Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs 519 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

February 06, 2006

Award-Winning Playwright Is U of G Writer-in-Residence

Playwright Sunil Kuruvilla, who began winning writing contests as a child growing up in Waterloo, is the University of Guelph’s writer-in-residence for the winter semester.

Kuruvilla won his first writing competition when he was nine. “Reading was a big thing in my house, and they say that writers write the stories they want to read, so I suppose that’s what I did,” he said.

Later, at age 14, he captured first place in an international competition sponsored by the United Nations that drew 20,000 entries from more than 100 countries.

Since then, Kuruvilla has also gone on to become a two-time winner of the du Maurier National Playwriting Contest for his works Ear to Glass, Glass to Ground and Bulldogs and Firetrucks.

A BA English graduate of Wilfrid Laurier University, he holds an MA from the University of Windsor and an MFA from the Yale School of Drama. “I’ve been really blessed to work with great teachers,” said Kuruvilla, whose thesis adviser at Windsor was acclaimed author Alistair MacLeod. At Yale, he was taught by Pulitzer Prize-winning writers Donald Margulies and Suzan Lori-Parks and by director Liz Diamond, who has directed two of Kuruvilla’s plays since he graduated.

While at Laurier, he attended a summer playwriting course at the Upper Canada Writers’ Workshop in Kingston that was led by Canadian playwright Sharon Pollock, whom he credits for his choice to become a professional playwright.

“A few days before I left for the course, I was informed that I needed to take a work in progress, so I quickly put something together,” he said. What he left with at the end of the course was Fight of a Century, a play that earned him top prize in a competition commemorating the Shaw Festival’s silver anniversary.

Since graduating from Yale in 1999, Kuruvilla has written a number of plays, including works commissioned by Philadelphia’s Wilma Theatre, New York’s Joseph Papp Public Theatre, the Actors’ Theater of Louisville and LaJolla Playhouse in LaJolla, Calif.

His play Rice Boy has had full productions at the Yale Rep, the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles and CanStage in Toronto. The play, a coming-of-age story about a boy who’s caught between Canadian and Indian cultures, was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award in 2004.

In 2002, Kuruvilla was commissioned to write a screenplay adaptation of his play Fighting Words for Showtime. Fighting Words is based on the true story of a Welsh boxer who died in the ring in 1980 at the World Championships in Los Angeles. “I saw this fight on television, and I knew I had to write about it, but it took 15 years for me to figure out how to write about it in a fresh way,” he said. Instead of writing about the boxer and his 40 male supporters who travelled from Wales to see the fight, Kuruvilla wrote about the wives who stayed behind in Wales and watched from a distance. “I wanted to write about the feminine side of boxing.”

He will be on campus weekday afternoons until the end of the semester to consult with U of G students, staff and faculty, as well as those in the broader Guelph community who are interested in creative writing. “I’ve been at Guelph only a few weeks, but what I love is opening my door and hearing students talking about what they’re working on. What I’ve missed since I graduated is being around people who do what I love to do, which is write theatre.”

To book an appointment with Kuruvilla, contact Michael Boterman at (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53147, or

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rebecca Kendall, Ext. 56982.

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