Fine Arts alumni take top two prizes at Alberta Playwriting Competition

A pair of University of Lethbridge Faculty of Fine Arts alumni have taken the two top awards at the 2014 Alberta Playwriting Competition.

James Wade (BFA ’11) won the competition’s Grand Prize for his work, Helmut’s Day, while Ryan Reese (BFA ’13) was recognized as the Discovery Prize winner for Before the Night Takes Us. It marks the third consecutive year that a U of L alumnus has won the Discovery Prize, Reese having also won the award in 2013, while Makambe Simamba (BFA ’14) took the prize in 2012. Chelsea Woolley (BA/BEd ’14) also had an honourable mention behind Samamba in 2012.

The common thread to all the talented playwrights who have won provincial awards is the fact that they are also past recipients of the University of Lethbridge’s Play Right Prize. Wade was a two-time winner for his plays Muse Control (2010) and Greetings from Sardineland (2011), while Reese claimed second place in 2013 with Ascending the Blue. Simamba and Woolley also came through the Play Right competition.

Wade’s grand prize win nets the playwright a $3,500 award.

Helmut's Big Day takes place on an ancient wall protecting the glorious empire from the savage barbarians on the other side. The problem arises when Sabir and Katar, two soldiers tasked with defending the wall, forget which side is which. When they see a rider approaching from either direction, they are given a chance to redeem themselves if they can correctly identify the soldier from the barbarian. Failure to kill the barbarian and salute the soldier will mean possible death and certain dishonour for the both of them.

The jury remarked, "A short, surprising, dynamo of a theatre piece, packed with surreal humour. An exciting, existential read."

Reese presented Before the Night Takes Us, the story of Alison, a young musician whose gift for music has begun to reveal talents she never could have imagined. Desperate for answers, she accepts the help of a mysterious pianist and an icy detective, who know more about her than anyone should. As Alison hunts for the truth, no one will be able to predict who or what she will become.

The jury called the play,“Unusual, nicely surreal, with evidence of solid talent that should be encouraged.”

The Alberta Playwriting Competition is the longest running provincial competition of its kind in Canada and offers the largest cash prize of any provincial playwriting competition.