Fri, March 27th, 2009

Playwrights compete in own Final Four

By Jennifer Torline

With March Madness underway, a group of student playwrights will compete in their own Final Four this weekend.

English Alternative Theatre is bringing back its Final Four competition of one-act plays after a more than five-year absence. The student plays will be performed Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the Black Box theater at the Lawrence Arts Center.

“It’s always interesting to me to see what students are writing about,” Paul Stephen Lim, professor of English, said.

Lim, the founder of English Alternative Theatre, organized the event. He chose four student plays — two comedies and two serious plays — from his Introductory Playwriting class to be performed in the Final Four competition.

The comedies are “Cheeseburger Nation” by Brian Highberger, Garnett junior, and “The Importance of Conversation in a Monologue” by Joe Scott, Wichita senior. The serious plays are “The Tragedy of Empty Streets” by A.J. Mathews, Overland Park senior, and “Eli Touched, Whitney Ginned” by Brett Runyon, who graduated in December.

The comedies will be performed on Friday night and the serious plays will be on Saturday night. The audience votes on the plays each night, and the two winning plays will compete again on Sunday afternoon. The winners from each night will receive cash prizes.

“The plays are in progress and the audience writes down feedback notes so that the playwrights will benefit from viewer feedback,” Lim said.

Faculty, staff and students will act in the plays and have been rehearsing all week.

All four student playwrights have only recently begun playwriting, and this is the first time for each of them to have one of their plays produced.

“What makes it so scary is having another person portray a character you created,” Mathews said. “It’s nerve-wracking.”

The students’ inspiration for the plays ranged from history classes to family members to the HBO series “Deadwood.”

“I took a lot of language for my play from that series,” Runyon said.

Lim founded English Alternative Theatre, the department of English’s producing organization, in 1989 to help develop new scripts by KU students and to nurture local talent. Lim said that throughout the years, nearly 30 student plays and programs had received awards from around the country.

He said the competition would give the audience a chance to enjoy local talent from students.

“It’s terrific to be able to contribute to the process because something that the audience says by way of feedback is going to be considered seriously by the playwrights,” Lim said. “The audience will be able to shape and make the plays better.”

Original Story Located Here

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