Some familiar names have appeared on this year’s list of winners in the U of L’s Play Right Prize and Striking Prose competitions. Three of the winners, Blair Yoxall, Garrett Bishoff, and AJ Baragar also won awards in 2015 and, for the first time ever an individual, Garrett Bishoff, has taken awards in both competitions.
The Striking Prose and Play Right Prize competitions are generously supported by University of Lethbridge alumnus Terry Whitehead and provide undergraduate students the opportunity to flex their creative-writing muscles, win cash, earn recognition, and have their work presented in a public reading, followed with a reception, on March 23 at 7 pm in the David Spinks Theatre. The competitions are open to all U of L undergraduate students and this year, winners came from three different areas – history, English and dramatic arts.
Whitehead, whose aim is to encourage excellence and help develop student writing skills, generously donates $5,000 in prizes each year to the Striking Prose and Play Right Prize competitions. First place winners in both competitions receive a $1,500 prize, second prize is $750 and third is $250, making these some of the most lucrative awards in the country for undergraduate student writing competitions.
Play Right Prize Winners
AJ Baragar (BFA, dramatic arts major) took first place with his play Crossfade. The jury, made up of drama faculty member Jorge Sandoval, MFA candidate and professional playwright Greg MacArthur and freelance theatre artist and U of L alumna Lindsey Zess-Funk found Crossfade surprising, sparse and darkly humorous.
“Crossfade deals with a difficult subject matter in a complex, human and honest way. It has a unique, individual voice, told through a series of fractured scenes that mirror the lives of characters struggling to find connections,” says MacArthur.
Garrett Bishoff (BA, history major), took second prize with Sins in the Name of the Father.
Of the play, Zess-Funk says, “It is a clear-minded examination of a troubling historical time (Nazi Germany), as seen through the eyes of young friends who are confronted with moral, life-and-death choices.”
Kayla Foster-Brandt’s play Not Otherwise Specified took third prize. Foster-Brandt is only in her first year of a BFA in dramatic arts.
“We found the play engaging and honest. It takes audiences on a voyage through the private world of eating disorders,” says Sandoval.
Striking Prose Awards
BA English major Blair Yoxall’s short story Little Bull took first prize in the Striking Prose competition, which was adjudicated by three members of the U of L English Department – Jay Gamble, Nick Morwood and Ian McAdam. The story is a very moving account narrated from the perspective of a six-year-old Aboriginal boy in Lethbridge, who, under the care of his grandmother, both revisits memories of cultural connection and familial nurturance, and suffers the trauma of contemporary prejudice.
“Little Bull reveals the writer’s exceptional technical skill and the application of that skill to evoke an authentic emotional response,” says Gamble. “It truly is an exceptionally well-written story.”
Second prize went to Garrett Bishoff for Dark Night of the Souls. In Dark Night of the Souls, a small troop of nationals fighting in the Spanish Civil War lead a prisoner through a dark landscape and enter a swamp, which becomes a source of metaphysical terror, mysteriously exposing the intrinsic evil in their natures, and the records of past sins.
“This story selects a unique historical period as backdrop to explore several characters that are each fleshed-out with precise detail,” says McAdam.
A public reading of the winners' submissions will be held Wednesday, March 23, 2016, from 7 to 9 p.m. in the David Spinks Theatre.