MILDRED and ALBERT PANOWSKI Playwriting Competition

Submissions are now OPEN for the 2021 competition and will close on February 1, 2021 at midnight. Read more below!

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 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 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

  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.
    • We are accepting submissions for the 2021 competition from Monday, October 19, 2020 through Monday, February 1, 2021. Submissions received outside of this period will not be considered. The theme for the upcoming competition is social justice and change.
  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. We are not accepting musical submissions this biennium. Plays 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 open and must be received no later than the specified deadline to be considered. The winner will be announced in May. A staged reading/workshop will be scheduled for the fall semester of 2021. The full production will be scheduled in the 2022 summer 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 should be submitted via email to Please include contact info in the email but not on the script. Entries not meeting these criteria will be disqualified.

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
1985 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
2010 no winner  
2012 Bears Mark Rigney
2014 A Paper Tiger in the Rain David J. Swanson
2016 Building Madness Kate Danley
2018 no winner  
2020 no winner