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Since assistant theatre professor Richard Kalinoski initiated the Playwrights Project in 1998, UW Oshkosh students have had the chance to showcase their talent to campus and the surrounding community.

This year, nontraditional student Mair Runge was selected to receive the annual award. She will have the opportunity to see an audience’s reaction to her work when it is read publicly at 7:30 p.m. May 8 in the Experimental Theatre at the Fredric March Theatre.

Runge submitted a one-act play, “Promise, Magic and Soda Pop,” which tells the story of an old vaudevillian magician who has a stroke and is visited by his working-class granddaughter, who attempts to infuse his life with hope.

Kalinoski, a resident playwright, began the Playwrights Project as a way to inspire the creative side of his students.

“It was a natural thing for me to run an annual playwriting contest,” Kalinoski said. “The theatre needs new plays and playwrights, and we want to encourage our students to write plays.”

When it comes to influence, Kalinoski’s extensive career in playwriting has kept his students motivated. Runge admits that she never began writing plays until she started studying with him.

“I’m definitely influenced by him and his passion for writing plays,” Runge said. “I know that I will continue to write plays because I really enjoy the process. I feel lucky to get to work with Kalinoski through this contest. ”

Runge began writing her play in hopes of learning more about her writing and what works in the theatrical environment. The Appleton resident accredits her creative side to her family upbringing — her grandfather was a former vaudeville performer and magician.

Runge enjoyed a childhood that fostered her imaginative attitude while being involved with theatre acting and costume design. Playwriting has come naturally to her because of the familiarity and comfort she learned of theatrical arts when she was a child.

“It’s always been something I’ve wanted to do,” Runge said. “Playwriting has been a good fit for me because that sort of whimsy and imaginary upbringing has inspired me to write.”

“Ultimately, it’s been an exploration of promise,” Runge said. “The story represents many forms of promises and I hope it will spark a moment of reflection for people on what it is to make a promise, and then keep or break that promise.”

The award for the Playwrights Project included a framed certificate, $100, and a public reading of the play. It is the second time Runge has won the award.

“Although the monetary award is nice, the real reward is getting to see my words put out there in a performance that the audience will react to,” Runge said.

Now in its 10th year, the Playwrights Project has been responsible for 14 readings, including one alum’s play, which was chosen for a reading at the Kennedy Center.