‘Murphy’s Law’ Selected for Kennedy Center American College Regional Theatre Festival



CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Dec. 18, 2013 – Southeast Missouri State University’s production of “Murphy’s Law” has been selected for invitation to the Kennedy Center/American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) for Region 6 Feb. 22-26 at Centenary College in Shreveport, La. “This is the first time in the history of Southeast that we’ve been invited to take a theatrical play to the regional level,” said Rhonda Weller-Stilson, director of the Earl and Margie Holland School of Visual and Performing Arts. “This is a marvelous honor.” “Murphy’s Law” is a dark comedy written by Dr. Kenn Stilson, professor of theatre and dance at Southeast Missouri State University. “Murphy’s Law” premiered in April at Southeast’s River Campus. “Southeast Missouri State University’s Department of Theatre & Dance is thrilled and excited to bring Murphy’s Law to the Region VI Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in February 2014,” said Dr. Kenn Stilson. “This is a real honor for our program, our students, and our University.” In preparation for the festival performance, Southeast will present “Murphy’s Law” again at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 21-22 in the Wendy Kurka Rust Flexible Theatre at the River Campus. The Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival is a national theatre program involving 18,000 college students that serves to improve the quality of college theatre in the United States.

The Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival has grown into a network of more than 600 academic institutions throughout the country, where theatre departments and student artists showcase their work and receive outside assessment by festival respondents. Festival participants celebrate the creative process, see one another’s work, and share experiences and insights within the community of theater artists. The festival honors excellence of overall production and offers student artists individual recognition through awards and scholarships in playwriting, acting, criticism, directing and design.

“Murphy’s Law” recently won first place in the Southwest Playwriting Competition at Stage West Theatre in Fort Worth, Texas. More than 100 entries from the southwest region of the United States were submitted. “Murphy’s Law” also won the 2013 First Run Theatre’s Annual New Play Festival in St. Louis.

Set in a suburb of St. Louis, “Murphy’s Law” chronicles the final evening of a lifelong friendship of two 29-year-olds, who are both “made” members of a local organized crime syndicate. Francis Murphy has unexpectedly been appointed as underboss. His best friend, Tony, has been accused by his associates of ratting out the boss, who now sits in a federal prison pending a trial for racketeering. Murphy has been ordered to “whack” his best friend. In Sopranos-like fashion, filled with humor and violence, this play recounts the unusual evolution of the two men’s relationship with each other and with Murphy’s sister, Sofia, who suffers from schizotypal personality disorder. The story leads to a surprising discovery and an unexpected conclusion.

In addition to “Murphy’s Law” being selected for invitation to the Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) for Region 6, three Southeast students with roles in the production, Michael Burrell of Crestview, Fla., Kyle Morr of St. Charles, Mo., and Natalee Damron of St. Peters, Mo., also have been nominated for Irene Ryan Acting Scholarships and will compete at the festival. Of the 125 nominees from six states, sixteen student actors and their partners will be selected to advance to the regional final, and two of them and their partners will be selected for the national competition at the Kennedy Center, Stilson said.

KCACTF is a regional festival that draws participants from Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas to see one another’s work and to share ideas. The festival features performances, workshops and seminars on such topics as playwriting, auditioning, voice, movement, stage combat, theater for children, scene painting and scenery construction. There are sessions for the beginning theater artist and the experienced faculty member. During January and February, a total of eight regional festivals are held throughout the country. “Murphy’s Law” is not Dr. Kenn Stilson’s first original script. He also authored “Fire Lily” and debuted a film of the same name in 2009. The film won awards at the American Artist Film Festival, including Best Lead Actress, Best Cinematography and Best Feature Film. He also wrote the award-winning, “Where the Lilies Grow” and “The Cow and the Milk,” which was selected as part of the prestigious Last Frontier Theatre Conference in Valdez, Alaska, in summer 2012. “This is probably my best play to date in terms of overall quality,” Stilson said. “It is doing very well. It’s a much more mature piece of writing” than his previous works, he said. Stilson was the original chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance at Southeast and is the former artistic director of Alabama Lyric Theatre and Shakespeare in the Park in Ft. Worth, Texas. As a professional actor, director, writer and administrator, he also has worked in such theatres as the Lincoln Center (New York City, N.Y.), American Academy of Dramatic Art and the Hudson Theatre (Hollywood, Calif.), Southern Repertory Theatre (New Orleans, La.), Cultural Arts Center (Florida), Le Petit Theatre de Vieux Carré (New Orleans), University of Missouri Summer Repertory Theatre, Oklahoma Shakespearean Festival, Mizzou New Play Series, Stage West Theatre (Fort Worth, Tx.) and the Mississippi Shakespeare Festival. He holds both a doctoral degree and a Master of Arts in theatre from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a Bachelor of Arts in theatre from Southeast Missouri State University. Before returning to Southeast, Stilson served as head of acting/directing programs at the University of South Alabama, Texas Wesleyan University and Stetson University (Florida), and as an instructor of theatre at Tulane University. He is co-author of five editions of the legendary textbook, “Acting Is Believing,” with Larry Clark and the late Charles McGaw. Adopted by more than 150 colleges and universities nationwide, the 12th edition of this text is scheduled for publication in 2014. He also has published the critically acclaimed “Ezra Stone: A Theatrical Biography” and has written numerous articles on acting and theatre. Stilson continues to serve in leadership roles on numerous national committees, and, over the past 20 years, has presented master classes and presentations at various regional and national conventions and at numerous universities, colleges and high schools.