Arts & Culture

Searching for the Next Great Playwright


LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 18, 2010) − Known for its academic programs and productions showcasing new playwrights, the University of Kentucky Department of Theatre may just be the stomping grounds of the next Arthur Miller, Oscar Wilde or Tennessee Williams.

From coursework in playwriting for undergraduates, as well as graduates, to the prestigious James W. Rodgers Playwriting Competition, UK Theatre is more and more recognized for using its "learning laboratory" to cultivate not only regional playwriting talent, but ones worldwide.

"Our playwriting program is unique in that we are supporting and nurturing undergraduate playwrights, as well as graduate students in the field," notes Nancy Jones, chair of UK Department of Theatre. "They have an opportunity to work with faculty and be mentored in a way that very few undergraduate theatre majors in the country are able to do."

The world premiere of the new play "Blur in the Rear View," the Rodgers Playwriting Competition winner by Aleks Merilo, is yet another way UK Theatre uses its stage as a "lab" to advance the work of a new playwright. Through the competition, the work of an up-and-coming new playwright under the age of 30 is selected from an international pool of applicants to enjoy a world premiere on one of the university's stages. UK Theatre then capitalizes on its facilities and faculty in a "learning lab" atmosphere researching and designing ways to execute and stage the new work for a Bluegrass audience featuring a UK cast.

An emerging California playwright, Merilo has had scripts previously staged at Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, Furious Theatre at Pasadena Playhouse, and Pan Theatre in San Francisco. Currently, he is a teacher at TheatreWorks in the San Francisco Bay area.

Merilo's "Blur in the Rear View" explores the relationship among three people who struggle to overcome the ghosts of the past. He started writing the play after discovering the Edward Hopper painting "Summer Evening."

"In the picture, a young man and woman appear to stand together on the porch of a modest house. Yet there is a sense of discomfort in the picture, and the mystery behind the young couple became the first scene of the play, and the genesis for the story that followed," says Merilo. "In this drama, I have become interested in exploring the possibility that a single, definitive moment in a life can determine who a person will become. In this case, the play is influenced by an incident eight years prior to the start of the play, on a porch like the one featured in Hopper's painting."

This original production also presents young actors with the chance to explore a character never interpreted on a local stage before, and will star Sara Macy, Brian Sprague and Nathan Bush, all undergraduate theatre majors at UK. Jones is director of this production.

Named for Professor Emeritus James W. Rodgers, the Rodgers Playwriting Competition award is given to a playwright whose work best represents the new voice of American theatre. The competition is a biennial event that was begun in 2004.

"Blur in the Rear View" debuts at UK’s Briggs Theatre Feb. 18-28. Ticket prices for "Blur in the Rear View" are $5 for UK students, $10 for UK faculty/staff, and $15 for the general public. Performances begin nightly at 7:30 with a 2 p.m. matinee offered on Sunday, Feb. 28. To purchase tickets, contact the Singletary Center Ticket Office at (859) 257-4929 or visit online at
For more information on the "Blur in the Rear View " world premiere or on UK Theatre's playwriting programs, visit the UK Theatre Web site at
or call (859) 257-3297.

To hear Nancy Jones discuss more recent happenings at UK Theatre, visit Carl Nathe's "UK At the Half" interview with Jones at