Playwright News: James Still – Medallion Recipient

Playwright James Still

If you have been reading my blog from the beginning you know that I love to interview theatre artists when I can.  I am especially interested in playwrights because a) I think of myself as a writer, too, and excellence in other writers of all kinds inspires me, and b) the unique, multi-faceted magic of most theatre art begins with the playwrights.

Conducting and writing up interviews is very time-consuming, especially on top of reviewing, so I don’t get to do it as often as I would like.  I feel privileged to have had detailed, one-on-one conversations with playwrights Jacob Appel, T. J. Dawe, Scott Haan, Emily Schwartz, James Still, and Steven Yockey.  I also feel privileged to have had the opportunity to chat very informally with Deborah Zoe Laufer after seeing multiple world premiere performances of “End Days,” and to sit in on part of Lou Harry’s development process for “Midwestern Hemisphere.”  

Whenever I hear of further success for any of “my” playwrights, I want to congratulate them publicly.  I mean, why have a blog if you can’t use it to say, “Hurray!” and “Yay, you!” and “Oh, that is so great!”?

I actually have three bits of joyful playwright news but two are unconfirmed gossip at this stage, so I’ll have to get back to you on those.  However, one is in the form of an official press release.  As you know, I love reading press releases “straight up” so I share them with you that way, too.  I was delighted to read this one about the Indiana Repertory Theatre’s playwright-in-residence, James Still:


June 22, 2009


James Still, one of America’s most versatile and internationally produced playwrights will be honored in New York City at Sardi’s Restaurant, August 11th, by the Medallion of the Children’s Theatre Foundation of America.

Dr. Dorothy Webb of Indianapolis, President of the CTFA, states:  “Mr. Still’s mastery of his medium is equally matched with his commitment to theatre that speaks to children and youth.  He joins the distinguished playwrights applauded by CTFA — Charles Strouse, Alfred Uhrey, Maurice Sendak, Charles Schultz, Suzan Zeder, and Dr. Seuss (a.k.a. Dr. Theodor Geisel.”


JAMES STILL’s award-winning plays have been produced throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and Australia. He is a two-time TCG-Pew Charitable Trusts’ National Theatre Artist with the Indiana Repertory Theatre where he begins his twelfth season as the IRT’s first-ever playwright in residence. He is also a winner of the William Inge Festival’s “Otis Guernsey New Voices Playwriting Award,” the Charlotte B. Chorpenning Playwright Award for Distinguished Body of Work, is a two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee, and three of his plays have received the Distinguished Play Award from the American Alliance for Theatre & Education. His plays have been developed and workshopped at Robert Redford’s Sundance Lab, the Eugene O’Neill Playwright’s Center, the New Harmony Project, New Visions/New Voices at the Kennedy Center, the Bonderman New Play Symposium, and Hibernatus Interuptus New Play Festival.  His plays are published with Dramatic Publishing, Samuel French, Music Theatre International, and Anchorage Press.

Three plays by Mr. Still had world premieres in 2009: THE HEAVENS ARE HUNG IN BLACK premiered at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. THE VELVET RUT premiered at The Unicorn Theatre in Kansas City, Missouri, followed by another production at the Illusion in Minneapolis.  INTERPRETING WILLIAM premiered at the Indiana Repertory Theatre.

Mr. Still’s plays include A LONG BRIDGE OVER DEEP WATERS for Cornerstone’s Faith-Based Theatre Cycle in Los Angeles; AND THEN THEY CAME FOR ME, translated into several languages and produced around the world including a recent command performance at the House of Commons in London in an event hosted by Vanessa Redgrave and a production by the U.S. Army at a base in Stuttgart, Germany; IRON KISSES which premiered at Geva Theatre Center in Rochester, NY and produced recently at Portland Stage (Maine), Act II in Philadelphia, and Company of Fools in Hailey, Idaho). SEARCHING FOR EDEN premiered at the American Heartland Theatre in Kansas City and will be produced next season at The Asolo Theatre.  LOOKING OVER THE PRESIDENT’S SHOULDER — which since its world premiere at the Indiana Repertory Theatre has had many productions at theaters including Ford’s Theatre, Pasadena Playhouse, and Arkansas Rep in Little Rock. Mr. Still also wrote a commissioned short play called “Octophobia” for the Humana Festival at Actors Theatre of Louisville which the editors of the Smith and Kraus anthologies have published in their BEST WOMEN’S STAGE MONOLOGUES.

OTHER PLAYS include AMBER WAVES (the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.); HE HELD ME GRAND (People’s Light & Theatre Company and Indiana Rep); and A VILLAGE FABLE which was commissioned by the Mark Taper Forum, premiered at the Honolulu Theatre for Youth, produced at the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis, in Switzerland at the Zurich Young People’s Theatre, and at the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland. HUSH: AN INTERVIEW WITH AMERICA was co-commissioned and premiered by Childsplay in Tempe, AZ, and Metro Theater Company in St. Louis.  Mr. Still’s solo performance piece THE VELOCITY OF GARY (NOT HIS REAL NAME) premiered in New York at the Ensemble Studio Theater, and he performed it across the country; it was later produced off-Broadway, in San Francisco (New Conservatory Theatre) Studio Theatre in Washington, DC, and earlier this year at Tricklock Productions in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Mr. Still’s work in television and film and has been nominated for five Emmy’s, a Television Critics Association Award, and was twice a finalist for the Humanitas Prize. He was a producer/head writer for the series “Paz” airing daily on both TLC and Discovery Kids. For Nickelodeon he was a writer and story editor for Maurice Sendak’s long-running “Little Bear”, and the Bill Cosby series “Little Bill.” He has created a new series for Amsterdam-based Telescreen adapted from the “Frog” books by Max Velthuijs; and has completed the screenplay for the first Dutch-produced feature film for children based on Dick Bruna’s “Miffy” books.  Mr. Still also wrote “The Little Bear Movie” and the feature film “The Velocity of Gary.”


CTFA was founded in 1958, and seeks to advance the artistic and professional interests of theatre for children and youth, and theatre education for the young.

The Foundation pursues its goals by funding proposals of artists, scholars, and special projects of national import to the field.  The Medallion of the Foundation honors significant, unique achievement.  Occasionally the Foundation originates programs of its own.  This non-profit organization is managed by a national board of professionals and benefactors of theatre for children in the United States.

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Congratulations, James!   That is very cool.

Hope Baugh –

Email: amarylliswriter at gmail dot com.    Twitter: IndyTheatre

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