Newman’s own award-winning playwright

It has all the makings of a great movie, or more aptly, a great play.

A highly-motivated and talented student attends a small college with a new theatre program and receives opportunities she may not have had at a larger program.

For Newman University’s C.L. Smet, the result is winning national recognition for a play she wrote, and a chance to be honored and rub elbows with the best of the best at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

“It was one of the most incredible weeks of my life. I got to meet some of my idols, actually talk to them and meet my fellow playwrights,” C.L. said. “And one of my favorite Broadway performers was there and he and I talked about his MFA playwriting program and how we wants me to check it out – indescribable!”

C.L. received the undergraduate playwriting second place award for her play Fair Departure in a national competition staged by the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. She traveled to Washington to accept the award at the festival in April.

The play first earned a regional award last November as a top student-written play at one of the organization’s regional conferences in Minneapolis. Two plays from each of the eight regions then advanced for further judging. Smet found out about her national award March 6.

“I freaked out a little, a lot,” C.L. said.

“I’m extremely proud of her. She has worked really hard on this,” said Director of Theatre Mark Mannette.

Mannette noted that C.L. had been honored regionally last year, but the national award this time is very impressive and well-deserved.

“I don’t have exact numbers, but there were probably 60 to 100 plays submitted to each region,” Mannette explained. “Her play Every Tuesday went to nationals last year, so we were excited about that. But this year her play Fair Departure is clearly second in the nation.

The accomplishment is noteworthy for Newman’s theatre program, which Mannette helped resurrect less than five years ago.

“I’d like to think that Newman’s theatre program is helping to make a difference,” Mannette said. “Part of what I do is I like to challenge students, and I also like to give them
a degree of freedom to explore on their own. She deserves the credit for this because she’s really gone above and beyond outside of her academics to hone her craft.”

Mannette believes his star student is very in tune with today’s contemporary theatre.

“There’s a style of play that plays well now, dealing with relationships and other kinds of things that are the current trends in theater nationally. She reads a lot of contemporary plays and she knows what people are interested in, what’s successful. She manages to capture in the vein of that, and I think that’s one of the things she has a gift for,” Mannette said.

It’s a gift that C.L. hopes will lead her to graduate school, a career in playwriting, and possibly teaching theatre. Her role models are Mannette and Deanne Zogleman, director of the Newman Music Department, because they teach but still have the opportunity to be involved in theatre.

The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival sponsors the competition as part of its national program involving 18,000 students from The accomplishment is noteworthy for Newman’s theatre program, which Mannette helped resurrect less than five years ago.

“I’d like to think that Newman’s theatre program is helping to make a difference,” Mannette said. “Part of what I do is I like to challenge students, and I also like to give them
a degree of freedom to explore on their own. She deserves the credit for this because she’s really gone above and beyond outside of her academics to hone her craft.”

Mannette believes his star student is very in tune with today’s contemporary theatre.

“There’s a style of play that plays well now, dealing with relationships and other kinds of things that are the current trends in theater nationally. She reads a lot of contemporary plays and she knows what people are interested in, what’s successful. She manages to capture in the vein of that, and I think that’s one of the things she has a gift for,” Mannette said.

It’s a gift that C.L. hopes will lead her to graduate school, a career in playwriting, and possibly teaching theatre. Her role models are Mannette and Deanne Zogleman, director of the Newman Music Department, because they teach but still have the opportunity to be involved in theatre.

The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival sponsors the competition as part of its national program involving 18,000 students from colleges and universities throughout the country. The organization hopes to serve as a catalyst in improving the quality of college theater in the United States.

When C.L. returned to Newman, she had the chance to see the debut performance of Fair Departure in the Newman Jabara Theatre. It was directed by fellow student Rusty Carbaugh.

“It was really emotional watching it all come to life,” she said. “Plus, the ACTF (American College Theater Festival) judges loved it!”

C.L. said the show is under consideration to be performed at the regional festival next fall.

“Also, three actors from the performance were nominated for Irene Ryans, which is a crazy prestigious acting recognition,” C.L. added.

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