The University of Arkansas Department of Theatre administers the Kernodle New Play Award, a national playwriting competition named for George R. Kernodle, beloved U of A theatre professor and author of "Invitation to the Theatre". The award recognizes full-length plays that invite the audience’s imagination and are inherently theatrical. The Award is given annually with submissions typically accepted in late Fall.
Our submission window is now closed and will open Nov 1, 2023. For details about what to prepare, please review our submission guidelines below.
Annually, there is a single prize of $500 given to the winner. One or two “special commendations” may also be awarded.
Winning plays and finalists will be considered for public readings by the University of Arkansas Department of Theatre and/or for inclusion in the Arkansas New Play Festival, produced in Fayetteville by TheatreSquared.
Announcement of Awards: Fall 2023.
Our reading committee is largely comprised of current MFA theatre students, alums, and U of A faculty. With respect to the graduate students workload during any given cycle and coupled with our desire to keep accepting unsolicited manuscripts without a reader’s fee, we have capped the amount of unsolicited manuscripts we can accept to the first 100.
Please see submission guidelines below and thank you for your understanding.
Eligibility: All playwrights must fill out our online submission form, which is only available during our submission window, which opens on November 1, 2023 and closes Dec. 16, 2023. Plays submitted before November 1, 2023 will not be considered.
Additionally, please understand, due to staffing levels (and a desire to keep unsolicited submissions free), we can only accept the first 100 unsolicited submissions received in any given year.
Playwrights whose work has been solicited, agent submissions, and playwrights who currently reside in, or are originally from, Arkansas are welcome to apply until the Dec. 16, 2023 deadline. Please fill out our online form, indicating who solicited your work/agent affiliation, or your ties to Arkansas.
For all submissions, please follow the process below.
- Complete the Online Submission Form, (available Nov. 1, 2023) where you will be asked
- 10 page sample from the script you are submitting
- A brief synopsis and history of the script
- Author Bio
- Full-length manuscript (70+ minutes)
- All documents should be in PDF format and uploaded to our Online Submission Form
- Plays submitted in previous years will not be accepted.
- Plays must be unpublished and cannot have been professionally produced (previous workshop OK). No plays for young audiences, or musicals please. Adaptations are considered only if rights are clearly secured or source material is in public domain.
- One submission per writer.
- Please allow 9-12 month response.
Submission Fee: None.
Deadline: Submissions must be made electronically between November 1 and December 16, 2023.
Announcement of Awards: Fall 2024
Current and Past Winners
The Kernodle Award was established in 1986 in honor of faculty member George R. Kernodle (1907-1988)—U of A theatre professor, director, translator, and author of several scholarly works on theatre.
The Department of Theatre in the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences is pleased to announce two playwrights co-winners of the 2022 Kernodle New Play Award, Jesús I. Valles for their play a river, its mouths, and Val Dunn for her play o, possum! >Read the full press release.
Read more about our current Kernodle Award Winner(s) and explore the archive of past year's winners.
- Jesús I. Valles: a river, its mouths
- Val Dunn: o, possum!
about the plays
a river, its mouths by Jesús I. Valles: Struggling with severe depression after a string of personal crises, You return to your hometown in Texas, right by the river that raised You, right on the border with Mexico. It’s the summer of 2019 and while the Rio Bravo claims migrants’ lives during their perilous crossings, the people in your hometown are enchanted by rumors of a “Rio Grande mermaid.” Old magics are clawing their way out of the sand, out of the water, into the air, into your head, as the dead bodies of Border Patrol agents appear in the desert, desiccated. You’ve come home to make sense of your little life, but the river insists on itself, haunting the mouths of family, friends, and strangers. Something in the water calls to you. “Come,” the river says, “Come to me.” Something in you listens.
o, possum! by Val Dunn: The climate is in crisis, and so is the Mammalian Exhibit at Jumping Cholla Community Park — where a Park Ranger ‘deals’ with her feelings of inadequacy by biting off more than she can chew, looking longingly at her mate-me-be-me hero Thorn, and munching peyote with her best friend — the titular Opossum. But a bake sale gone awry turns out to be the last [single-use plastic] straw for our under-appreciated Park Ranger… who promptly punks out. At a park without a Park Ranger, things get wild: Opossum proposes eating our young, gluten-free = anarchy, and everyone remains cognizant always that the great hurtle toward death continues. How will the community of Jumping Cholla Community Park ever survive if they don’t work together as a community?!… seriously, how?… a balladeering Tumbleweed wants to know.) A (bleak) comedy about climate change, friendship, and dealing with the consequences of our inactions.Read the Full Press Release.
- Gina Stevensen - Book of Esther
A PLAY ABOUT WOMEN PUSHING BOUNDARIES
Book of Esther, by Gina Stevensen, is about a new generation of women who are pushing the boundaries within the confines of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn. Protagonist Esther grew up in a loving and religious family, but she is 17 now and can feel a larger world outside her own.
When Esther decides to enter a local poetry contest, she finds herself asking surprisingly large questions, and begins looking for answers everywhere: from her parents, from the hipster barista she secretly befriends, even from her namesake, the mythical Queen Esther. Will her questioning take her too far to come home?Read the full Press Release.
- Mia Chung -- This Exquisite Corpse
- Keelay Gipson -- The Lost, Or How to Just B
This Exquisite Corpse, by Mia Chung, is about the special relationship between South Korea and the West (particularly the United States) during and after the Korean War. It looks at this relationship through the lens of prostitution – an ongoing legacy of the war. But such historical information is, ultimately, secondary to the story of trauma and its impact on expression.
The play summons Soojin, a wartime prostitute, to tell her own particular story in her own particular way – which happens to be through five fragmented and dislocated versions of herself.
The Lost, Or How to Just B, by Keelay Gipson, tells the story of a Black boy navigating his way through the foster care system and the LGBTQ community while trying to find his wings – and love – when the world tells him he has none. Told through hip hop and spoken word, we follow B as he discovers himself through the city that raised him and the city he has never known.
Gipson dedicates this award in memory of his mother, Gwendolyn Gipson.
- Jason Grote - Desire Path
- Alyson Mead - The Flora and Fauna
Desire Path, by Jason Grote, takes it name from city planning, which are those paths people make for cut-throughs around sidewalks or trails – those diagonal shortcuts in which pedestrians have stomped out the grass. Grote’s play follows a couple’s equally quixotic journey as he deals with fallout from his step-father’s death, she nurses a goat, and they both confront the death of the environment. One respondent writes the play “stands first in rank in regards to its imaginative scope and display of unchecked creative expression.” Like any desire path, the writing ventures places other scripts often do not tread, as it delves into problems that have no easy answers, displays scenes that are intricately woven, and complex themes ranging from nurture, empathy, and our responsibility to one another and to the planet.
The Flora and Fauna is a haiku of a play, deft and poetic in its exploration of a years-long relationship between two women. Playwright Alyson Mead balances trauma, joy, and love in a far too rare genre for the American stage: the female friendship play. As one respondent wrote: “There is power in the voice of the play, a strong expression of compassion, and effective craft.” The deceptively simple structure offers modern audiences an opportunity to immerse themselves in the depth and complexity of these two characters and the journeys of their lives. The Flora and the Fauna has also been recognized as a Princess Grace Award finalist, Henley-Rose Award winner, Bridge Initiative New Work winner, American Stage’s 21st Century Voices winner, among others.
Special Citation: Candrice Jones - Flex
Winner: Carlos Murillo - Killing of a Gentleman Defender
Killing of A Gentleman is a funny, provocative, ambitious drama that artfully connects—through the magic of theatre and soccer—the underserved communities and kids of current day Chicago with the cartel-riddled neighborhoods of Colombia in the early nineties. The play energetically examines the real-life consequences of structural racism and finding yourself stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time, whether that be on the soccer field, or in a South-Side neighborhood in Chicago.
Special Citation: EllaRose Chary - The Lake and The Mill
Winner: Barbara Hammond -Visible From Four States
A lyrical drama that elegantly contemplates the intersection of commerce and faith. The play weaves together the plights of a struggling town that fights to stay on the map in contemporary America, while the residents confront their feelings about the death penalty as the prison up the road approaches its first execution in years.
Special Citation: Mia McCullough - Wisdom From Everything
Winner: Deborah Yarchun - Tectonic Mélange
When Tara, a petroleum geologist, surveys for minerals in a small town in North Dakota, she uncovers more than she expected- including deep community tensions and a darker side of herself.
- 2015: On hiatus
- 2014: Adam Kraar: Dream of a Deer at Dusk
- 2013: Kevin Kautzman: Dream of a Perfect Sleep. Read Press Release.
- 2012: …Searching our records*
- 2011: Roy Glassberg: Overture, A Riff on The Sin of Despair
- 2010: Michael Bettencourt: Let Down The Rains
- 2009: Evan Guildford-Blake: American Blues
- 2007: Tom Coash: Kamasutra
- 2006: Beau Willimon: Lower Ninth
- 2005: Richard Martin Hirsch: The Bear Claw Solution
- 2004: W. Gregory: Why We Invented God
- 2003: Natalie Gaupp: Lots of Greed and Avarice Going Down
- 2002: Rob Cardazone: The Birth and Death of Stars
- 2001: Seth Kramer: Speak Now
- 2000: Kent Brown: Hope and Mercy
- 1999: Dori Appels: Monkeyshines
- 1998: …Searching our records*
- 1997: Deborah Smith: Myrtie
- 1996 to 1986: …“And the rest is silence.” *
*Please contact us with information or corrections on the above listing.
If you have any questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (479) 575-2953.