Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Student wins playwriting competition
Junior wins national award, credits English professor for success

By Dave Nobles - Kansan staff writer
Picture by Megan True/Kansan

ACT I — April 17, 2004

Paul Stephen Lim, a professor in the English department at the University of Kansas, watches from the audience as his student’s play is performed at the Kennedy Center American Theatre Festival.

The Story of Izanagi and Izanami, a play by Kristen Wirsig, is about to win the national playwriting competition in Washington, D.C.

He submitted the Colorado Springs, Colo., junior’s play to the competition that helped shape his own goals as a professor.

“As a teacher, whatever you may be teaching, you want students to go on and excel in their fields,” Lim says. “I think it’s part of my job to get the works of my students out there.”

And get them out there he does.

“It’s exhilarating,” Lim says about his work. “The best students are like good children. The payoff for me is to watch their new work.”

By Sunday, one of his students will have won $500 and the right to have her play published by the Kennedy Center.

It was the first play Wirsig ever wrote during the first exercise in Lim’s class.

He sits in the audience, completely satisfied.

ACT II — April 1976

Lim came to the University from the Philippines when he was 24 years old. It was the summer of 1968.

He had just received his master’s degree in English at the University but still considered himself a fiction writer, not a playwright.

But then he gets the call.

Lim finds out that the first play he ever wrote, Conpersonas, has been entered in the Kennedy Center American Theatre Competition.

And he wins the National Student Playwriting Award.

“It was an experience that I’d never had before,” Lim said about his reaction when he won the competition. “It was such a surprise, and then I was hooked.”

After winning the award, he begins teaching playwriting part-time in the English department.

He would become a full-time instructor at the University in 1989, and in that same year he starts the English Alternative Theatre as a way to get his students’ work noticed.

Throughout this time, he would continue to share his enthusiasm about playwriting with his students, and he succeeds.

Lim would end up winning a gold medallion from the Kennedy Center in January 1996 for his work with student playwrights.

ACT III — Yesterday

Lim sits in his office next to a pile of manuscripts waiting to be submitted to various competitions.

The walls of the office are draped with countless posters from EAT productions that he has been involved in. On two bookcases sit a collection of plays that number in the hundreds.

And next to him sits a happy Wirsig who just returned from a five-day trip to Washington, where she sat through workshops with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwrights.

As she sits, she knows it was Lim that made it possible.

Wirsig took Lim’s class one year ago.

— Edited by Cindy Yeo

Original Story Located Here

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