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Department of Theatre and Dance

UW Theatre Professor Receives Governor's Arts Award

Jan. 10, 2006 -- William Missouri Downs, a playwright in residence at the University of Wyoming and professor of playwriting and introduction to theatre, has been chosen to receive a Governor's Arts Award for "outstanding contributions to the arts in Wyoming."

Gov. Dave Freudenthal and other state leaders will recognize Downs and three others with the distinction at a Feb. 15, dinner and awards ceremony at the Little America Inn in Cheyenne.

For more than two decades the Governor's Arts Awards have provided a forum to recognize those who dedicate their time, passion and financial support to Wyoming's cultural identity and the importance of art in daily life. Other recipients this year include Neltje, of Banner; The Oyster Ridge Music Festival, of Kemmerer; and the Ucross Foundation Artist Residency Program, of Clearmont.

"I am delighted to be able to say that the arts are flourishing in Wyoming, and that is because of the contributions of organizations and individuals like these," Freudenthal says. "I am very much looking forward to the awards ceremony as a chance to provide them the public recognition they most certainly deserve."

Downs, an accomplished playwright whose plays have been produced all over the United States and world, is dedicated to helping students refine their talents, says Rebecca Hilliker, head of the Department of Theatre and Dance.

"Bill has been not only a wonderful playwright in residence for our community and state, but his work with student playwrights has led or department to the forefront nationally for student work," she says.

In the past decade, three UW student plays and three 10-minute plays were selected by the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) national selection team to be staged at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.

"Bill's success is due to his commitment to his students and the opportunities that he provides them to have their work produced in our department. All of these opportunities are in addition to Bill's regular responsibilities at UW," Hilliker says.

In 2004, Downs mentored student playwright Sean Keogh's musical "Good Morning Athens." The play went on to break records for the number of awards it won, making it the singularly most decorated show in the 70 year history of the KCACTF.

"I am pleased with the success of my musical; however, I must credit it all to Bill. Without Bill's creative input and support, 'Good Morning Athens' would not be the show that it is," Keogh says.

Downs, who has been in residence at UW for 13 years and heads UW's playwriting program, has published two major textbooks in playwriting and screenwriting. Dozens of universities, including two of the most prestigious screenwriting schools in the nation, the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Southern California, use his book "Screenplay Writing the Picture." Downs recently finished his third book, an introduction to theatre text.

As a playwright, director, author, professor and mentor, Downs demonstrates a commitment to the Wyoming arts matched by few and surpassed by none, according to Keogh.

"Bill Downs is more than a great artist who calls Wyoming his home. Bill is an artist dedicated to the work he does in Wyoming and a great teacher dedicated to the students of Wyoming," Keogh says. "Bill is the kind of artist that is great for Wyoming because he spends his creative time and energy developing a new generation of artists that will come out of Wyoming."

Posted on Tuesday, January 10, 2006

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