Playwriting Award Winner Announced

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David J. Swanson
David J. Swanson

            MARQUETTE, Mich.—A Paper Tiger in the Rain by David J. Swanson was selected from more than 150 entries as the winner of the Albert and Mildred Panowski Playwriting Award at Northern Michigan University. The competition is held biennially and this year’s theme was the economy.

            The play revolves around Nathan, who has just been promoted to editor in chief of the Willow Falls Beacon Telegraph. Nathan learns that the newspaper is in financial trouble. As the situation worsens, he is faced with saving the newspaper while also trying to win the heart of his newly widowed former flame. Before it’s over, a young blogger named Ben helps Nathan through a painful lesson about waiting for impossible dreams and depending on false promises.

            Swanson is an aerospace engineer in Wichita, Kan. He found his love for theater in college, began writing several years later and transitioned from actor to writer and director. He has a novel to his credit titled The Julian Ark: A Madison Dawn Adventure and a collection of short sketches titled Theatre for Church: Vol 1. Swanson also is a featured author for and freelances for In 2010, he produced Mission to Ethiopia: Tikempt Ishet, a documentary about his sister’s time in down country Ethiopia.

           “The process was very difficult this year because of the overall quality of the entries,” said Ansley Valentine, NMU director of theater. “We have a panel of readers across the country who rank the plays independently. I gather those scores to come up with a list of  semifinalists. Those are ranked by different readers and I generate a list of finalists. From there, we read and discuss the plays until we come to consensus.”

            A Paper Tiger in the Rain is a semifinalist for the Playwrights First Award at the National Art Club in New York City and Wichita Community Theater chose it for a staged reading in March.

            The Albert and Mildred Panowski Playwriting Award honors the late parents of former NMU theater professor James Panowski. It encourages artistic growth among educational and professional playwrights. It also provides NMU students and faculty the unique opportunity to mount and produce an original work on the university stage.

            The NMU production will be directed by professor Paul Truckey and run Sept. 30-Oct. 11 in the Panowski Black Box. For more information on the playwright, visit  

Prepared By
News Director
April 28, 2014