April 20, 2004

Contact: Paul Lim, Department of English, (785) 864-3642.

KU playwright wins national award in 10-minute play at Kennedy Center

LAWRENCE -- Kristen Wirsig, a University of Kansas junior in creative writing, won the top award in the Ten-Minute Play Competition at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in Washington, D.C., April 12 through 18.

Wirsig, of Colorado Springs, Colo., and a Boston University student, Gregory Fletcher, shared the national award for their 10-minute plays: "The Story of Izagani and Izanami" by Wirsig and "Stairway to Heaven" by Fletcher. They share the $1,000 prize for the national Ten-Minute Play Competition, sponsored annually by the festival. In addition, the winning plays will be published.

"The Story of Izagani and Izanami" is about two people whose relationship parallels that of a couple in ancient Japanese mythology. As the modern story unfolds, the myth is interwoven with it.

Wirsig wrote the play in a beginning playwriting class taught by Paul Stephen Lim, KU professor of English. Wirsig's win marks the third time KU playwrights in Lim's classes have won national awards in the annual festival. Five of Lim's students, including Wirsig, have received invitations to compete nationally.

Lim submitted the play for competition in KCACTF a year ago. He and Wirsig watched the play win at the KCACTF regional festival last January in Denver, and together they watched it win again at the Kennedy Center on Saturday, April 17.

The Kennedy Center invited both Lim and Wirsig to attend the national festival this year. Lim was part of the three-member National Selection Team, which chose the six plays to be featured at the festival. Wirsig participated in the staged reading of her play and took master classes from nationally known playwrights such as John Strand, Heather McDonald and Nilo Cruz, winner of a 2003 Pulitzer Prize for his play "Anna in the Tropics."

Mead Hunter and Heather McDonald, two nationally known theatre professionals, judged the competition.

Wirsig is the daughter of Gary and Doreen Wirsig of Omaha, Neb., and is a graduate of Sand Creek High School in Colorado Springs.

Previous national winners from KU are Alan Newton for "Whiteout" and Michael O'Brien for his short play "Bunnies." O'Brien, of Winnetka, Ill., graduated in May 2003 with a bachelor's degree in English. Newton, of Louisville, Ky., graduated in fall 2002 with a Ph.D. in English.

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