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Grad student wins Kennedy Center playwriting award

by Mark Schwerin

March 11, 2011 | WMU News

KALAMAZOO--A Western Michigan University graduate student has won a coveted award for playwriting from the Kennedy Center and will take part in two intensive, resident playwriting workshops.

Photo of WMU grad student Mikala Hansen.
Mikala Hansen, a master's student studying playwriting and a graduate assistant in the Department of English, has won the Kennedy Center: The National Association of Partners of American Theatre Annual Playwriting Excellence Award for her full-length play, "Viking-American." Hansen will spend a week at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and a week at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas as part of an intensive program in writing for stage and screen.

"It's incredibly encouraging to know the people at NAPAT feel my script is worth that time and worth being seen," Hansen says. "The astonishing part of this award is that they're sending me around the country simply to do what I love: write more."

"Viking-American" is about a Danish-American family in Ohio. During a family dinner, the family mirrors and plays out an old Danish Viking myth, revealing how the daughter's obsession with Norse mythology is a symptom of her relationships with her immigrant father and Ohioan mother.

Hansen earned a bachelor's degree in creative writing at Denison University in 2007 and expects to graduate with a master's from WMU this year. As a graduate assistant, she teaches courses in composition and playwriting. After graduating, she plans to move to Chicago and perhaps teach courses in composition and writing while writing plays for theaters when possible.

Hansen's plays have achieved some success and been staged mainly on the local level. Her full-length play "Tantalus" has been produced as two staged readings in Kalamazoo, once at WMU during the Kalamazoo Theatre Reading Series in 2009, and again at Fancy Pants Theater in 2010. "Echoes," a one-act play, received a full-production at WMU. The play was also performed as a staged reading as a part of WMU's New Play Project in 2009, along with her 10-minute play, "Belamortriste." Hansen also directed and performed in her original full-length "A Midsummer Camp" as a staged reading at Denison University in 2007.

Hansen also served as one of the dramaturges and co-creators of "Good Death," created and produced by students of the WMU Department of Theatre, in collaboration with Tectonic Theater Company. The play was performed as a part of WMU's mainstage series in 2009 and went on to the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (Region III) in 2010. In August, it will be performed in Scotland as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

As a performer, Hansen has played roles in various new works produced at Fancy Pants Theater and the Kalamazoo Civic Theater.