Chris Weikel Wins NNPN's 2014 Smith Prize Commission
The NATIONAL NEW PLAY NETWORK (NNPN), the country's alliance of non-profit theaters that champions the development, production, and continued life of new plays, proudly announces that the 2014 Smith Prize Commission, which carries an Award of $5,000, has been awarded to Chris Weikel for The Word from Kampala. Awarded annually to a proposal for a play that dramatizes the pressing issues of our times, The Smith Prize is funded by a gift from screenwriter, novelist and playwright Timothy Jay Smith and a number of other socially-conscious donors. The Word from Kampala was conceived in reaction to the recent act of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who signed into law a bill that makes acts of homosexuality punishable by life imprisonment.
"When I convinced friends eight years ago to join me in creating The Smith Prize for Political Theater, one of several questions we wanted playwrights to consider was: What are our global responsibilities as Americans?" Smith says. "Chris Weikel's proposed play strikes at the heart of that question. Evangelical missionaries, with the tacit approval of the U.S. government, espouse homophobic beliefs in Africa, the consequences of which later haunt them in deeply personal ways. It is a metaphor for so much of American foreign policy. Though the play still needs to be written, I am glad the challenge of taking on this vital issue has landed in Chris's very deft hands and words."
"The Smith Prize Committee has chosen a fascinating proposal, and we look forward to the development of Chris Weikel's commission," adds NNPN Executive Director Nan Barnett. "NNPN, with the help of donors like Tim Smith, continues its dedication to the development, production and continued life of new plays, and, with the selection of Weikel, its support of NNPN Alumni Playwrights." A committee of artistic, managing and literary leaders from across the country chose Wikel's proposal out of submissions from a select group of NNPN Alumni and playwrights nominated by Core Member Theaters. Gabriel Jason Dean's Hajj in the Heartland and David Mitchell Robinson's Untitled were selected as 2014 Smith Prize Finalists.
Awarded annually to a proposal for a play that addresses concerns affecting the American body politic, The Smith Prize is funded by a gift from screenwriter, novelist and playwright Timothy Jay Smith and a number of other socially-conscious donors. Since 2006, the Prize has been administered by NNPN, and is awarded to a play that asks: Who are Americans as a people? What are we becoming? What are our global responsibilities? Previous Prizewinners are Martyna Majok's Ironbound, George Brant's Grounded, A. Zell Williams' In a Daughters' Eyes, Sean Christopher Lewis' Killadelphia, Martin Zimmerman's White Tie Ball, Y York's ...And LA Is Burning, Seth Rozin's Black Gold, and Peter Gil-Sheridan's Topsy Turvy Mouse. In addition to the $5,000 commission, NNPN contributes an additional $2,500 to the first NNPN Core Member theatre to develop the play, and $2,500 to the first Core Member theatre to produce the resulting play.
Jane and Jeremy are unexpectedly visited in their suburban Ohio home by old friend from their days serving as missionaries in Africa. The visit brings them face to face with a troubling connection between their religious work, their estranged son Paul, and Uganda's restrictive anti-gay policies. The couple must confront the far-reaching unintended consequences of their past actions in a deeply personal way.
Chris Weikel was one of the first students to graduate from the Rita and Burton Goldberg MFA in playwriting program at Hunter College, studying under Tina Howe and Mark Bly. Weikel participated in the Kennedy Center ACTF/NNPN MFA Playwrights Workshop in 2012. His play Secret Identity was featured during "Playwright's Week" at the Lark Play Development Center in 2012. His Penny Penniworth, which according to The New York Times "deserves to become a staple" was produced Off-Broadway by Emerging Artists Theatre Company (EAT) and published by Dramatic Publishing. His Pig Tale: An Urban Faerie Story was produced by TOSOS off-off-Broadway as well as at the Absolut Dublin International Gay Theatre Festival. Weikel is a judge-at-large for the New York Innovative Theatre Awards and a regular contributor to Drunken! Careening! Writers! at KGB. He was a 2008-09 Dramatist Guild Fellow, the 2007 recipient of the Robert Chesley Award for emerging gay playwrights, the 2008 recipient of the Irv Zarkower Award, a 2011 recipient of the Rita and Burton Goldberg Award from Hunter College, and a 2013 NYFA Fellowship grantee.