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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 has closed for 2019/2020. For details on what to prepare for submissions in our next cycle, 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:  April/May 2020.

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, 2020. Plays submitted before November 1, 2020 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 2020-2021*.

For all submissions, please follow the process below.

Submission Materials:

  • Complete the Online Submission Form, (available Nov. 1, 2020) where you will be asked to provide:
    • 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  • Plays must be unpublished and cannot have been professionally produced (previous workshop OK).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 considered only if rights are clearly secured or source material is in public domain.
  • One submission per writer
  • Please allow 3-6 months response.

Submission Fee:  None.

Submissions must be made between November 1 and December 16, 2020.

Announcement of Awards:  
April/May 2021

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 J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences is pleased to announce that playwrights Jason Grote (Desire Path) and Alyson Mead (The Flora and Fauna) are the co-winners of the 2019 Kernodle New Play Award. The reading committee—composed of graduate students, faculty members, and community partners—also named Candrice Jones’ play Flex as a finalist. Read full press release.

Read more about our current Kernodle Award Winner(s) and explore the archive of past year's winners. 


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.

Read the full Press Release.

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.

Read the full Press Release.

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.

Read the full Press Release

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.

Past Winners:

*Please contact us with information or corrections on the above listing.


If you have any questions, please contact us at or (479) 575-2953.