Playwright, author, professor to receive the Madeleine Arts and Humanities award

Friday, Jun. 08, 2012
Playwright, author, professor to receive the Madeleine Arts and Humanities award + Enlarge
David Kranes

SALT LAKE CITY — The Cathedral of the Madeleine Arts and Humanities Council will present David Kranes with the Cathedral of the Madeleine Arts and Humanities award June 7 at the New Yorker.

Kranes, an emeritus professor of English at the University of Utah, has been highly influential in Utah in the arts, said Joan Woodbury, Arts and Humanities Council member.

"David is an incredible artist and writer who is the author of plays, novels and short stories," said Woodbury, adding that Kranes has also influenced many students. "He’s a very quiet and personal individual and very deserving of this award."

Kranes is the writer of seven novels and two short stories volumes, with his eighth novel coming out in the fall and his third volume of short stories due next spring. He is the author of 50 plays, of which 40 have been performed in New York and across the United States, including the Salt Lake Acting Company. His radio plays have been performed in the U.S., Canada and abroad. He has written for film and for dance companies. The opera Orpheus Lex, for which he wrote the libretto, was performed at New York City’s Symphony Space in February.

Kranes founded the Sundance Playwright Lab, where he was artistic director for 14 years before leaving in 1987 to help create the WordBridge Playwrights Lab in St. Petersburg Fla., now in Baltimore, Md.

"From Sundance, there were two Pulitzer Prize plays later produced in New York and one Tony Award," he said.

During his teaching career, Kranes received every teaching award offered by the University of Utah, including the University Professor Award and the Ramona Cannon Teaching Award.

Kranes, a native of Boston, received an undergraduate degree from Bowdoin College in Maine, a master’s in English at New York University and a doctorate in theater at Yale University in Connecticut. Following his doctorate degree, he was a playwright in residence at the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven, Conn., before moving to Salt Lake City in 1967 to teach at the University of Utah.

"I was held rapt by my first trip west across the Utah border into Nevada during a snowstorm on the Salt Flats, only to find myself in a casino moments later," he said. "The experience was surreal and everything seemed very dreamlike. Casinos are full of compressed drama – sometimes chilling, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes quite wonderful."

That was Kranes’ introduction to the casino industry, which has led him to over 20 years of consulting work. Much of his fiction and some plays have used Nevada as a setting; he also was asked by publishers in New York to write a Las Vegas tour book.

"Not wanting to write what had already been written, I wrote short essays about Las Vegas and the gambling industry and my essay ‘Casino Space’ secured my consulting work," he said. "I assist in designing the environment of the structures on a consumer basis. My wife and I also have done customer service evaluations for casino resorts."

Kranes gets his story ideas from the casinos, but said they are everywhere. "I’ve always been sort of a quiet person who stood to the side paying attention to the things going on around me," he said. "I also use personal experiences, which have had a lot of force in my stories. Since I work across the various forms, sometimes I will start something as a story and move it into a novel and discover it doesn’t work and it becomes a play."

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