Supporting the Creativity of UW Playwrights
Theater-and playwriting in particular-is one of the little-known areas of excellence at the University of Wyoming.
Indeed, UW's students of playwriting regularly win awards, most recently two Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival National Student Playwriting awards, two Mark Twain Comedy Playwriting prizes, and two David Mark Cohen National Playwriting awards, among many others for theater and playwriting.
This area of excellence is thanks in part to the support of education expert Douglas Reeves and his son, Brooks. One day in 2008, UW Theater and Dance Professor William Missouri Downs ran into Brooks in a Cheyenne department store. They began talking, and that discussion led to Brooks's father making a donation to the UW Department of Theater and Dance, which was doubled by the state matching program.
"We are so lucky to have this endowment," says Professor Downs. "It allows our students to see their work performed and rub shoulders with the best playwrights in the business."
Downs is an award-winning writer and heads the Department of Theater and Dance's playwriting efforts. He has written or adapted more than twenty plays, which have been the subject of over 100 productions from New York to Singapore to Africa. In Hollywood, he wrote for sitcoms such as My Two Dads and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. He is co-author of three books, including a textbook on playwriting called The Art of Theater: Then and Now, which is in its second edition.
"The University of Wyoming has been a formative influence on my life not only as an undergraduate in the early ‘70s but throughout my career," says Douglas. "In my contributions to the UW Foundation, I wanted to support causes that will foster the creativity, service, and scholarship of our faculty, students, and university leadership. Their extraordinary innovation and work ethic make me very proud to be an alumnus of this great institution."
Douglas is an expert in leadership and education and is founder of The Leadership and Learning Center. He has worked with education, business, nonprofit, and government organizations throughout the world and has authored more than 20 books and many articles on leadership and organizational effectiveness.
Brooks is an actor and playwright based out of Cheyenne. In his latest role, he plays the Wild Card in the 2010-11 Open State Theatre & Company production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), and his play The City That Cried Wolf premiered at the New York Fringe Festival then ran at the 59E59 Theatre in Manhattan, New York. He also writes plays for the Cheyenne Little Theatre Players.
The Douglas B. Reeves Endowment for Playwriting supports young playwrights and the writing and performance of original dramatic works. The funds may be used for visiting playwrights, travel for students and faculty, playwriting awards, play festivals, engagement of actors, and production costs, among other things.
It has already provided travel, registration, and production support for eight playwriting students to attend the Denver Center for Performing Arts New Play Festival. There, the students attended productions and readings of new plays by internationally known playwrights, they participated in writing workshops, and they lunched with the theater professionals. The endowment also funded the UW Festival of New Student Written Plays, held in February 2011. For the festival, over 350 people were treated to eight original UW plays.
Douglas's gifts have been felt across campus, and this endowment is just one of many. He has also generously supported scholarships, Libraries, College of Education, music and music composition, Opera in a Gym, and the debate team.