A couple finds a basket on their doorstep and lovingly adopts the “baby” – a machine gun. A journalist investigates a car bomb explosion on a crowded campus, and discovers how easily people turn from peaceful relationships to suspecting each other. A woman searching for peace in the aftermath of 9/11 finds that her e-mail inbox still holds messages from a friend who died in the attacks.
How would you tell a story about peace in a one-act play? That is the challenge issued by the Goshen College Theater Department
to playwrights across the nation. The Peace Play contest is the only playwriting contest that focuses solely on peace, believes Professor of Theater Doug Liechty Caskey. The contest guidelines purposely leave the interpretation of “peace” very broad, resulting in a rainbow of ideas and approaches to the subject.
Established in 1982 with a gift from an anonymous donor, the biennial contest is listed in several directories for playwrights
and receives submissions from all over the world. The playwrights who submit their works are rarely connected to Goshen College or Mennonites. Caskey said he has come to see the diversity of response as one of the contest’s greatest strengths. “To bring these new voices in and for them to be in a talk-back with the audience – actually, there is something very vital about that. That’s something to celebrate,” he said. The only GC alumnus winner to date is Eric Meyer ’05, whose play, “In a Time of War,” took second place in 2004.
Typically, 70 to 80 submissions of new, unproduced one-act plays arrive on Caskey’s desk up until the due date of Dec. 31 in
odd-numbered years. The selection panel, made up of GC faculty members, will read the 2009 submissions over the next six months and notify the first- and second-place winners by early summer. “We get into great discussions and debates about who should be on the short list,” said Caskey. The Theater Department will stage the winning and the second-place plays during Homecoming Weekend in October 2010.
The first-place winner receives a $500 prize and is brought to campus for the world premier production of his or her play, which
will be designed, produced and acted by Goshen College students. Students interact with the artist in a workshop led by the playwright and join community members in a question-and-answer session after
Last year’s winner, Barbara Lindsay of Seattle, Wash., and secondplace winner Hillary Rollins of Santa Monica, Calif., are both awardwinning professional writers with impressive lists of credits. The two playwrights met for the first time in Goshen and hit it off from the start. Like most Peace Play winners, they were thrilled to see their plays performed. At this college founded by a historic peace church, they found a receptive audience, said Caskey, and “real interaction.”
Although the funding source for the Peace Plays has now run dry (see sidebar), the college is determined to continue the contest.
“When I think of the Goshen College core values,” said Caskey, “it just hits the nail on the head.”
– By Judy Weaver ’81
THE PEACE PLAY CONTEST, says Professor of Theater Doug Liechty Caskey, “has taken on a life of its own.” Created through a generous donor gift in 1982, the one-of-a-kind contest is now out of funds. But don’t tell that to playwrights around the country, who continue to send in new plays. The contest gives GC a presence on the national creative scene and provides students with unique learning opportunities. “The contest keeps rolling and we have to find a way to make it viable,” says Caskey. If you would like to help, contact the GC Development Office at (574) 535-7558 or (800) 348-7422 or online at www.goshen.edu/give.