Pulitzer Winner Robert Shenkkan Tells Students To ‘Leave Something For God’

Robert ShenkkanPulitzer Prize winner Robert Shenkkan discussed the ins-and-outs of theater and film writing as a guest of the Joynes Reading Room Literary Series Thursday night.

Shenkkan, BA ’75, is most known for his decorated one-act play collection The Kentucky Cycle, which won the Pulitzer for drama in 1992. He said his Plan II Honors and theater classes at UT prepared him for a career centered around a passion for words and storytelling.

An acting professor often told him to “leave something for God,” and he said this mentality helped him create his future.

“You have to leave room for the unexpected, the divine,” Shenkkan said. “That has become my favorite part of writing, when something I hadn’t planned suddenly occurs.”

Matt Valentine, the program coordinator for the literary series, said students interested in writing can gain valuable insight from hearing about the struggles and successes of guests like Shenkkan.

The event included Shenkkan’s talk, clips from his Emmy-nominated HBO mini-series The Pacific, and performance of a scene from Shenkkan’s new play, Docent.

Shenkkan’s attention to historical detail combined with creative energy attracted Plan II and English junior Lindsay Schellhase to the writer. Schellhase said she read The Kentucky Cycle over spring break and hopes to explore more of his work.

“I want to go watch The Pacific now,” she said. “The clips caught my interest.”

Shenkkan will be one of four writers in a panel Friday night at 5 in the Alumni Center’s Connally Ballroom as part of the Plan II 75th anniversary celebration this weekend.

And after that? Shenkkan wants to try his hand at writing for a television series.

“We’re in a golden age of television writing,” he said. “My son just left for college, so I’m footloose and fancy free. I’m interested to test myself in that arena.”

Photo by Audrey White, a Plan II and journalism junior.


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