NC Playwright Mike Wiley Receives Distinguished Alumnus Award

By Broadway World News Desk                    October 13, 2017

NC Playwright Mike Wiley Receives Distinguished Alumnus Award

   PlayMakers Repertory Company has just announced that today the University of    North Carolina at Chapel Hill awarded playwright Mike Wiley with its Distinguished Alumnus Award, which recognizes alumni who have made outstanding contributions to humanity.

Wiley, a graduate of the M.F.A. program at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Department of Dramatic Art, is currently writing “Leaving Eden,” a PlayMakers Repertory Company commissioned work which will premiere in April 2018. A collaboration with North Carolina singer-songwriter Laurelyn Dossett, “Leaving Eden” is an American fable for today that explores the cyclical nature of human behavior through the lens of a small North Carolina town. This story of racial tension, immigration and economic crisis unearths the stories of yesterday while yielding a hopeful hymn for our future.

Wiley’s compelling works of drama and history have been shared across the U.S., Canada, South Africa and beyond. His ensemble dramas have been produced by PlayMakers, the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, DC, and featured in the Freedom Riders 50th Reunion in Jackson, MS.

UNC-CH Department of Dramatic Art Chair Adam Versenyi introduced Wiley at the University Day celebration with the following remarks:

      I first met Mike Wiley when he entered our MFA Acting program in 2001.  During his three years in the Professional Actor Training Program he grew exponentially as a creative artist, and performed in productions at PlayMakers Repertory Company, the professional company that serves as a teaching laboratory for all  our graduate students.  Mike’s diligence to his craft, his warmth and grace as a human being, and his creative energy always enriches the production process.  His smile lights up a room.

        Upon graduating from UNC Mike brought his talents to bear on creating and producing largely solo performances that explore key events and figures in African-American history.  In 2010 Mike was appointed to the Lehman Brady Chair, a Visiting Joint Professorship in Documentary Studies and American Studies at Duke and UNC. Mike and his students at both institutions spent nearly a year researching the civil rights Freedom Riders and their incarceration at Parchman Farm in Mississippi.  The research culminated in a play, The Parchman Hour, which was performed by students from both campuses here in the Department of Dramatic Art, a production that then toured the southeast with a final performance in Mississippi for the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Freedom Rides.  The following year The Parchman Hour was given its professional world premiere on the main stage of PlayMakers Repertory Company.

        Mike uses the medium of the theatre to both entertain and educate.  He has brought his passion and his artistry to fourth grade classrooms, graduate student receptions, and community halls.  He has appeared in multiple mediums including film, tv, and radio.  Constantly seeking to stretch himself, Mike has sought out collaborators of all kinds.  Perhaps my favorite performance of his was in the intimate space of Durham’s The Casbah, lamentably no more, where Wiley and rock musician Hiss Golden Messenger performed their adaptation in progress of filmmaker John Sayles’ Matewan.

        In the past year or so we’ve come full circle as we’ve worked together on Mike’s play, Leaving Eden, that will close this year’s PlayMakers mainstage season, and is the first piece that PlayMakers has ever developed in-house. Mike Wiley’s work, with its commitment to social justice and to discovering innovative ways to educate even the least among us is the epitome of both the tradition and the promise of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Department of Dramatic Art and PlayMakers Repertory Company proudly presents one of our own. 

For more information about the Distinguished Alumnus Award, given on the occasion of Carolina’s University Day, visit http://www.unc.edu/universityday/#awards