1976. Andy Levitt, an idealistic young teacher, is organizing an assembly to celebrate the life of the late James Hudson, a heroic African-American performer and activist. His guest speaker is Lawrence Muffet, a contemporary and friend of Hudson’s. Muffet, a Hollywood character actor known for playing the servile and stereotypical roles that Hudson refused, arrives under the impression that it is he himself who is to be honored.
In the course of a school day, the teacher, the guest, his delicate daughter and a beleaguered school secretary collide head-on amid misunderstandings, old resentments and pre-conceived notions. As this clash of temperaments and wayward efforts to do the right thing plays out under the specter of James Hudson, Lawrence Muffet must confront his own legacy and his place in the shadow of the great man’s spirit.
Tess Light’s plays tend to incorporate any or all of the following: sarcasm, death, sarcastic death, Buddhism, foodism, poetry, song and Shakespeare. Despite this confusion, her plays have been produced in 12 states across the U.S. and four countries. Her comedy, “Tower of Magic,” won first place in the 2012 New Play Contest at Theatre Conspiracy (Fort Myers, Fla.) and second place in the 2013 New Play Contest at Stage West (Fort Worth, Texas). In 2015, her one-act comedy, “Expectant Pause,” won the Arts & Letters journal’s Drama Prize for One-Act Play, and was produced by Stage Door Productions’ One Act Festival. Her drama, “To Conceive Gods,” was a semifinalist for the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Playwrights Conference, the NuVoices competition at the Actors’ Theatre of Charlotte (N.C.), and others. After sampling eight cities in four countries, Light settled in Los Alamos, N.M. with her husband and sons, where she works as a physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the Space and Remote Sensing Sciences Group.
Synopsis: Tess Light’s ‘Billy Joel Holds the Key to the Afterlife.’ Carmen’s parents (Frances and Leo) met, loved, married, hated, and divorced before their daughter Carmen was ever born, and spent the decades after locked in a battle for control of one another — with Carmen as the battleground. So fierce is their competition that they even die almost simultaneously, leaving Carmen to weave together a family history using the only thread she’s got: their mutual love of Billy Joel. Meanwhile, Frances and Leo are stuck in limbo, unable to move on to new lives, until they come to terms with one another and their own failings.
Nicole Pandolfo, a New Jersey native currently based in New York City, is a 2016-17 Dramatist Guild Fellow and was selected for a 2017 commission with the NJPAC Stage Exchange with Premiere Stages at Kean University. Her work has been developed through the Jerome Foundation, the Actors Studio, the Lark and NJ Rep, among others, and she was a finalist for the Edward Albee Foundation Fellowship and the Leah Ryan Fund for Emerging Women Writers. She is a member of the Actors Studio in the Playwright/Director Unit, directed by Lyle Kessler, and earned her MFA at Hunter College.
Synopsis: Nicole Pandolfo’s ‘Pump.’ Jimmy loses his job as a reporter at the Philadelphia Times on the same day that a train carrying toxic chemicals derails in his hometown in New Jersey. To survive, he takes a job pumping gas at the station that his dad manages, where he learns that big oil interests and the health of people in his hometown collide in ways he never expected. This play examines the disenfranchisement of the working class, the role of the press in society, corporate greed and the continuing chemical and toxic waste incidents that threaten American communities today.
2018: BENJAMIN V. MARSHALL
The Wagner College Theatre has announced that the winner of the 2018 Stanley Drama Award is Benjamin V. Marshall for his play, “Incident at Willow Creek.”
Two finalists for this year’s awards were also announced: Nicole Pandolfo for her play, “The Belle of Belmar,” and Stuart Warmflash for his play, “Mortar and Pestle.”
2018 winner Benjamin V. Marshall was hired to teach playwriting at Wagner College during the Fall 2018 semester. During that semester, on Oct. 20, his Stanley Award-winning play was given a staged reading on campus.
The text below comes from the 2018 Stanley Drama Award press release.
Benjamin V. Marshall’s work has been performed and developed at the HBO New Writers Workshop, Theatre for the New City (New York), Luna Stage, Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey, Interact Theatre in Philadelphia, WBEZ Chicago public radio, the Kennedy Center, the Warner International Playwrights Festival and the Berrie Center at Ramapo College. Most recently, “Incident at Willow Creek” was awarded the Bauer-Boucher award from Kean University, and a reading of “Five Husbands” was presented as part of the city of Plainfield’s Gay Pride Celebration. Some of his honors include fellowships from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, the Victor Bumbalo/Robert Chesley Foundation, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and four playwriting fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Previously a musician and a teacher of English in Middle Eastern countries, Marshall has published poetry, fiction and essays in several literary magazines. Most recently, his essay appears in the book, “What Does It Mean to be White in America?” He has directed numerous productions and readings, including the upcoming musical “Harlem Ladies Knittin’ ” and “Bitchin’ Society.” A member of the Dramatists Guild, the Playwrights Center in Minneapolis and the Ninth Floor in NYC, Marshall earned a B.A. from Kean University and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst after studying playwriting at Hunter University. As an associate professor at Middlesex County College in New Jersey, he specializes in African-American literature, creative writing and playwriting. The school recently named him its scholar of the year for his creative work.
Synopsis: Benjamin V. Marshall’s ‘Incident at Willow Creek.’ Verité, an African-American professor, is at a crossroads. She’s smug about her neutral stance regarding guns, yet she obsesses over a recent gun incident that resulted in the killing of an innocent black man. She closely follows the story on TV and radio and is torn between the need to defend oneself and the need to comply with law enforcement. At the same time, a student perplexes her with his own fixation on guns. He even offers to teach her how to shoot, and that conflicts with her sense of self. With her own college preparing for security risks, Verité is forced to confront her beliefs, her passive nature and her own physical safety.
Nicole Pandolfo was a Stanley Award finalist in 2017 for her play, “Pump.” Her NJPAC Stage Exchange commission play, “Brick City,” opens in July at Premiere Stages at Kean University. She was a 2017 Dramatists Guild Foundation Fellow, and her work has been developed at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center as a Playwright Observer, at Tofte Lake as a Jerome Foundation Fellow, and at the Actors Studio, N.J. Rep and the Lark, among others. She was a finalist for the Edward Albee Foundation Fellowship, SPACE on Ryder Farm, and the Leah Ryan Fund for Emerging Women Writers. She is a member of the Actors Studio in the Playwright/Director Unit and earned her MFA degree from Hunter College. Visit the playwright’s website at nicolepandolfo.com.
Synopsis: Nicole Pandolfo’s ‘The Belle of Belmar’ is a coming-of-age story about Denise, an aspiring marine biologist, and her best friend Crystal, who has a disability; both of them are navigating prom as outcasts, searching for both independence and inclusion. Earlier in the school year, Denise was a victim of an acquaintance rape by two of her classmates. Added to the mix is Denise’s mother, Lorna, who is just one more online purchase away from fixing her life, and Mikey, Denise’s ex-best friend with a big secret to hide. This is a provocative and humorous story about how we choose to move forward in our lives.
A native New Yorker, Stuart Warmflash has been involved in the theater for over 35 years. After graduating from New York University, he attended the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London. He then enjoyed a successful acting career, appearing on Broadway (with the prestigious Phoenix Repertory Co.) and Off-Broadway as well as in film and television. He subsequently began writing and directing. His first play, “Art’s Life,” enjoyed an extended run on Theatre Row, and his almost two dozen subsequent plays have been read/performed all over the United States and Europe. In 1994, he founded the Playwrights Harbor to provide a supportive, self-directed, cooperative workshop in which writers could realize their visions with the assistance of a company of actors and directors. Fortified by artistic growth and enthusiastic public response, he launched the not-for-profit Harbor Theatre. Through weekly workshops, the company contributed to the ongoing development of over 50 new works, producing public presentations and full productions. Currently, the company is on hiatus. He has also written for television and scripted the theatrically released, award-winning, full-length documentary, “Unforgotten: 25 Years After Willowbrook.” In his “spare” time, Warmflash earned a master’s degree in special education and now devotes several hours a day to assisting students with learning disabilities.
Synopsis: Stuart Warmflash’s ‘Mortar and Pestle.’ Middle-aged Josh Gottlieb, childless and widowed over a year ago, has been raised — along with his sister Leah — by an atheist father (now long dead) and their superstitious Orthodox Jewish mother. Leah, going through a difficult divorce and raising a mentally challenged young boy, is adamantly opposed to any involvement with Judaism. Josh, a successful chiropractor, is now feeling a curiosity about religion; at a wedding he meets Shoshanna, a lively Midwesterner newly converted to Judaism. A tense competition quickly arises between Leah and Shoshanna for Josh’s affection and loyalty and his spiritual or non-spiritual self.
2019: CARL L. WILLIAMS
The Wagner College Theatre has announced that the winner of the 2019 Stanley Drama Award is Carl L. Williams for his play, “Some Other Verse.”
Two finalists for this year’s awards were also announced: Michael Edan for “A Red Bloom in Winter,” and Robert Kehew for “Even Kings: Rockefeller at Ludlow.”
The text below comes from the 2019 Stanley Drama Award press release.
Carl L. Williams is a Houston playwright whose full-length and one-act plays have won numerous national playwriting competitions and have been finalists in many more. His plays have received over 350 productions around the country and in a number of foreign countries. More than 35 of his plays have been published, with several one-acts appearing in anthologies. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America, Texas Nonprofit Theatres and the American Association of Community Theatre. Williams has twice been a finalist for the Stanley Drama Award: in 2011 for “A Woman on the Cusp,” and in 2004 for “Under a Cowboy Moon.” He is also the author of a western novel, “Fool’s Play.”
‘Some Other Verse’ — A young man intent on living a dissolute, artistic life as a poet becomes infatuated with a new love, but he soon encounters two life-changing dilemmas. Will economic necessity, along with the insistence of his older sister, compel him to forsake his poetic life and accept a mundane, regular job? And, when confronted with the opportunity, will he choose to sacrifice love in exchange for artistic success? Poetry, romance and self-interest intersect in the ever-shifting flow of a young man’s life.
Michael Edan’s plays have been presented at theaters in the U.S. and the U.K., including the Road Theatre, Luna Stage, Variations Theatre Group, Theatre Three, Depot Theatre, Blue Orange Theatre and Phoenix Stage. His play “Homecoming” was selected for the 2014 Ashland New Play Festival and was a semi-finalist for the Playwrights First Award. “The Lost Kingdom” was in the finals of the 2014 nuVoices Festival at the Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte (N.C.). His plays have been in various festivals and won several awards, including best play and best actor at both the 2010 Aery Theatre Festival and the Harvest One-Act Play Festival, for his play “Last Actor Standing.” His play “The Shrine,” which has received several productions, was in the finals of the 2014 Dubuque Fine Arts Players One Act Play Contest and Festival, and finals of the 2013 Warner International Playwrights Festival. He has monologues published in “Contemporary Monologues for Young Women, Vol. II” (Fall 2013) and “One on One: Playing with a Purpose — Monologues for Kids 7-15” (Applause Theatre & Cinema Books, 2013).
‘A Red Bloom In Winter’ is a fictional story that surrounds and involves actual events of a true crime: the murder of Daisy Zick, which occurred in Battle Creek, Mich., in January 1963. (Thus, some characters in the play, while based on actual persons associated with the investigation, have fictitious names, except for Daisy and her husband Floyd.) The play juxtaposes the shock of Daisy’s murder within the community with the simultaneous resurgence of feminism in the early 1960s, sparked by the impact of “The Feminine Mystique” by Betty Friedan, as seen in the lives of three women in Battle Creek. Along with the examination of key individuals as possible suspects in the crime, the impact of the murder profoundly affects Helen, who spirals into a vortex of uncertainty, encountering her own precarious identity, potential psychosis in her visions of Daisy, and eventual discovery of what it means for a woman to claim her own power.
Robert Kehew is a poet and playwright. He is co-author of “Lark in the Morning: The Verses of the Troubadours, A Bilingual Edition,” published by the University of Chicago Press and featuring verse translations by Ezra Pound, W.D. Snodgrass and Kehew. He also has published original poems and translations of poems in a number of literary journals, including Revista Internacional: The Literary Quarterly of the University of Puerto Rico, Sparrow: The Yearbook of the Sonnet, Shenandoah, and The Exquisite Corpse. In the late 1980s, Kehew was active in the Playwrights’ Center of San Francisco. During that period, the center staged readings of three of Kehew’s plays. Since 2010, Kehew has again turned to playwriting. Robert Kehew holds a bachelor’s degree in city planning from the University of Virginia, and a masters degree in public policy degree from Harvard University. He works for an agency of the United Nations and lives in Nairobi, Kenya with his wife and two children.
‘Even Kings: Rockefeller at Ludlow’ — At age 40, sheltered Manhattanite and father-to-be John Rockefeller is still very much under his wealthy father’s thumb. That begins to change when 11 women and children meet fiery deaths during a fractious miners’ strike in hardscrabble Colorado, and John begins to raise uncomfortable questions about his family’s possible complicity. Will John overcome resistance from mysterious quarters — as well as his own internal stumbling blocks — to get to the bottom of the Ludlow Massacre?