Noah Ezell ’20 had completely forgotten about the award. He’d entered his submission way back in January – and, to be fair, there have been some major distractions since then.
So, when he recently learned he’d won the 2020 national Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) Undergraduate Theater Scholar Award, it was a welcome surprise – one that the College of Charleston theatre major really needed.
“This award reaffirmed for me something that felt a little more distant than it did in early March – I needed that reminder that this field is my home, that this is what I was designed to do,” says Ezell – whose winning paper, “Metamodernism of the Oppressed: An Exploration of Metamodernism and Its Surfacing in Branden Jacobs-Jenkins ‘An Octoroon,’” was derived from his senior thesis paper.
The KCACTF is a national theater program serving as a catalyst in improving the quality of college theater in the United States. In order to further student activity in the discipline of scholarship, the prestigious national awards program encourages and rewards research and scholarly writing among undergraduates throughout the nation.
This isn’t Ezell’s first national KCACTF award. Last year, he received the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA)/KCACTF Student Dramaturgy Award for his work on the College’s production of Marisol, by José Rivera.
“It was through the LMDA/KCACTF Student Dramaturgy Award that I made a network of artistic connections, and I was able to intern at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, one of the leading new play development centers in America,” says Ezell. “From there it’s just been a sort of spiral as my networks of connections and collaborators have grown, and my love for new plays and new play dramaturgy has expanded.”
Ezell discovered dramaturgy – the theory and practice of dramatic composition – through his faculty mentor, Susan Kattwinkel, who took him under her wing his sophomore year at the College.
“She showed me what dramaturgy is and what theater studies is, and I really started to feel like I had found an artistic home. It just sort of felt right,” he says. “She showed me how to research and write and worked with me to hone those skills. I think that my connection and relationship with her has been really instrumental in my development as an artist and as a scholar.”
Kattwinkel is proud to have had the opportunity to work with Ezell.
“Noah’s achievements as a dramaturg and a scholar are a reminder that good writing is an important part of the theatre, even outside of playwriting,” says the theatre professor. “As a student, Noah worked in multiple areas of theatre – as an actor, a sound designer, a crew member and most significantly as a dramaturg. His dedication to his work made him a role model for other students in terms of the persistence, flexibility and work ethic needed to succeed in the professional world.”
Since graduating in May, Ezell has stayed busy with several projects, carving out a place for himself in the professional theater world – a world that, for all intents and purposes, has come to a standstill since the coronavirus pandemic.
“Even though things aren’t what I thought they would be, I’m getting to create art with my friends, and that’s really soul filling for me,” says Ezell, who is currently serving as a dramaturg for a friend’s new play about queer bodies and trauma as well as a script reader for the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, among other things. “I’m lucky that in the midst of all this I am still able to connect theatrically in all these different ways.”
Kattwinkel agrees: “Noah graduated into a theatre world decimated by the pandemic; nevertheless, he is making connections and finding artists to work with and getting started on what we’re sure will be a fantastic career.”
Ezell hopes to have a career both in new play development theater and, later, in academia.
“Ultimately I am both an artist and an academic, which is why I love dramaturgy so much. It melds those two worlds in a very beautiful way,” he says. “At the core, though, I really just want to fully support myself with my art and help make art that is socially conscious, lifts up the voices of underrepresented groups and makes a difference in the world.”