Wagner College Theatre Reveals 2015 Stanley Drama Award Winners

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The Wagner College Theatre has announced that the winner of this year's Stanley Drama Award is Bob Clyman of North Caldwell, N.J., for his play, "The Good Bet."

Two finalists for this year's awards were also announced: Jackson Toby of Highland Park, N.J., for "Seducing Jonathan: No Easy Task," and Harold Ellis Clark of Gretna, La., for "Uncle Bobby '63."

The awards will be given on Monday, March 23 at 6 p.m. at the Player's Club in Manhattan. The awards ceremony will be followed by a cocktail reception. For more information, contact our Special Events office by email (specialevents@wagner.edu) or telephone (718-390-9333).

The Stanley Drama Award was established in 1957 by Staten Island philanthropist Alma Guyon Timolat Stanley and endowed through the Stanley-Timolat Foundation to encourage and support aspiring playwrights. The national Stanley Award competition is administered by the Wagner College Theatre program, ranked as the number one college theater program in the country in the Princeton Review's "Best Colleges Guide 2015." The Stanley Award carries with it a monetary prize along with the distinction of joining the illustrious list of past Stanley winners.

The Stanley Drama Award has a long and distinguished history. Past winners include Terrence McNally's "This Side of the Door" (aka "Things That Go Bump in the Night"), Lonne Elder III's "Ceremonies in Dark Old Men," and Jonathan Larson's "Rent." Among those judging for the Stanley Award have been playwrights Edward Albee and Paul Zindel, actresses Geraldine Page and Kim Stanley, and TV producer/pioneer talk-show host David Susskind.

"The Good Bet" features Mark, a respected moral philosopher, who has never wavered from his bedrock belief that people are fundamentally good. Ben, on the other hand, investigates intellectual property fraud and is equally convinced that any apparent act of kindness is simply a subtler tactic for pursuing the same self-serving results.

Their close but unlikely friendship since childhood has always been tense, with Mark's persistent efforts to help Ben achieve greater fulfillment matched in intensity by the seething resentment his efforts stir up in Ben.

When Ben decides to stop investigating white-collar criminals and begin turning previously law-abiding employees into them instead, thereby incurring Mark's disapproval, he proposes a bet, ostensibly to settle their longstanding argument over human nature, but in reality with a much darker purpose in mind.

Bob Clyman's plays have been produced Off-Broadway and at regional theaters like the Alley Theatre, Laguna Playhouse, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, San Jose Repertory Theatre, George Street Theatre, Merrimack Repertory Theatre, Colony Studio Theatre in Los Angeles, Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey and L.A. Theatre Works, in addition to touring Scotland.

His play, "Secret Order," was initially commissioned and produced by the Ensemble Studio Theatre under the auspices of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. It was subsequently produced at 59E59 Theatre in New York, where it was nominated for an Outer Circle Critics Award for Best Script in 2008. It has since been produced at many regional theatres.

Clyman's plays, "Tranced" and "The Exceptionals," were both supported by Edgerton Foundation New American Play awards. "Tranced" has been produced by the San Jose Repertory Theatre, Laguna Playhouse and Merrimack Repertory Theatre, among others. "The Expectionals" was produced by the Contemporary American Theatre Festival and Merrimack Repertory Theatre, where it was nominated for Best Play and Best New Play of 2012 by the Independent Reviewers of New England.

Clyman's Stanley Drama Award-winning play, "The Good Bet," was also chosen for the Ashland New Play Festival in 2014.

Clyman has been awarded a number of national prizes, including a Eugene O'Neill Summer Conference Fellowship, Geraldine Dodge Fellowship, Playwrights First Award, New Jersey State Arts Council Award, Edward Albee Foundation Fellowship, Berilla-Kerr Foundation Award, Djerassi Foundation Fellowship, Shenandoah Valley Playwrights Fellowship, and a Theater in the Works fellowship.

"Seducing Jonathan" concerns three Rutgers University undergraduates in an off-campus apartment: Brian, a self-confident party animal in academic trouble; his friend, Jonathan, a pathologically shy National Merit Scholar, and Charlotte, the lessee of the apartment, who is studying acting and sketching at the Mason Gross School of the Arts. On the lookout for a future husband, Charlotte considers Jonathan a possibility. Although attracted to Charlotte, Jonathan fails to accept Charlotte's invitation to lose his virginity with her on her 21st birthday. He rues his cowardice.

Brian poses naked for Charlotte's life class at the Mason Gross School. He also agrees to pose nude for photos for a calendar she is preparing for a job interview. Jonathan bribes Brian to leave the apartment and permit him to model for "Lady Chatterley's Guide to Flower Arranging" in Brian's place. Initially skeptical that Jonathan's shyness is compatible with nude modeling, Charlotte allows Jonathan to try. Jonathan overcomes his anxiety enough to pose for 12 nude photos. Charlotte reinstates her invitation for mutual seduction and waits for him in her room. The play ends with Jonathan removing his boxer shorts, throwing them into his room and giddily entering Charlotte's room, buck naked.

"Seducing Jonathan" drew upon Toby's experiences with teaching and learning from undergraduates at Rutgers, as well as on sociological insights into the difficulties of staggering toward adulthood in modern societies.

Jackson Toby is a latecomer to playwriting, having retired after 50 years as a professor of sociology at Rutgers University. Inspired by a vivid memory of two undergraduate courses in playwriting taught by Maurice Valency, translator of Jean Giraudoux's "The Madwoman of Chaillot," he set out to reinvent himself as a playwright.

Toby's previous work includes "A Fine Romance," which won the 17th Annual New Jersey Wordsmith Competition for unproduced plays in 2011, and from which a staged reading of two scenes took place in March 2011 at the Crossroads Theater in New Brunswick, N.J.

Toby's latest book is entitled "The Lowering of Higher Education in America," and he has published many professional articles as well as opinion pieces in large-circulation newspapers directed at the general public. His 15 minutes of notoriety, if not fame, came when Jane Pauley interviewed him on the Today Show about one of his articles.

Toby is a member of the American Sociological Association and the Dramatists Guild.

"Uncle Bobby '63" is set in New Orleans in, not surprisingly, 1963. Dwight, a veteran Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee member, returns home bruised and beaten from a civil rights demonstration. His wife, Zenobia, becomes concerned when Joseph, a white SNCC member from New York who also was injured during the demonstration, arrives after being hospitalized and receives an anonymous death threat. Despite opposition from Dwight, Zenobia, a former SNCC member, calls her Uncle Bobby, a former Negro newspaper war correspondent and college professor, who doesn't believe in nonviolence. Upon confirming the threat, Uncle Bobby and his friend, Ike, descend on the home fully armed, making everyone question if violence or nonviolence represents the most effective response to hatred.

New Orleans native Harold Ellis Clark, who currently lives in Gretna, La., was previously honored as a 2013 Stanley Drama Award finalist for his play, "Tour Detour." That play was also a finalist in Stage West's 7th Annual Southwest Playwriting Competition (Fort Worth, Texas, 2013), and a semifinalist at the 2013 Eugene O'Neill National Playwrights Conference (Waterford, Conn.).

Clark's "Uncle Bobby '63" was also named a finalist in IATI Theatre's Cimentos 2015 (New York, N.Y.), and in the Playhouse on the Square's 2014 New Works@The Works Playwriting Competition (Memphis, Tenn.).

Playhouse on the Square produced Clark's "We Live Here" in January as a result of his being named one of two winners of the company's 2013 New Works@The Works Playwriting Competition. "We Live Here" also made it to semifinal rounds of competitions coordinated by the American Blues Theater (Chicago, Ill.), the Landing Theatre Company's New American Voices Play Reading Series (Houston, Texas), the 2014 American Actors U.K. Play Reading Festival (London, U.K.) and the 2014 Eugene O'Neill National Playwrights Conference.

Clark's play, "Fishers of Men," debuted in June 2012 at Dillard University (New Orleans, La.). It won Upstage Theatre's 4th Annual Emerging Playwright Project Award (Baton Rouge, La., 2013). The play's regional premiere at Upstage Theatre in September 2013 was followed by encore performances there in October 2013. It also was performed in February 2014 at Wiley College (Marshall, Texas).

Clark's first play, "Marrero Action," debuted in March 2011 at the Anthony Bean Community Theater (New Orleans).

His current work-in-progress is tentatively titled, "Madame Thames' Spirit Bar."

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