Wisconsin Wrights: Award recipients

2013 Recipients | 2011 Recipients | 2009 Recipients | 2008 Recipients | 2007 Recipients

2013 Award Recipients

Kimberly Megna Yarnall’s plays have been performed from New York City to Anchorage. 2-time finalist for the National Ten-Minute-Play Heidman Award, she's also been published by Smith & Krause. Kimberly worked on the Tony-nominated A Class Act. She holds a BA from the University of Notre Dame, and recently started as the Artistic Associate with Forward Theater Company.

Waiting:  Crystal and John are married professionals who shop at REI, and eat canned soup sometimes because it's easier. They also can't get pregnant. Armando and Darla guide the audience along on Crystal and John's quest for a baby, often playing the other characters Crystal and John have to deal with: fertility doctors, nosy colleagues, overly-friendly dentists. It's a story about wanting something and having to wait for it, and how to negotiate life in the interim.

Additional development:

  • Staged Reading at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre in October 2013 as part of The Montgomery Davis Play Development Series

Kristin Hammargren is a playwright and actor based in the Midwest. Originally from Minnesota, she recently received her MFA in Acting from UW-Madison. Kristin’s professional work includes Forward Theater Company, American Players’ Theatre, Door Shakespeare, and the Guthrie Theater. She is also a founding member of Madison's Theatre in All the Wrong Places and will appear this summer as Rosalind in Optimist Theatre's As You Like It in Milwaukee. 

Discovering Austen:  Visit the dressing room of an actor who has been cast as Jane Austen herself. Still searching for the essence of her character only hours from opening, she explores Austen’s writing in an attempt to find the author in the pages of her novels and letters.

Sam White is a Madison area actor/director, and has been playwriting for many years. His play Oatesland was a 2011 Wisconsin Wrights finalist and has had public readings at both Forward Theater and The Bricks Theatre. The Bricks Theatre is scheduled to produce the play in winter 2013. In 2012 his piece, Beer is Good, was a part of Forward Theater’s Soul Food Monologue Festival. Sam is a founding member of Forward Theater Company and serves on its Advisory Committee.

Coyote Moon: Life can be hard for a young man just starting out. Especially if you just lost your job, your girlfriend is having your baby and marrying another guy, and, on the next full moon, you're pretty sure you're going to turn into a were-coyote. Maybe the best thing to do is go out back at your mom's country-side tavern, lock a tow chain around your neck, and hope for the best... but then again, maybe not.

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2011 Award Recipients

Sam White (Playwright) has been involved in theater for more than 35 years.  More familiar in Madison as an actor/director, he’s dabbled in playwriting for many years.  His first play, Watermelon Seed Spitting, Stupid, written for a college class, won a staged reading at the 1981 American College Theatre Festival, Region 4.  He is a founding member and former president of Madison’s Playwright’s Ink, with whose help he wrote Gorilla Tactics. West High School has staged GT three times and won Critics’ Choice awards with it at the Wisconsin High School Theatre Festival in 1996 and 2010.  In 2006, he wrote Only On a Full Stomach, for Positive Aging Theater’s production of original ten-minute plays for actors 50+.  Oatesland has been “in process” since 2003, when it received a reading as a part of MATC’s TheatreWorks Project. He’s a founding member of Forward Theater Company and serves on its Advisory Committee.

Oatesland:  A small 3-person, covert military intelligence team is stationed in an old, abandoned weather station in a remote Antarctic location. Their dubious mission - to spy on a nearby Russian research station.  From the onset, things are out of whack. The weather is too warm, rare animals not normally seen are abundant, and a ghostly presence is haunting the station.  The long hours and isolation take their toll on the soldiers.  A complex set of events and deteriorating mental states send the team spiraling into a dark and inescapable conclusion.

Additional development:

  • Workshop and staged reading with Forward Theater in May 2012
  • Workshop and Staged Reading with The Bricks Theatre in May 2013

Lori Matthews completed her undergraduate work in English and Theater Education at Jacksonville State University in Alabama.  She has an M.F.A. in Acting from the University of South Carolina at Columbia, and she studied acting in Chicago with Barbara Harris.  Lori is a member of Madison's Playwrights Ink.  Her short play, Between Us, received a reading at Chicago Dramatists’ Saturday Series and was staged as a workshop production at Second City.  A Tennessee native, Lori now lives in Stoughton with her husband, Greg, and her two children, Lukas and Sarah. 

October, Before I was BornIn the early hours after an industrial explosion, three family members await word on the fate of their loved ones employed at the facility.   Martha, Anne and Houston are stranded together in a rural farmhouse, without a car and with only limited information about the unfolding disaster.  As Martha attempts to diffuse Anne’s rising hysteria, Houston’s misguided efforts only serve to fuel the emotional explosions building in the family kitchen.

Additional development:

  • Workshop and Staged Reading as part of the Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights in Abingdon, VA in August 2011
  • Workshop and Stage Reading with Milwaukee Chamber Theatre in September 2011
  • Full Production by The Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia in October 2012
  • Full Production by Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, February 19-March 9, 2014, learn more»

Sarah Gubbins (Playwright) was the The Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing's 2010-2011 Carl Djerassi Fellow in Playwriting. Sarah recently completed an MFA in Writing for the Screen and Stage at Northwestern University. Her first full-length play, Fair Use, was developed and produced during First Look at Steppenwolf in 2008.  She worked as a dramaturg at Steppenwolf on the new plays We All Went Down to Amsterdam, Men of Tortuga, The Butcher of Baraboo, and Gary. Fair Use is a Finalist in the Kendeda Graduate Playwriting Competition and won the Agnes Nixon Playwriting Award at Northwestern. Her short plays have been produced as part of Collaboraction's Sketchbook 5, The Rhino Fest, Estrogen Fest and Snapshots. Her play Out of Order was a Heideman Award Finalist in the 2007 Actors Theatre Ten-Minute Play Contest. Her plays have also been read or developed at the Public Theater, About Face Theatre, Chicago Dramatists, Next Theatre Company and Collaboraction.

The Kid Thing: Lesbian couples Lee & Darcy and Nate & Margot are the closest of friends - that is, until a dinner party announcement brings major change. It’s all fun and games until someone mentions “the kid thing” in this new play about attraction, maternal instinct and parenthood.

Additional development:

  • Full Production by the Chicago Dramatists Guild in October 2011

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2009 Award Recipients

Kurt McGinnis Brown's plays have been performed throughout the country, including Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York, and have won competitions sponsored by Chicago Dramatists, Eclectic Company Theatre, Mercury Players, University of Akron Theatre Guild, and Wisconsin Wrights New Play Project. His award-winning fiction has appeared in national journals and e-zines. As communications director for a center researching land issues in the developing world, Kurt has worked in Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Peru, and Russia.

Broken and Entered: Vern and Wally inherit the house in the poor neighborhood they grew up in. Vern hatches a plan: throw out everything and then break into houses to fill up the house again with itemsfrom what he imagines are other people's better lives. Wally secretly plans another kind of escape with Jamila, who has moved back to this neighborhood where she too grew up. When these plans clash, this play about race, poverty, rage, and love reaches a brutal climax that reveals the consequences of trying to become a stranger to one's past.

Additional development:

  • Workshop and staged reading by Milwaukee Chamber Theatre in March 2010 as part of their Montgomery David Play Development Series. Susan Fete, Renaissance Theaterworks, director
  • Finalist in Reverie Productions Next Generation Playwriting Contest, 2010
  • Staged reading at ART/New York, New York, NY, June 2010.  Thom Rivera, director
  • Full production
  • Full Production by Milwaukee Chamber Theatre in September 2012

Rand Higbee earned an MFA in Playwriting from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. While at UNLV his first full-length play, Sir Isaac's Duel, was named an alternate to the National American College Theatre Festival held at the Kennedy Center. A former high school teacher, his one-act Next! has been performed by over 200 schools in the last five years. Rand's spoof of 1950's sci-fi movies, The Head That Wouldn't Die, premiered at the 2007 Last Frontier Theatre Conference and had a 4-week run at Cyrano's Playhouse in Anchorage.

The Lightning Bug: The year is 1939. The offices of the Magnopolis Daily News are buzzing over the rumored return of Dr. Kasady, the evil genius intent on global domination. As the reporters fight to get the scoop, little do they realize that one of their own, the unassuming Rishamie Reid, holds the key to defeating Kasady and saving the world.

Additional development:

  • Finalist in Lionheart Theatre's 2010 Make the House Roar contest
  • Full production at St. Mary's University in Winona, MN, Sept 2010
  • Full production at Prince William Sound Community College in Valdez, Alaska, in April of 2011

David Ray Schanker, author, playwright, and Clerk of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals of Wisconsin, died in 2010 from complications that arose following a heart transplant.  Beloved by young and old, students and colleagues alike, David is dearly missed.

David held an MFA from Columbia University and a law degree from Indiana University School of Law-Bloomington. His short fiction has appeared in numerous literary magazines, in newspapers including the Chicago Tribune, and on radio in NPR's "The Sound of Writing" series. His first novel, A Criminal Appeal (St. Martin's Press, 1998), was nominated for the Edgar. Mr. Schanker's work in theater includes an appearance in the play Dead End Kids at the New York Shakespeare Festival, two years as playwright-in-residence at the off-Broadway theater company ReCherChez, and the production of his plays Death in the Organization at Theater for the New City in New York and Asylum at the Beckmann Theatre in Indianapolis.

In May 2010 Forward Theater Company produced a staged reading of Kiritsis, which was an award recipient for Wisconsin Wrights 2009.  Forward dedicated their Monologue Festival in February 2011 to David and featured the premiere of a monologue written by him.

Kiritsis: The play tells the true story of a small-time real estate developer who in 1977 abducted the mortgage broker who foreclosed on the property where he had hoped to build a strip mall. Anthony Kiritsis held his hostage for three days, venting his frustration on live radio and ultimately on television. The play explores the relationship between the two men - one volatile and anti-religious, the other conservative and devout - in the pressure cooker of the hostage situation.

Additional development:

  • Workshop and staged reading of “Kiritsis” by Forward Theater Company in May 2010

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2008 Award Recipients

Ludmilla Bollow is an award winning actress and prize winning playwright. Hundreds of her plays have been produced in over 50 cities in the U.S., also foreign countries, from Africa to China.  One Acts & Monologues for Women (3rd edition) and The Church of the Holy Ghost are published by Broadway Plays (NY), the latter optioned for a Trimark movie. The Beach Club was printed in The Literary Half Yearly of India.  Play scenes of hers are in 12 leading play anthologies. She has taught playwriting and other writing, been commissioned to write plays and awarded the Wisconsin Council Playwriting Award three times. Her first novel, Dr. Zastro’s Sanitarium – For the Ailments of Women, (Behler Pub.), originally a play, received commendable reviews, including Publishers Weekly.

Choke Cherry Corners – Tavern & Dance Hall Victims of the Great Depression, a Wisconsin family is forced to live in a closed down tavern and dance hall, once the scene of immigrant celebrations. Auntie Iris, the colorful and gaudy traveling relative arrives for her annual visit on the evening of Celia's twelfth birthday. A night of celebration and family intrigues follows. By morning, all these intertwined lives have been frayed and shredded. A bittersweet portrayal of a Midwest family surviving Depression hard times.

Marcia Jablonski was born on the Near Northwest side of Chicago, the sixth of seven children. Her family lived in an apartment on the top floor of a building owned by her grandparents; a total of 23 members of her extended family resided in the same building. It was crowded. She spent the first twelve years of her educational career at small, Catholic schools and another four at the University of Illinois, which was neither small nor Catholic. Marcia has been involved with theater—behind, on or in front of the stage — her entire life. The Front Steps is her first play. She has lived in Mineral Point since 2002.

The Front Steps chronicles the transformation of a Chicago neighborhood from the mid-1970’s through the start of the new century. An unexpected community of characters is formed as the residents watch their surroundings change from a refuge for immigrants, to a haven for artists and eventually a magnet for real estate speculators. The play also explores the definition of “family.”

Additional development:

  • Selected by the Madison Repertory Theatre for their 2009 New Play Festival. Unfortunately, the Madison Rep folded prior to this event happening
  • Full Production at The Alley Stage in Mineral Point, WI, July/August 2010
  • Recipient of the first New Work Development Grant, a cooperative effort of the Wisconsin State Arts Board, Edenfred and Overture Center for the Arts
  • Staged Reading by Merit Theatre & Film group at Thirteenth Street Repertory Theatre in New York City in March 2013

Gwendolyn Rice holds a Bachelor’s degree in English and Theater from the University of Iowa, and a Master’s degree in Literature, History and Criticism of the Theater from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Rice has won awards for short fiction as well as playwriting, and has had plays produced in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa. She is also the author of the book, The Coronado Theatre: Rockfords Crown Jewel. Rice currently works as a communications specialist for Flad Architects.

A Thousand Words When a box of photos and personal papers belonging to Ernest Hemingway is discovered in the back room of a bar in Havana, Cuba, lots of people lay claim to them, including a powerful museum and a woman who says she is the long-lost granddaughter of the photographer. The nature of art, authenticity, marketing, and the power of pictures versus words are explored in this story that alternates between the 1930s and the present day.

Additional development:

  • Staged reading with Milwaukee Chamber Theatre in March 2009
  • Co-production by Forward Theater Company (Madison performances Jan/Feb 2012) and Milwaukee Chamber Theatre (Feb/March 2012)

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2007 Award Recipients

Greg Lawless was born in Peoria and writes so that he may one day play there. The Queen of Janesville, portraying a divided Northern family during the American Civil War, received a Wisconsin Wrights reading in 2007. His 1-act parody of university culture took 2nd place in a national comedy contest in Midland, Texas in 2005. The full-length version, Campus Affairs, was staged in 2009 in Madison under the penname Gwen Lawful. He is a member of Playwrights Ink and Chicago Dramatists.

The Queen of Janesville
After a series of disappointing Irish girls, Adam Haviland hires the daughter of an ex-slave to keep his house, which, after a string of lousy investments, he stands to lose.  But a far greater threat is the escalating rivalry between his identical twin sons, who stake out opposite sides of the impending Civil War. Caught in the middle is Nettie, who manages business and survival in this dramatic satire about love, money, bigotry and war.

Kurt McGinnis Brown’s latest full-length work is Not the Artist, a play exploring the ultimate value of art. His plays have been performed in Akron, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Madison, and have won or been finalists in competitions sponsored by Chicago Dramatists, Mercury Players, The Second City, and the University of Akron Theatre Guild.  His fiction has appeared in several national journals and e-zines. Fiction awards include the Academy of American Poets’ Award for Fiction and the New Letters Literary Awards. The communications manager for a center researching land issues in the developing world, Kurt has traveled to El Salvador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Peru, and Russia.

Recovering the Real Me
It’s a great time to be an alcoholic. Medical science has created a pill that eliminate one’s craving for a drink. You’re cured! And yet. And yet. Boo Champagne, retired from professional baseball at age 30, steps out of a treatment center loaded with pills that eliminate his cravings. He’s a new person, and he intends to say goodbye to his destructive way of life. Yet real people were involved in that life, and Boo becomes entangled in dramas that endanger his recovery. In this play about addiction and identity, Boo finds that killing his former life might involve killing somebody else.

Additional development:

  • Last Frontier Theatre Conference, Valdez, AK, June 2007.  Kurt McGinnis Brown, director.
  • Madison Repertory Theatre, Madison, WI, October 2007.  Trevin Gay, director.
  • Chicago Dramatists, Chicago, IL, October 2007.  Richard Shavzin, director.
  • Abingdon Theatre Company, New York, NY, March 2008.  Julie Hamberg, director.
  • Abingdon Theatre Company, New York, NY, January 2009.  Tom Rowan, director.

Bruce Murphy is editor of Milwaukee Magazine and longtime journalist. He is a published poet and sometime playwright who has previously had staged readings of his plays done by Bialystock & Bloom Theater and Paradox Theater, both Milwaukee companies.

Normal Human Beings
Normal Human Beings is a comic drama set at the time of Bill Clinton’s impeachment.  Three old friends, a married couple and their male friend, all in their 40s, see their relationship change when the friend introduces his new “swinger” girlfriend, a former student who happens to resemble the couple’s daughter.  The question of what are the boundaries of acceptable sexual behavior drives the action.

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