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University Relations

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Jan. 11, 2005
Contact: Paul Stephen Lim, KU English department, (785) 864-3642 (work), 841-1544 (home).

2 KU playwrights among 24 KU, Haskell students in regional theatre festival

LAWRENCE -- Plays by two University of Kansas students are being featured in separate playwriting competitions at the Jan. 17 through 22 regional festival of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Winners will be invited to the national festival of KCACTF in Washington, D.C., in April.

Focusing on Native American issues, "Weaving the Rain" is a two-act play by Dianne Yeahquo Reyner, who is a member of the Kiowa Nation from Meers, Okla., a graduate student in KU's indigenous nations studies program, and an assistant instructor at Haskell Indian Nations University.

" The Option," a 10-minute play by Elizabeth "Libby" Dean, Bucyrus senior at KU, will compete with five other 10-minute plays at the same regional festival.

Before competing in St. Louis, "Weaving the Rain" will have a benefit performance at 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 15, at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St.

Both plays were written in playwriting classes at KU taught by Paul Stephen Lim, Conger-Gabel teaching professor of English and artistic director for English Alternative Theatre. "Both have one chance in six of advancing to the national festival in April," Lim says.
Together, KU's English Alternative Theatre and Haskell's Thunderbird Theatre will send 24 students and faculty to the regional festival in St. Louis.

" Weaving the Rain" is Reyner's first play, first production and first competition, but not the first recognition of her play. She received the English department's spring 2004 Grant K. Goodman Playwriting Award for her work. Reyner initially wrote the play with one act for a class assignment and later created a second act, completing what she felt was an unfinished work. Co-produced last November by Thunderbird Theatre and English Alternative Theatre with the Lawrence Arts Center, the two-act play received standing ovations at both performances. In December, Hanay Geiogamah, director of the American Indian Studies Center and Project HOOP (Honoring Our Origins and Our People) at the University of California-Los Angeles, invited Reyner to produce portions of her play for professional Native American theatre artists meeting from across the country.

Reyner's play focuses on a family called together on the night their father dies of cirrhosis. During their vigil, the spirit of an ancestor guides the family to wholeness, Reyner says. Her play examines how the family's personal choices as well as how history and U.S. policies that have assaulted Native American cultures contributed to the family's dysfunction. "The characters come to realize that their strength to continue relies on their foundation in their culture, the land and their family," Reyner says.

Reyner, who is researching contemporary Native American theatre for her thesis, says KU faculty advisers in the indigenous nations studies program encouraged her to consider pursuing a creative master's thesis. "The fact that I was able to do this as part of an academic program at KU is amazing," she said. She complimented Bernard Hirsch, associate professor of English; Rita Napier, associate professor of history; John Gronbeck-Tedesco, professor of theatre and film; and Sharon O'Brien, associate professor of political science, among KU faculty in the interdisciplinary program who encouraged her.

Dean's play "The Option" was one of six 10-minute plays that she wrote in Lim's playwriting class. The title hints at Dean's use of football metaphors to create a comedic exchange between a mother and son trying to reach out to each other. Dean focuses on the 16-year-old high school football player's attempting to talk to his mother for the first time since his father's death a few months previously.
" When I found out I won, it was the biggest compliment I had received," Dean said. She said she felt "The Option" was a good play, but until Lim submitted it into competition, she hadn't realized that others might think so too.

Pat Melody, artistic director of Thunderbird Theatre at Haskell, directed "Weaving the Rain" with an all-Native cast and crew from Haskell. Patrick Carriere, KU doctoral candidate in theatre and film, was the scenic designer. Lee Saylor, technical director for the Lawrence Arts Center and chief designer for English Alternative Theatre, was lighting designer.

KU students competing in the Irene Ryan acting auditions at the KCACTF regional festival in St. Louis are: Andrew Bullington, Jessica Durrett and Colin Elliott, who will be partnered respectively by Haskell student Manny Manzani and KU students Jacqueline Grunau and Stephen Moles. Haskell students competing in the Irene Ryan acting auditions are Carly Blemmel with partner Tyla Coatney; and Brad Horne and Joseph Gipp, who will both be partnered by Patrick Carriere. Zacory Boatright, KU playwright with EAT, is attending the competition as an observer.

Haskell cast and crew performing at St. Louis include: students Holly Emmerich, Dennison Dugni, Clifford Jackson, David Seepie, Natasha Ninham, B.J. Wahnee and Philenia Walkingstick; and staff Tom Spotted Horse, Lori Tapahonso and Dustin Wolfe.
Tickets for the Jan. 15 benefit performance of "Weaving the Rain" can be purchased at the Lawrence Arts Center box office for $5 for students, $8 for seniors and $10 for others.

KU students selected for the regional competition and their hometowns are:

From Lawrence
Andrew R. Bullington, sophomore in theatre and film, son of Bobbi Rahder and Stuart Bullington; Lawrence Free State High School graduate.

Colin F. Elliott, junior in English, son of Robert and Dorice Elliott; Lawrence Free State High School graduate.

Stephen Michael Moles, junior in theatre and voice, son of Kevin and Betty N. Moles; Lawrence Free State High School graduate.

Zacory Boatright, senior in English, is married to Mary Boatright; Topeka High School graduate.

From Hillsboro
Jacqueline C. Grunau, senior in anthropology, daughter of Charles N. Grunau; Hillsboro High School graduate.

From Bucyrus
Elizabeth Mary Dean, senior in English, daughter of Michael and Mary Dean; Louisburg High School graduate.

From Bemidji
Patrick C. Carriere, doctoral candidate in theatre and film, son of Don and Winifred Carriere; graduate of Carlton College and Bemidji State University.

From Battle Creek
Jessica Lauren Durrett, senior in English, daughter of James and Johanna Durrett; Kellogg Community College graduate.

From Meers
Dianne Yeahquo Reyner, master's degree student in indigenous nations studies, daughter of Irene Spotted Horse and the late Thomas Spotted Horse. She received a bachelor's degree in American Indian studies, concentrating in native literatures, from Haskell Indian Nations University in 2001 and is a Lawrence High School graduate. Reyner is an assistant instructor of English at Haskell.


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