Samuel D. Hunter (2007 MFA, Playwriting) returned to the UI Department of Theatre Arts this fall to receive the Alumni Fellow Award from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS). After a reception in the Theatre Lobby, CLAS Dean Sara Sanders personally presented Hunter with the award before an audience of students, faculty, and other Iowa City patrons of the arts.
The Alumni Fellow Award was established in 1999 to formally recognize CLAS graduates or former students for their outstanding contributions to society, their professions, the college, and the University of Iowa. The program is made possible by funds from the UI Alumni Association Dean’s Chair in the Liberal Arts and Sciences.
CLAS and the Department of Theatre Arts are proud to recognize and encourage the work of Hunter, who has majorly influenced the theater world. He has received an Obie Award in playwriting (2011), the Drama Desk Award (2013), and the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play (2013). He is also a recipient of the MacArthur Genius Grant (2014). Hunter is best known for his 2012 play, The Whale, which was adapted into a feature-length film starring Brendan Fraser and Sadie Sink and directed by Darren Aronofsky. Hunter wrote the screenplay for the film, which was released in 2022 and garnered multiple award nominations and wins including the BFCC Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and two Oscars. Hunter’s play, A Case for the Existence of God— included in The New York Times list of Best Theatre of 2022— will be produced by Riverside Theatre this January.
After receiving the Alumni Fellow Award, Hunter treated his audience to an intimate conversation in the Theatre Building’s Alan MacVey Theatre. He shared the ebbs and flows of his career from his days at Iowa Playwrights Workshop to working with Marsha Norman at Julliard and the production of his first play, Jack’s Precious Moment, in New York.
He also answered questions about his writing process and working with collaborators, and he offered advice to young playwrights at the start of their career.
“I’ve had to re-learn how to write a play many times. Actually, every time I start a new project,” Hunter explained. “It feels like I’m learning to write all over again.”
Hunter is currently working on an untitled project with the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago that will be directed by Joe Mantello, starring Laurie Metcalf. The production is scheduled to premiere in July 2024.