UMKC Student Named National Finalist in Kennedy Center Playwriting Competition

Nicholas Sawin will present his award-winning play at national festival in Washington, DC

KANSAS CITY, Mo.University of Missouri-Kansas City Master of Fine Arts student Nicholas Sawin has been named one of four National Finalists for the 2012 Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, which will be held April 17-21 in Washington, DC. Sawin is being recognized for his ten-minute play “Unnamed Lands,” the story of a gay man who struggles with his husband over what to name, and whether to name, their baby.

Sawin, an MFA in Creative Writing and Media Arts candidate in the English Department of the UMKC College of Arts and Sciences, will be in residence at the Kennedy Center during the festival, April 17-21, as the festival’s guest. His and the other finalists’ plays will be showcased on Thursday, April 19 at 6 p.m. (EDT) in concert reading format with a cast of professional actors and a director from the Washington DC theatre community. The performances will be streamed live on the Kennedy Center website. The event will also be simulcast on New Play TV. The Ten-Minute Playwriting Award will be announced and presented at the Festival on April 21.

“I still can’t quite believe that this is happening to me,” Sawin said. “I felt that I had to write this play for my own reasons, and the response to it has been so overwhelming. I’m so lucky to be in UMKC’s program and to be working with such talented writers.”

Kansas City residents will have a chance to see a production of “Unnamed Lands” at 8 p.m. April 27-30, at “InTENsity: Ten Bite-Sized Plays by KC Writers,” at the Fishtank Theater in the Crossroads, 1715 Wyandotte, Kansas City, Mo. 64108. Tickets will be $10 and available for purchase at the door. To make reservations, call (816) 353-4529.

The competition for the Kennedy Center honor is intense and includes MFA playwriting students from some of the top programs in the country, including Yale University, New York University, Brown University and Carnegie-Mellon University. Sawin initially wrote the play as part of his UMKC playwriting class with instructor Frank Higgins, and entered the contest when Higgins brought the competition to his attention.

“From the first draft you could see that Nick had a terrific idea for a play,” Higgins said. “What made him different from most is that he drove himself to polish and refine, and each draft made the play better. Now he’s got a diamond.”

Sawin’s play was selected from a pool of 16 National Semi-Finalists from across the nation (two winning plays from each of the eight festival regional competitions). “Unnamed Lands” made it to the top four out of an original pool of approximately 1,000 contenders. The finalists all receive a paid membership in both the Dramatists Guild of America and the Playwrights Center of Minneapolis. A cash award of $1,000 will be given to the playwright awarded first place at the National Festival. In addition, Sawin’s play may be published by Dramatic Publishing Company.

“This recognition will give my writing an incredible amount of exposure,” Sawin said. “Who knows what the response to this play might be?”

Sawin’s play is already garnering national attention in other venues as well. Actors Theatre of Louisville invited Sawin to workshop his play with apprentice actors and interns in directing and dramaturgy, leading up to a reading of his play and a talk-back on April 11. Also, MadLab Theatre in Columbus, Ohio, will mount a full production of “Unnamed Lands” as part of its 2012 Theatre Roulette shorts festival at 8 p.m. on May 4, 12, 17, and 25 and at 4 p.m. on May 26. Sawin’s play was ranked first out of 703 ten-minute play submissions for that festival.

About the University of Missouri-Kansas City

The University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), one of four University of Missouri campuses, is a public university serving more than 15,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. UMKC engages with the community and economy based on a four-part mission: life and health sciences; visual and performing arts; urban issues and education; and a vibrant learning and campus life experience. For more information about UMKC, visit You can also find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and watch us on YouTube.

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