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Student Playwright Award

UCR Student Playwright’s Work a National Finalist

Brian Oglesby’s “Trainwhistles” will be presented in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival on April 17.

(April 2, 2009)

Brian OglesbyEnlarge

Brian Oglesby

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Brian Oglesby, a graduate student at the University of California, Riverside, is a finalist in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival Ten-Minute Play Festival.

His play, “Trainwhistles,” is one of four national finalists and will be presented in a staged reading at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., on Friday, April 17.

Oglesby, 24, writes under the pen name Briandaniel Oglesby. He is a third-year graduate student in UCR’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts program. The Riverside resident, a native of Davis, Calif., wrote “Trainwhistles” while in the M.F.A. program.

Oglesby also has been nominated by the literary journal ZZYZYVA for a prestigious Pushcart Prize for his short story "Family Kleenex (tm)," which was written for an M.F.A. workshop.

“Trainwhistles” is about a young gay couple – runaways living in a dirt lot next to railroad tracks – who are at a crossroads in their relationship. The play had its first reading at the Performance Loft in Redlands last fall and was a regional finalist in the Kennedy Center festival’s Region VIII, which is comprised of southern California, southern Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Hawaii, Guam and American Samoa.

As a national finalist Oglesby will be in Washington, D.C., for a week of workshops, networking and performances.

The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival was founded in 1969 to improve the quality of college theater in the United States.

“This award has highlighted how privileged I am to be in the UCR M.F.A. program,” Oglesby said. “Even the setting of the play – a dirt lot next to the railroad tracks – was inspired by the train whistles out my window a few blocks from the campus. I am also a fiction writer, so UCR's program, which is interdisciplinary, has afforded me the opportunity to explore and be successful in two genres. Anywhere else and I'd have to pick either fiction or playwriting, but here I can do both. And thanks to that, I get to meet theater folks from all over the country, visit Washington, D.C., and have something I wrote end up at the Kennedy Center.”

Erith Jaffe-Berg, assistant professor of theater, said Oglesby is talented, motivated and active in a variety of theater events.

“Brian's work probes the ‘underbelly’ of society – characters who often exist on the margins of communities,” Jaffe-Berg said. “He brings unlikely pairings of people together in seemingly casual circumstances – a chance meeting near a 99 cent store, a bike rider bumping into people at a telephone booth. But these chance encounters set the characters on journeys that lead to awakening and recognition for them and resonance for us in the audience. His work is wonderfully challenging and yet also very committed to releasing stories from people who are unlikely protagonists.”

Oglesby has twice been nominated to the regional section of the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, she said.

Jaffe-Berg is the faculty coordinator of UCR’s Playworks and for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. In the latter position she organizes approximately 20 UCR students to participate in the festival, oversees the nomination of students for various awards and makes sure that UCR productions are seen by adjudicators. Playworks is a four-day festival of student plays that takes place at UC Riverside every year in late spring.

Two of the six students chosen from among more than 60 to present their plays at the regional theater festival were from UC Riverside.

“That is a very large percentage and speaks to the strength of our writing program, the mentorship of our faculty and the collaborative atmosphere that exists in the Department of Theatre among faculty and students,” Jaffe-Berg said.

UCR’s M.F.A. in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts is a unique two-year program that allows students to major and minor in two different genres selected from fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, playwriting, and screenwriting (including writing for interactive and multi-media).

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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