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Professor’s Play Wins Awards at Pittsburgh Festival

The one-act play “Man Woman Hombre Mujer” was the big winner Oct. 5 as the Pittsburgh New Works Festival announced the winners of its “Donna” awards for its 18th season.

The play, written by Chris Gavaler, W&L visiting assistant professor of English, was awarded best playwright, best production, best actor, best actress and best director. The 2008 award is the third year in a row that Gavaler has won the playwright award.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called the actors “delightfully funny and sharp” and hailed the play as the best by far, with “a clever exploration of language and how much – or how little – we need it.”

The festival’s literature described the play succinctly as “Two people, two languages, one waiting room.” A man and a woman are alone in a waiting room. He speaks Spanish, she speaks English. Despite some comic miscommunications, they learn to transcend language. “The structure is odd,” says Gavaler, “as the action stops halfway through and begins over, only now the man speaks English and the woman speaks Spanish, so a non-bilingual audience understands everything they missed the first time.”

Gavaler drafted the play entirely in English, and then took it to Ellen Mayock (W&L associate professor of Romance languages) who translated it, bringing out the nuanced differences between Spanish and English. Mayock may use the play in her classes and possibly stage an informal reading.

Each year the Pittsburgh New Works Festival, which is dedicated to fostering the development of original one-act plays, debuts a dozen works each produced by a different theater company. The “Donna” awards are named for the festival’s founder, Donna Rae.