Nathaniel Hults

Knox College Student Wins Theatre Award

"A guy walks into a bar..." Old joke? No, a new award-winning play

December 18, 2009

A play written by a Knox College student has been selected as one of the best in a four-state region by the American College Theatre Festival.

"No Time Like the Present," written by Nathaniel Hults, a junior from Columbia, Missouri, will be performed at the Ten Minute Play Festival, which is part of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre's Region 3 Festival, January 5-9 in Saginaw, Michigan. Hults's play is one of six short plays selected from more than 40 entries submitted by students at colleges and universities in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin.

"Nate combined an ordinary setting -- a neighborhood bar -- with fantastical events, " said Neil Blackadder, professor of theatre and chair of theatre and dance at Knox. "Nate achieved a wonderful blend of the comic and the serious." Hults explained, "The plot is pretty simple: the play is set in a bar, and a group of regulars are having a drink when an unexpected visitor from the future shows up and unintentionally shines a light on their problems."

The regional theatre festival will be the play's formal premiere performance. It received a "staged reading" -- in which actors read from scripts on a stage without any theatre lights, sets or costumes -- as part of a student-organized Playwright's Workshop during Knox's Homecoming Weekend last October.

Hults said the staged reading, which was directed by another student, Elizabeth Romer, helped him refine the play. "The one thing that a playwright can't picture accurately when he's writing a play is how it looks on its feet, with actors walking around and saying the lines to one another. Even when they're only doing it in street clothes with folding chairs as the set, seeing how the actors interact with the lines and each other is incredibly helpful. I was able to refine the play significantly just from seeing it in motion."

Hults said he also benefited from faculty and student comments. "During a workshop, a playwright can get a lot of advice. Obviously you can't take all of it -- then it's no longer your play. And some of the advice was directly contradictory. The trick is to assimilate all of the advice given and break it down into the things that really need to be changed. Even the advice I didn't take was helpful. It helped me see how people interpret the play, which will help my writing in the future."

Nathaniel HultsLast fall, Hults had a role in Knox's production of Anton Chekhov's play, "Three Sisters." Starting in January, he will participate in Repertory Theatre Term, Knox's ten-week "total immersion" course in theatre. It is the only undergraduate course in the United States that combines academic study in theatre with all of the activities involved in a professional repertory theatre company, including researching, designing, constructing, rehearsing, promoting and performing two full-length plays. Hults' father, Lawrence R. Hults, a 1973 Knox graduate who has worked as an actor and director in Dallas and New York City, participated in Repertory Theatre Term when he attended Knox.

The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Region 3 Festival is one of eight regional events held in January and February, leading up to the national Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, April 12-17 in Washington, DC. Up to six plays are selected from the regional entries for performance at the national festival.

Founded in 1837, Knox is a national liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois, with students from 47 states and 48 countries. Knox's "Old Main" is a National Historic Landmark and the only building remaining from the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates.