CONTACT: WINSTON BARCLAY
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0073; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: April 2, 1999
UI Playwrights Workshop member Lee Simon wins national
Lorraine Hansberry Award
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Levy "Lee" Simon Jr., a graduate student
in the University of Iowa Playwrights Workshop, has been honored with the
American College Theatre Festival (ACTF) Lorraine Hansberry Award, for the
nation's best student-written play about the African-American experience.
Simon was honored for "The Bow Wow Club," which premiered at the 1998 Iowa
Playwrights Festival in the UI department of theatre arts.
"The Bow Wow Club" depicts a no-holds-barred reunion of
old Harlem companions that tests the meanings of friendship, marriage and
Supported by the Kennedy Center Education Department and
the Dramatic Publishing Company, the Lorraine Hansberry Award is presented
in memory of the trailblazing African-American playwright who wrote "A Raisin
in the Sun." Hansberry was the youngest playwright -- and the first African-American
playwright -- to win the New York Drama Critics Circle Award after "A Raisin
in the Sun" was produced on Broadway in 1959. She died of cancer in 1965 at
the age of 34.
Simon is the second UI winner of the award. Brenda Faye
Collie won in 1980 for "Silent Octaves." UI students Charles Smith (1983)
and Robert Alexander (1997) won second-place honors. UI alumnus Sean Clark
won the award in 1984, just before he came to the UI.
In addition to a cash award of $2,500, Simon will receive
an all-expenses-paid fellowship to attend the prestigious Eugene O'Neill Theatre
Center in Connecticut, and his play will be published by Dramatic Publishing
Company. the UI department of theatre arts will also receive a $750 grant
in recognition of the award.
Simon is in the final semester of his Master of Fine Arts
studies at the UI. His plays include "God, the Crackhouse and the Devil,"
which was produced by La Mama in New York last year, and several plays written
at the UI -- "Caseload," "The Last Day of King Henri Christophe," "Shango
in the South Bronx," "Courageous and Infinity" and "Dad, the Stuttering Preacher,"
in addition to "The Bow Wow Club." He is now at work on "For the Love of Freedom,"
an epic drama about the Haitian revolution that will receive a reading at
the 1999 Iowa Playwrights Festival in May.
Simon also has extensive experience as an actor, including
stints with the Negro Ensemble Company and the Circle Repertory Theatre Company.
Last summer and fall he toured the United States and the United Kingdom in
"Miss Evers' Boys," and he was a cast member of the Pulitzer Prize winning
"Kentucky Cycle." In Iowa he has performed for Iowa City's Riverside Theatre,
and next summer he will perform in August Wilson's "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"
for Iowa Summer Rep 1999.
The Iowa Playwrights Festival
is a unique event in college theater. Each spring the UI department of theatre
arts directs virtually all its academic, technical and production resources
to the performance and discussion of new plays from the Iowa Playwrights Workshop.
"The Bow Wow Club" joins an extensive list of plays that
have emerged from the Iowa Playwrights Festival to wider recognition through
awards or successful professional productions, and have been honored with
theatrical awards. Examples in recent years include: Peter Ullian's "In the
Shadow of the Terminal Tower," which was selected by Harold Prince for development
as a musical, and premiered as "Eliot Ness in Cleveland" last season in Denver;
Naomi Wallace's "The War Boys" and "In the Heart of America," which have been
given major productions in London; and Robert Alexander's "Preface to the
Alien Garden," which has been given a series of productions throughout the
country. Kate Aspengren, who is now a faculty playwright-in-residence, presented
"Dear Mrs. Martin" in the festival, where it was seen by a representative
of the Samuel French publishing house, leading to the script's publication
and availability to theaters throughout the country.
This season's festival will be May 3-8 in the UI Theatre
ACTF is a national organization that promotes and honors
excellence in college theater. ACTF sponsors regional and national competitions
in which the UI can boast a record of consistent success for productions,
playwriting and design. The UI was the inaugural winner of an award for support
of student playwrights, administered by ACTF for the Association for Theatre
in Higher Education.