MILDRED and ALBERT PANOWSKI Playwriting Competition

The playwriting competition will return in 2020. Stay tuned for more information about theme and submission dates. 

The Playwriting Award was established in 1977 by the Forest Roberts Theatre at Northern Michigan University. From 1978 through 1993, the Shiras Institute, a prominent Upper Michigan philanthropic fund, participated in this event, which was known as the Shiras Institute/Forest Roberts Theatre Playwriting Award. Beginning with the fourteenth annual competition, Dr. James A. Panowski, director of the Forest Roberts Theatre, has provided financial assistance for the competition in memory of his parents, Albert and Mildred Panowski. In 1993, Dr. Panowski became the sole benefactor of the competition, which now bears the name of his parents. The award is designed to encourage and stimulate artistic growth among educational and professional playwrights. It provides students and faculty the unique opportunity to mount and produce an original work on the university stage. The playwright will benefit from seeing the work on its feet in front of an audience and from professional adjudication by guest critics.


Submissions will be accepted biennially, and must adhere to the theme of that competition cycle.  Each play will be blindly then read and judged by members of a screening committee.


  • $2,000 cash award to the winning playwright.
  • A fully-mounted production during the following year’s theatre season.
  • The winning playwright will be flown to Marquette to serve as Artist-in-Residence the week of the show.
  • The production of the winning play may be entered in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival.
  • Transportation, room and board will be provided.
  • Classroom and media appearances, along with conducting seminars and workshops will be part of the residency.
  • The winning playwright may be asked to participate in a script development workshop, working with a professional dramaturge, the director, and an assembled cast.

Winning Playwright

  • Northern Michigan University has the right to produce the play as part of the theatre season and for any additional performances if entered in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival.
  • Northern Michigan University has the right to use the name of the play and the author's name in publicity and promotion.
  • Northern Michigan University has the right to negotiate with the playwright for future productions of the work.
  • In the event of all subsequent publications or productions of the winning manuscript (or versions thereof), and as one of the stipulations of the award, the author agrees to indicate in a footnote or in the playbill that the script won the  Mildred and Albert Panowski Playwriting Award by the Forest Roberts Theatre at Northern Michigan University.
  • Northern Michigan University will not make any additional claims to the use of the script.
  • The Forest Roberts Theatre reserves the right to video tape the production for archival purposes.

Competition Rules

  1. ​There is a broad theme selected each year for the competition that entries for that year must adhere to.  There is no restriction to style.
    • Submission dates for the upcoming competition are TBD. Submissions received outside of this period will not be considered. The theme for the upcoming competition is also TBD
  2. The competition is open to any playwright, but only one play per playwright may be entered per biennium.
  3. Entries must be original, full-length plays or musicals. They also may be co-authored, based upon factual material or an adaptation. The applicant must be the owner and controller of the copyright.  The legal clearance of materials not in the public domain is the full responsibility of the playwright. 
  4. One-act plays and works previously entered in playwriting competitions sponsored by Northern Michigan University are ineligible.
  5. Submission is restricted to plays that have not been previously produced or published.
  6. No revisions will be accepted once a script has been submitted.
  7. No written or oral critique will be given on plays submitted.
  8. Once theme information has been decided, submissions will openand must be received no later than the specified deadline to be considered. The winner will be announced in March. A staged reading/workshop will be scheduled for summer of 2018. The full production will be scheduled in the 2018-19 season, and may happen in any of our performance spaces.
  9. Northern Michigan University reserves the right to accept or reject any play entered in the contest.


  1. Scripts should be submitted electronically either in PDF or Microsoft Word format. They can be submitted via email to Please include contact info in the email but not on the script. If your ONLY recourse is a paper script, then the script must be loose leaf bound in a 3-ring binder or with a binder clip. Scripts bound with staples are not acceptable. They must be either typewritten or word processed. Entries not meeting these criteria will be disqualified.
  2. By submitting a paper copy of the script the playwright agrees to allow their work to be scanned into a PDF.
  3. Paper scripts will not be returned. It is suggested that playwrights retain copies of their scripts.

Past Competition Winners


Year Title Playwright
1977 The Spirit of Happy Hollow Peg Kehret
1978 The King’s Clown David Vando
1980 The Ripper Tim Kelly
1981 Fragments of an August Night Richard DeLong
1982 High Road, Low Bridge Joel Wyman
1983 Forgotten Verdict Richard Aellan
1984 Burial Customs Phoef Sutton


The King Has Gone to Tenebrae George Herman
1986 Father Mosley William Hathaway
1987 The Queen’s Knight Frank Cossa
1988 Franz and Dora Harold Lieberman
1989 The Devil and All His Works Ernest Joselovitz
1990 Bravado Joan Garner
1991 Beast Susan Arnout Smith
1992 The Black Pope Warren Sherlock
1993   The Night the War Came Home Hindi Brooks
1994 no winner  
1995 Doin’ Time At the Alamo Mary Hanes
1996 Edgar David Grimm
1997 no winner  
1998 The One-Eyed Man Is King Carter Lewis
1999 no winner  
2000 The Seventh Monarch Jim Henry
2001 Ghosts George Sapio
2002 Everything’s Relative Richard Davis, Jr.
2003 A Rembrandt’s Eyes Cynthia Holm
2004      Burning Mona Lisa in the Reptile House Mark Rigney
2005 no winner  
2006 Tell-Tale Rebecca Gorman
2007 no winner


2008 Tracks in the Snow Neil McGowan
2009 no winner  
2010 no winner  
2012 Bears Mark Rigney
2014 A Paper Tiger in the Rain David J. Swanson
2016 Building Madness Kate Danley