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UI junior finalist in national playwriting competition

BY LINDSAY DOUGLAS | JULY 18, 2011 7:20 AM

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There were two Stephanie Ms on her floor freshman year of college. So Stephanie Muller changed her name to Marek.

"Basically, there was a villain on a TV show who I thought was really cool, and then there was my favorite hockey player who I thought was really cool," she said. "They were both named Marek, so I automatically assumed that if you're named Marek, you must be cool."

And that was just the start of her transformation.

Though Muller had participated in musicals in high school, the University of Iowa junior said she was awkward during those four years.

"I just couldn't do anything," she said. "I would go to school, come home, and curl up into a ball."

But her friends at the UI don't know that girl.

The Denver native is a double major in history and theater, and she is working toward a writing certificate. She has acted in three plays at the UI, participated in festivals, has had children's plays published, volunteers at an animal shelter, and even started a club with her friends.

Morgan Miller, who is involved with the UI's No Shame Theater with Muller, said she can always make her laugh.

"Marek is hilarious," Miller said. "She is one of the brightest, most creative people I know."

And through all of these activities in college, Muller has left the awkward highschool girl behind.

"One thing I've learned trying to make my name known at Iowa is that you can't ignore opportunities," she said.

Muller's passion for writing has helped her take advantage of those opportunities. She specializes in 10-minute comedic sketches and stories that cater to children, and in her spare time, she searches for ways to get exposure through writing contests.

"If I want something, I do what every ambitious person does — I Google it," Muller said. "For every 30 [contests] I apply to I'll probably hear back from one, and it will probably be a rejection."

Not always. She is currently one of eight finalists, chosen from 127, in the 8x10 TheatreFest, a national competition.

Her play, "Bear-ly Legal: A Love Story," will be made into a full on-stage production with costumes, actors, directors, and sets at the Weathervane Playhouse in Akron, Ohio.

While she waits on the final results, Muller has been busy. For six hours Monday through Friday she participates in a playwriting intensive course through the Curious Theater in Denver. On the weekends, she works 10 hours a day at a Renaissance Fair.

Though she has immersed herself in a world of new opportunities, she said she's still not sure what her future career goal is.

"It's important to get the creativity out of you so you have that release, and it's important to make people happy with that creativity," she said. "But you also have to be a person who helps society in a physical way and to me I don't think I can accomplish that by sitting in my room and writing."

Muller is considering teaching abroad after graduation, and she is participating in the Semester at Sea — a program that allows students to continue their studies while experiencing several different countries.

Muller plans to spend three days in an old Indian temple meditating — just one of many adventures to cross off her list.

Kathryn Aspengren, Muller's playwriting teacher, said the 20-year-old's dedication and "daring" writing style sets her apart.

"She's the kind of writer who absorbs everything around her, takes those experiences, and uses them in her writing in a wonderful and weird way," Aspengren said.


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