MILDRED and ALBERT PANOWSKI Playwriting Competition

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, 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 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 Theatre 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 Theatre 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 and Submission Guidelines

PLEASE NOTE: Due to the high volume of scripts we receive each submission period, we are unable to make any exceptions to the competition rules and submission guidelines outlined below. We encourage you to read all of the information on this page thoroughly before you submit, as you will not be permitted to resubmit your script if there is an error. You are welcome to reach out to us at with any questions or concerns.


Competition Rules


  1. ​A broad theme is selected each year for the competition that entries for that year must adhere to. There is no restriction to style.
    • Our next submission period will be from October 1 - November 1, 2022. Submissions received outside of the submission period will not be considered. The theme for this year's competition is rural America.
  2. Only one play per playwright may be entered per biennium. The competition is open to any playwright.
  3. Entries must be original, full-length plays. We are not accepting musical submissions this biennium. Plays may be co-authored, based upon factual material, or adaptations of other work. The playwright 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 for this competition.
  5. Submission is restricted to plays that have not been previously produced or published.
  6. No revisions or corrections will be accepted once a script has been submitted.
  7. No written or oral critique will be given on plays submitted.
  8. The 2023 winner will be announced in May 2023. A staged reading/workshop will be scheduled for summer 2023. The full production will be scheduled in the 2023-2024 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 this competition, at any time, for any reason.

Submission Guidelines

  1. Scripts must be submitted electronically in PDF format and should be submitted via email to All scripts should include a title page.
  2. Please make the subject line of your email the title of your submission.
  3. You should include your name, email, address, and phone number in the body of the email, but please do not include any identifying information on the script itself. Likewise, please do not include any identifying information, such as your name, in the file name of the submission. Entries not meeting these criteria will be disqualified.
  4. By submitting, the playwright acknowledges that they have read all of the information on this page and agrees to abide by all competition rules and guidelines. The playwright also acknowledges that they will not be permitted to resubmit or make changes to any script which does not abide by these rules and guidelines after they have submitted.

Past Competition Winners                                                                           


Year Title Playwright
2021 A Complicated Hope John Mabey
2020 no winner  
2018 no winner  
2016 Building Madness Kate Danley
2014 A Paper Tiger in the Rain David J. Swanson
2012 Bears Mark Rigney
2010 no winner  
2008 Tracks in the Snow Neil McGowan
2007 no winner  
2006 Tell-Tale Rebecca Gorman
2005 no winner  
2004 Burning Mona Lisa in the Reptile House Mark Rigney
2003 A Rembrandt's Eyes Cynthia Holm
2002 Everything's Relative Richard Davis, Jr.
2001 Ghosts George Sapio
2000 The Seventh Monarch Jim Henry
1999 no winner  
1998 The One-Eyed Man Is King Carter Lewis
1997 no winner  
1996 Edgar David Grimm
1995 Doin' Time at the Alamo Mary Hanes
1994 no winner  
1993 The Night the War Came Home Hindi Brooks
1992 The Black Pope Warren Sherlock
1991 Beast Susan Arnout Smith
1990 Bravado Joan Garner
1989 The Devil and All His Works Ernest Joselovitz
1988 Franz and Dora Harold Lieberman
1987 The Queen's Knight Frank Cossa
1986 Father Mosley William Hathaway
1985 The King Has Gone to Tenebrae George Herman
1984 Burial Customs Phoef Sutton
1983 Forgotten Verdict Richard Aellan
1982 High Road, Low Bridge Joel Wyman
1981 Fragments of an August Night Richard DeLong
1980 The Ripper Tim Kelly
1978 The King's Clown David Vando
1977 The Spirit of Happy Hollow Peg Kehret