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Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival

Michael Kanin Playwriting Awards Program

folks in a circle  at the Playwriting National Finalists from last year's Festival doing a feedback session The distinguished playwright and screenwriter Michael Kanin (1910-1993) arranged for a remarkable series of awards to be given to student writers whose plays are entered as part of the festival. The purpose of the program is to encourage college students to write for the stage by providing the opportunity for them to engage in the playwriting process.


Each new play registered as a Participating production will be considered for regional and national festival presentation with other entries. The festival expects the same high standard of production support for original scripts as is given any entry. The play selected to receive the National Student Playwriting Award will be presented at the national festival. The KCACTF National Selection Team will view National Student Playwriting Award entrants selected for regional festival presentation and select from that pool of entries.

playwright Marsha Norman giving a lecture

Student playwrights interested in participating in the Ten-Minute Play Award category, or the John Cauble Short Play Award category should see the information below and contact the regional chair for specific information because scripts entered in those categories are screened at the regional level.

Rules and Procedures for the Michael Kanin Playwriting Awards Program

Administered by the National Playwriting Program (NPP) of KCACTF

  1. A new play or musical may be a collaboration, adaptation, company-written play, or a play based on factual materials but may not be a translation. To be eligible, adaptations from other works must include written permission for works under copyright and must involve substantial changes in form and/or expression.
  2. A full-length play is defined as either one major work or two or more shorter works written by the same playwright, based on a single theme, or encompassed within a unifying framework. In all cases, the entry must provide a full evening of theater-approximately one and one-half hours or longer, including intermissions. (See the John Cauble Short Play Award Program for productions that may not fit this category.)
  3. The award(s) for which the play is to be considered must be clearly indicated on the registration form filed with the national office, the copy filed with the regional chair, and the copy filed with the regional playwriting chair. Verification of student status of the playwright must be provided by the theater department chair. A space is provided on the registration form to confirm student eligibility.
  4. College theaters may produce plays written by students other than their own, provided the students meet the requirements detailed in item 5 below.
  5. To be eligible for any student playwriting award, an undergraduate must carry a minimum of 6 semester hours (or equivalent quarter hours), while a graduate must carry 3 semester hours (or equivalent quarter hours). Undergraduate, graduate, and continuing part-time student playwrights must be matriculating, degree-seeking students. It is expected that work on the new play will have begun during the period the student is so enrolled, and the script must be entered during that period or within two years after his or her enrollment ends. The head of the theater department in which the student playwright is enrolled will verify in writing to the regional playwriting chair that the playwright is a bona fide student as set forth in this paragraph.
  6. As with regular entries, materials may be submitted at any time during the year. Those presented after the deadline established by the region will be considered for the KCACTF of the upcoming year.
  7. All student-written original plays entered in the current KCACTF year are eligible for any of the appropriate playwriting awards. Only productions entered as Participating entries may be considered for the regional and national festivals.
  8. If the play is a student-written original play, acknowledgment of all individual award entries must be noted in the program, e.g., "This play is entered in the Michael Kanin Playwriting Awards Program and is being considered for the Lorraine Hansberry Award and the National Student Playwriting Award."
  9. For all original scripts, playwrights must submit two documents:
    1. an electronic copy of the script with a title page but no identification of the author or the school affiliation (PDF or Word; note that some regions require PDF), and
    2. an NPP Cover Sheet (see regional website) with appropriate author and script information.

    For One-Act Plays and Full-Length Plays, student playwrights should submit scripts and cover sheets to the NPP chair in their region and to the artistic director of the Kennedy Center (ghenry@kennedy-center.org).

    Deadline for submission of One-Act and Full-Length scripts for consideration at the national level is December 1. Regional deadlines may vary; consult regional websites.

    For 10-Minute plays, student playwrights should submit the script and cover sheet only to the NPP chair in their region. The script should not be submitted to the national KCACTF office. Check regional websites for submission information as deadlines may vary.

  10. Playwrights, student and non-student, whose plays are developed and produced as part of the KCACTF Michael Kanin Playwriting Awards Program, agree to acknowledge in perpetuity the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in all productions of the play subsequent to its presentation in the KCACTF, regardless of whether the presentation occurred on the local, regional, or national level. Acknowledgment must appear in written form in the program (such as Stagebill) production credits.
  11. The KCACTF National Playwriting Program encourages the continuing development of new plays through revisions leading toward subsequent productions. The entry of a new play in the awards program does not disqualify it from future entry as a participating or associate production for the Playwriting Awards Program by the school that originally produced the work, or by any school, provided that:
    1. the work has been revised;
    2. the play did not previously win one of the national Playwriting Awards;
    3. the playwright is still eligible (as set forth in paragraph 5, above).
  12. Recipients of the Michael Kanin Playwriting Program Awards whose plays are not presented as part of the Washington national festival will be invited to the Kennedy Center, all expenses paid, during the KCACTF national festival to accept the award at a KCACTF public event. The recipient's regional chair can accept the award on behalf of the student and/or his or her school.
  13. All scripts must be typed following the standard play manuscript format (e.g., see scriptfrenzy.org or nycplaywrights.org) and paginated. All scripts must be sent by e-mail to the appropriate entity.

The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, part of the Rubenstein Arts Access Program, is generously funded by David and Alice Rubenstein.