Over 50 years ago, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln hosted a playwriting competition to help playwrights gain experience and get feedback on their plays.
On Oct. 4, 1961, The Daily Nebraskan published an article headlined “Playwriting Competition Attracts Fifty Manuscripts,” about the third Fred Ballard playwriting competition put on by Nebraska’s University Theater.
Fred Ballard was a UNL graduate who became a successful playwright from 1911 to 1930. His Harvard master thesis, "Believe Me, Xantippe,” went on to become a Broadway success, according to Nebraska Authors.
The contest helped several plays become successful. During the competition’s time, winning plays were produced on the theater stage and on the TV screen.
Joseph Baldwin, University Theater specialist in theater history and playwriting, brought the competition back to the university in 1958.
Baldwin revived the contest to bring back local interest in playwriting, help playwrights improve their work through seeing it performed live and help Nebraska become a center for the arts, according to the DN article.
UNL no longer hosts playwriting competitions, according to Julie Hagemeier, general manager of the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film.
“We don’t really have a formal playwriting program,” she said. “On occasion we will teach a class in playwriting, but that isn’t even on a specific rotation. It’s when we have an instructor who has an opportunity and the background to teach that particular class.”
Playwriting may not be featured in the curriculum, but other events give students opportunities to expand their work, according to Hagemeier. Theatrix, a student-run theatre company at UNL, has hosted events like Center Stage and the New Artist Festival to help students get recognition for their work. Center Stage allowed students to get their short plays read and staged. The New Artist Festival allowed students to show their work, including short plays, according to Hagemeier.
Another event put on by Theatrix is an annual 24-hour play festival that happened this year, according to Hagemeier.
Outside of playwriting, students can attend shows put on by the theatre department. “The Legend of Georgia McBride” will host its official opening night on Oct. 4 at 7:30 p.m. at the Lied Center’s Johnny Carson Theater. The play will have various showtimes through Oct. 13.
Though the university program has different events than past years, students still have opportunities to expand their work outside of class, according to Hagemeier.