M.F.A. Theatre Student New Play Wins Multiple Awards From the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival
Austin Dean Ashford's new play, (I)sland T(rap), has been recognized by the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in a number of categories, including second place honors for both the Harold and Mimi Steinberg National Student Playwriting Award and the Hip Hop Theatre Creator Award. Additionally, the play earned a certificate for Distinguished Achievement by the Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award.
The play, a solo performance both written and performed by Ashford, is a hip-hop riff about Black Ulysses on an Odyssey of self-discovery and a powerful exploration of a young artist of color navigating the turbulent waters of contemporary American culture while trying to find his authentic voice. Ashford will receive $1,500 for the awards, as well as a trip to the Kennedy Center American College Theatre National Festival, where he was to perform an excerpt of the play on April 13, on the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theatre stage.
Today, April 16, Ashford has also been invited to showcase portions of the work during the Kennedy Center Arts Summit. In addition, Austin will be invited to a playwriting intensive in the summer of 2018 at the Kennedy Center to further develop his playwriting and creative work.
The Department of Theatre sent Ashford and a band of collaborators including graduate director Cole Wimpee, graduate designers Kathleen Schmidt (set), Eric Armstrong (lights), Catherine Blencowe (master electrician) and undergraduate theatre major Katherine O'Rear (sound/stage management) to present the play at the Kennedy Center's regional festival in early March in San Angelo, Texas. The production was a huge hit with the audiences, and in addition to writing awards, the production received awards in several categories from the Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Awards, which insists that theatrical production is central to the urgent community, national and international conversations on the campuses of higher education nationwide.
The categories the production was recognized for were: Outstanding Production of a New Work, Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Play (Austin Dean Ashford) and Outstanding Director of a New Work (Cole Wimpee for (I)sland T(rap). Faculty sponsor, John Walch, received a certificate for Excellence in Dramaturgy of a New Work.
At 9:30 p.m. Friday, April 20, the Department of Theatre will celebrate the work with a production of (I)sland (T)rap as a part of the ArkType Festival of New Works. The production and the entire festival will be at the new UA Black Box Theatre in the newly rennovated Global Campus building on the Fayetteville Square. Tickets for the performance and all of the new works for the ArkType festival can be found at theatre.uark.edu.
Ashley Cohea, business manager, University Theater
Department of Theatre
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