Sproles elated to win Eudora Welty award

Published 5:00 am Friday, May 5, 2006

Brookhaven resident Cheryl Sproles will be honored this weekendwith the Eudora Welty New Playwright Award by the New Stage Theatrein Jackson for her play entitled “More Than Life.”

Sproles will be on hand Saturday and Sunday to experience thereading of her play by New Stage actors.

Professional actress and New Stage Theatre board member ShirleySimpson, who led of the committee that selected “More Than Life,”said the panel reviewed hundreds of plays from playwrights all overthe country. The fact that Sproles is from Mississippi was an addedbonus in her selection.

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“When we selected her play, we had no idea that she was local,”Simpson said.

Simpson said Sproles’ play is “exceptional.”

“It is very well written,” Simpson said. “The characters aredelightful, any actor would be pleased to play them.”

The selection committee was particularly intrigued by Sproles’ability to blend humor with touching, emotional themes.

The play was performed by the Brookhaven Little Theatre (BLT) inthe spring of 2003. Sproles cast and directed the production.

Since her first BLT performance at the age of 13, theatre hasplayed a major role in Sproles’ life. She earned a bachelor’sdegree in Speech and Communication Arts and taught drama atBrookhaven High School for two years before moving to teach inBirmingham, Ala.

After leaving Birmingham, she worked in New York as a stagemanager at the H.B. Playwrights Foundation.

Despite her vast experience in theatre, Sproles was dumbfoundedwhen she was told she won the Eudora Welty New Playwright Award.She said it was “shocking.”

“I’ve never won anything. I never even win the twist off bottlecaps,” Sproles said jokingly.

“More Than Life” was chosen from several hundred plays submittedfrom experienced playwrights all over the country. Sharing theaward with Sproles is Marc Goldsmith, a lawyer from New York whowas chosen for his play “Comparing Books,” a comedy about a collegestudent who gets in trouble with the Mafia.

“I got a call from someone. They were asking me all of thesequestions and I was wondering, ‘Why are you asking all of thesequestions?'” Sproles said. “They told me I had won the Eudora WeltyNew Playwright Award.”

As a fan of Eudora Welty, Sproles was elated.

“I love Eudora Welty, I felt real honored,” she said.

The award also places Sproles on the national spotlight of upand coming playwrights.

With each performance, a particular play can be can become acompletely different experience based on error, variation orpersonal interpretation. Sproles understands and appreciates theflexibility needed for quality theatre.

Sproles attended both performances of “More Than Life” when itwas performed by the Pensacola Little Theatre last year.

“I know some playwrights who will not allow anyone to changetheir scripts. In Pensacola, they took out two entire characters.And it was great,” She said. “I guess I’m not married to thescript.”

Her flexibility has been appreciated by many of those in thetheater.

“She’s great to work with,” said James Minter, past president ofthe Brookhaven Little Theatre. “She really deserves it.”

Minter and many of her closest friends and family are notparticularly surprised at her latest accomplishment. Friends saidshe has consistently followed her passion for theatre all of herlife.

“She’s one of those people who just keeps doing what she’sdoing,” Minter said. “You look up 20 years later and you say ‘Gosh,she’s done a lot.'”