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ASU student beats 600+ playwrights to take top honors at Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival

April 23, 2003

TEMPE, Ariz. – James E. Garcia, a journalist and playwright enrolled in the master’s program in playwriting at Arizona State University, won first place in the nation’s most prestigious playwriting contest for university students.

Garcia beat out more than 600 other playwrights in the category for 10-minute plays at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, held April 14-19 in Washington, D.C. Grand prize was $1,000.

The winning work is entitled “The Crossing.” The story was inspired by the death of 14 immigrants in the Arizona desert two years ago.

“I was extremely surprised to win,” Garcia says, “given there was so much good work submitted. By my calculation, at least three other plays could have won first place and I would not have been disappointed… it’s a tremendous honor.

I’m new at this, so I hope it opens some doors for me.”

The trip to Washington, D.C., was another high point for Garcia.

“Growing up in a Latino family, just going into a building named after a Kennedy is a really big deal! I made sure to send my mom a JFK postcard I bought in the Kennedy Center’s gift shop.”

Garcia said he wrote the play, in part, to draw attention to the dozens of people who die crossing the U.S.-Mexico border every year.

“More than 100 people will die in southern Arizona alone in the coming months,” Garcia says. “It's as if they've been sentenced to death for wanting to feed their families.”

“The Crossing tells” the story of Esperanza Fuentes, a Mexican schoolteacher, who crosses illegally into the United States. She is the lone survivor from a group of 14 abandoned in the southern Arizona desert by smugglers. Agent Garza, a Border Patrol agent who came to the United States illegally as a boy, finds her.

It will be performed at St. Anne’s Catholic Church in Gilbert on May 11 at a dedication of a shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The shrine was built in memory to the immigrants who died crossing the Arizona desert.

In addition, “The Crossing” will be performed May 29 at Glendale Community College in Glendale, California.

Garcia, 44, and his wife live in Ahwatukee with their two daughters. He has worked as a journalist since 1986, mostly covering issues focusing on the Southwest border and Mexico. He is a former Latin America Correspondent for Cox Newspapers and a former columnist for the New York Times News Service.

Garcia recently founded the Colores Actors-Writers Workshop in Phoenix, a new company devoted to Latino theatre. Its first full season is slated for 2003-2004. His play, “Borderlines,” opens July 22 at Herberger Lunchtime Theater Series. A full-length production of his play, “American Latino Redux,” has been accepted as part of the Herberger College Mainstage 2003-2004 season.

The MFA Creative Writing Playwriting Program is co-administered by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of English and the Herberger College of Fine Arts Department of Theatre.

Media Contact:
Megan Krause