Southeast Theatre and Dance Presents World Premiere of Award-Winning Comedy


CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., April 11, 2013 – The Department of Theatre and Dance at Southeast Missouri State University will perform Dr. Kenneth Stilson’s original dark comedy, “Murphy’s Law,” April 25-28 in the Wendy Kurka Rust Flexible Theatre at Southeast’s River Campus.

Productions are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. April 25-27 and 2 p.m. April 27-28.

These shows will be the world premiere of Stilson’s work, which also is an official participating entry in the Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival, 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 theater 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 than100 entries from the southwest region of the United States were submitted. “Murphy’s Law” is being considered for full Equity production as part of the 2013-2014 Stage West Season. It also was selected to be presented as part of the First Run Theatre’s Annual Play Reading Festival in St. Louis and is being considered for full production as part of their summer 2013 season.

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.

David Starwalt

David Starwalt, who has spent his entire career in the entertainment industry and is a veteran of both television and film in Los Angeles, will direct “Murphy’s Law.” Starwalt has acted in such films as “Good Guys Wear Black” and “Predator 2.” He has also appeared on more than 60 television shows, including “Star Trek: Voyager,” “Diagnosis Murder,” “Silk Stalkings,” “The X-Files,” “Spin City,” “CHiPs,” “JAG” and “Murder, She Wrote.”

Starwalt wrote the children’s show, “Two Hundred Years of Museum Madness,” which has played in Chicago area schools for many years. His directing debut came on a sketch comedy pilot titled “Vid-Bits.” Show producers found him performing improv comedy at the Ice house in Pasadena, Calif., in a group called “Instant Gratification,” and hired the group as both actors and writers.

He has taught acting and comedy improvisation in Los Angeles, and has taught two master classes in acting at Southeast Missouri State University. Starwalt has directed actors in preparation for auditions; directed comedians, helping them to build their acts; edited film and television; directed sketch comedy for night clubs and small theatre performances; directed and run improv comedy groups; and has written three feature films and two plays.

This is Starwalt’s second directing stint at Southeast Missouri State University. He also directed the inaugural “New Student Showcase” in 2009, helping students edit scenes he had asked them to write, fitting them into a show structure, and directing their performances.

“It truly was their show,” Starwalt said, adding he hopes they are proud of what they accomplished.

“I am honored to be a part of ‘Murphy’s Law’ and happy to be back at Southeast Missouri State University,” he said. “I believe a guest director brings an expanded experience for the students involved in the production. An outside director comes in speaking a different artistic language,” Starwalt said. “This helps prepare the students for their future professional careers. It gives them the opportunity to learn to communicate with someone from a different background and with different artistic priorities.”

Kenneth Stilson

“Murphy’s Law” is the original work of Stilson, a professor of theatre and dance at Southeast and former chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance. “Murphy’s Law” is not his 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, last summer. Stilson 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, 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 four 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 15 years, has presented master classes and presentations at various regional and national conventions and at numerous universities, colleges and high schools.

This Second Stage Series production is not included in Theatre and Dance Series season tickets.


Tickets may be purchased by contacting the River Campus Box Office, located in the Cultural Arts Center, 518 S. Fountain St., weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., by calling (573) 651-2265, or online at