Keith Anwar Wins Dionysos Cup

by Richard Engling

Richard Engling, Artistic Director

Richard Engling, Artistic Director

I am pleased to announce that Keith Anwar has won the Dionysos Cup for his script, Kabulitis, a truly touching, human drama with great characters, innovative story-telling and wonderful dialogue. The award will be presented at our June 19 Benefit and Season Preview. Congratulations to Keith and to Kabulitis director Laura Sturm, dramaturg Ann Keen, and a stellar cast including Susan Monts-Bologna, Brent Barnes, Ashley Moret, Rachael Proulx, Kamal Hans, Tesh Malhotra, Glenn Stanton, Adam El-Sharkawi and Zach Overstreet. Together they put on a staged reading that had the emotional impact of a fully-staged play. And thanks to the insightful audiences who gave Keith such great feedback after the performances to assist him with future revisions. Your input is invaluable.

This year’s Dionysos Cup Festival of New Plays was our best yet, featuring wonderfully staged readings with terrific casts and attracting our largest audiences for the festival ever. All four scripts were fascinating works for the theatre, and each received an extensive development cycle beginning in February. The playwrights are in the last stage of that now as they prepare their final revisions to submit for consideration in our 2011-2012 season.

Keith Anwar, Playwright

Keith Anwar, Playwright

Playwright Keith Anwar: No sooner had the Dionysos plays been announced than I received a note of encouragement from David Alex, a well-known Chicago playwright who had been through the 2008 Dionysos Cup, telling me it had been “a great experience”: “The company members are great; you and your play will profit from the process.” Was he ever right!

In the critique process with director Laura Sturm and dramaturg Ann Keen, and in a table reading about six weeks into the program, I tried to concentrate on the most fundamental of the criticisms. At times the revisions were severe–I think I might have frightened my collaborators that I was setting out to write an entirely new play. At one point Laura was casting for a main character that I had decided to do away with! But remarkably, despite major cuts, additions and alterations, Kabulitis remained true to the vision that had nourished the script from the very start.

In its current form, in fact, Kabulitis is very much the play I’ve been trying to write for four years. And for that I am deeply indebted to the Polarity Ensemble Theatre and their terrific program of new play development.

I submitted my play last fall to the Dionysos Cup without high expectations. Despite many drafts and several table readings, the script was still in rough shape. Its strengths were a compelling back story, which managed to be historical and topical at the same time, and the unforgettable character of Mildred, a fighter to the end. Attached to these elements were a number of half-sketched characters, confusing plot lines and a load of expository dialogue. In selecting Kabulitis for development in the Dionysos Cup, the Polarity Ensemble was able to recognize the inner power of this story and insist on a script that would give it its due credit.

Ann Keen, Dramaturg

Ann Keen, Dramaturg

Dramaturg (and Managing Director) Ann Keen: When I read Keith’s script, I immediately wanted to be dramaturg. The script was already so powerful when I first read it – but there were times it read like a novel. On my first meeting Keith, I wanted to know where he had gained his inspiration. I wanted to understand his process to this point. He simply replied “the inspiration is real life.” The story was based on true facts and stories of his parents and their journey. It is true that sometimes Real Life is better than fiction, but sometimes life does not give us the “best highlights strung together in 2 hours.” So the next steps seemed clear.

Once we started working on it, we wanted to make sure that we preserved the story but occasionally heightened the drama. The script took on a whole new journey. Not just the story of Afghanistan, but treatment of the elderly–painful decisions that we sometimes have to make for our parents, the sad truth of Alzheimer’s, and so many others. Keith approached this story as a testimony to the lives of his parents and their journey. Through the Dionysos Cup process, I think we all realized that the testimony is now much more far-reaching. Keith was so open to the process, and for me, as his dramaturg, it was a pleasure to watch him take our input into the world he created (with the help of his parents) and creatively forge new paths.

Please join us as we present the 2010 Dionysos Cup (hand-crafted by Polarity patron and blown-glass artist James Hobart) at our June 19th Benefit.

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