DEPARTMENT OF

Communication and Media

Hamzehee Wins 2020 Marion Kleinau National Scripting Award

Posted on Wednesday, February 10th, 2021
The Department of Communication Studies at SIU, Carbondale, is pleased to announce the winner of the 2020 Marion Kleinau National Scripting Award.
The award, funded through a generous donation from Dr. Marion Kleinau, recognizes the adaptation of non-dramatic literature that calls forth the best in human potential.
 
This year’s winner is Dr. Joshua Hamzehee, an instructor in the Department of Communication and Media at the University of Northern Iowa. The committee selected his script for a production originally prepared for the HopKins Black Box at Louisiana State University: Baton Rouge SLAM!: An Obituary for Summer 2016.
 
The script adapts SLAM poems by poets in Baton Rouge alongside interviews with the poets, demonstrating the power of the compiled script as a form that can both honor literature and its local and political contexts. This year’s judges highlighted this aspect of the script. One noted that Dr. Hamzehee used “ethnographic methodology not only to collect examples of slam poetry . . . offered in a specific place and time, but also to collect the stories of the poets who produced them as well as their situatedness within and responsiveness to nesting cultural contexts (geographical, social, political) . . . .”
 
Another praised the craft of the adaptation, itself, as “meticulous, deeply considered, indicative of a strong, coherent directorial vision tempered by collaborative process.” This judge noted that Dr. Hamzehee’s adaptation “shows an unusually attuned ‘ear’ for the assertive production choices that it codes,” including “the orchestrated soundscape of multiple voices; the spirit of communal elegy and lively conversation” attending “to the shifting prosodics of each section, creating an aural surround that . . . creates ‘a deconstructed slam experience’ for the audience.”
 
Finally, the judges recognized Dr. Hamzehee’s awareness that adaptation and performance of literature “itself creates social value for certain texts and in this case a genre of literature. Slam poetry has sometimes been relegated to subset of poetry . . . . In the case of Baton Rouge SLAM, the labor and emotional care given to excavating the poetry and conducing and transcribing interviews with the poets and members of the slam community w a reverence not only for the poetry but also for its origins.”
 
The judges and the SIU Department of Communication Studies are grateful to Dr. Kleinau for the opportunity she has afforded us to recognize this compelling script blending poetry with oral history, community stories, music, and heartbreak into a lesson about grief, loss, and survival with this year’s award, which includes a $5,000 prize.
 
A call for the 2021 prize will go out by the end of February, 2021, via NCA’s COMMNotes, Perforum (the NCA Performance Studies Division Newsletter), the Performance Studies Division’s discussion list, and through various Facebook groups. If you would like to be included in the distribution of the call, please contact Dr. Craig Gingrich-Philbrook (craiggp@siu.edu).