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Student wins Kennedy Center award for playwriting

April 6, 2010

KALAMAZOO--A graduate student in the Western Michigan University creative writing program has won the prestigious Mark Twain Prize for Comic Playwriting from the Kennedy Center's American College Theatre Festival.

G. William Zorn won the nationwide prize for his play, "Metropolis Has No Superman." His award includes a $2,500 cash prize, a playwriting residency with a professional theatre company, possible publication from Dramatic Publishing Co., a production grant and a trip to the Kennedy Center-ACTF national festival April 12-18 in Washington, D.C., where he will receive his award and participate in a weeklong playwriting workshop with theatre professionals and fellow award-winning college playwrights. A portion of Zorn's play also will be read at the Kennedy Center.

The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival is a national theatre education program that includes more than 200,000 students nationwide.

That Zorn won, especially in a category as difficult as comedy, is very impressive, says Dr. Steve Feffer, associate professor of English, who teaches playwriting and is chairman of the National Playwriting Program for the KC-ACTF's region that includes Michigan and surrounding states.

"There's an old writing adage which says, 'Dying is easy; comedy is hard'. To me, for Bill to win such a prestigious and competitive national award for comic playwriting--named in honor of one of the great comic writers--is a particularly distinguished achievement," Feffer says.

The award also speaks volumes for the quality of the English Department's playwriting programs, such as the New Play Project, WMU's collaboration with the Theatre Kalamazoo! initiative, the Prague Summer Program and partnership with the WMU Department of Theatre, all of which help to attract talented writers.

"Metropolis Has No Superman" tells the story of Chance Loring, the creator of Queer-Boy Comics, who grew up in Superman's hometown of Metropolis, Ill., a town he vowed never to return home to--until his father is killed driving his Chrysler into the Man of Steel, and Chance must go home for the funeral. Zorn's play was recently presented at WMU in a staged reading, directed by Zack Apman and cast with actors from the theatre department, as part of the collaboration with Theatre Kalamazoo.

Zorn's award continues the tremendous record of success that English department playwrights have enjoyed in the National Playwriting Program of KC-ACTF. At this year's regional festival in January in Saginaw, Mich., which included competitors from Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, English department playwrights won regional awards in all three playwriting categories. They included master's degree playwright Jason Lenz who was honored for a 10-minute play; fellow master's degree playwright Karen Wurl who won an award for a full-length play; and Zorn, who won for a second work, a one-act play, titled "The Speed of Falling Objects." This is the second year in a row that Western Michigan University playwrights have achieved this remarkable "sweep" by having a winning play in all three regional categories.

Also this year, two WMU students--master's degree fiction student James Miranda and master's degree playwriting student Kris Peterson--had their work presented at the regional festival. In total, five of 13 plays selected were by WMU playwrights, as were three of the five regional winners.

In 2009, Peterson's 10-minute play "Gun Metal Blue Bar" was selected for performance at the Kennedy Center. Now Zorn has won a national Kennedy Center prize in 2010.

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Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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