Two UI plays picked for Kennedy Center


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Two University of Iowa graduate students have been nationally recognized for their talents in playwriting.

Tony Meneses and Joe Luis Cedillo, students in the UI Playwrights’ Workshop, were selected to showcase their plays at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Meneses won the center’s American College Theater Festival Award for Latino Playwriting, and Cedillo was the runner-up. They’ll be presented the awards at a ceremony next week.

Meneses’ play, Las Hermanas Padilla, centers on 10 sisters-in-law, married to 10 blood brothers who have all been sent to a “nameless ambiguous war,” Meneses said. The play deals with the women’s mutual anxieties over the lives of their husbands and how they become a support system for one another in these desperate times.

Meneses, who is in his final year in the graduate-level workshop, said he was honored to receive the award and it made him more confident about his future.

“It was really nice to have validation that people can respond to my work,” he said. “It’s not so much that I won the award, but that someone connected to it and liked it. It’s nice to know that I have a place in this career.”

Meneses said he plans on being the “cliché” and moving to New York after graduation to pursue a career in writing plays. He has a job lined up at Fordham University, where he will teach an introductory theater course as an adjunct professor.

Though Cedillo’s play, 7, Eight, 9, was not chosen for the award, he said he feels like he won.

“The opportunity for a play of this nature to get recognized is a success in itself,” said Cedillio, who was awarded runner-up last year as well. “I’m just always the bridesmaid, never the bride.”

Cedillo describes his play as a “black comedy” because it is centered on two men conducting a home invasion that leads to a murder. The play begins with the two men hovering over the dead body and it delves into an exploration of these men’s lives and what led them to commit the crime.

“The play is not just about what they did, but why they did it,” Cedillo said. “It’s geared toward guys living in a way where their situation is dire and raises the question: If push comes to shove, what are you capable of?”

Cedillo, who will graduate this year, said he has not yet set postgraduate plans.

“It is this kind of anxiety that can lead people in the United States to desperation,” Cedillo said.

Both men said their work was inspired by events that personally affected them.

Meneses’ Las Hermanas Padilla — “the Padilla sisters” — stems from seeing the women in his family support each other. Cedillo’s 7, Eight, 9 in part reflects the economy and what people’s financial struggles will lead them to do.

UI freshman Zach Lockhart, who is enrolled in one of Cedillo’s classes, said Cedillo is very laid-back and his assignments are interesting.

“Sometimes they are complicated, and we have to do a lot of brainstorming,” Lockhart said. “I think he really wants to think for ourselves, but he guides us well.”

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