Playwright wins award for comedy about autism

Friday, April 6, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:15 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Ken LaZebnik’s personal understanding of autism is portrayed in his play “Vestibular Sense,” a dark comedy. For that play, LaZebnik, artistic director of the School of Performing Arts at Stephens College, was awarded the M. Elizabeth Osborn Award on March 31 at the Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville, Ky.

The Osborn Award is given to playwrights whose work has not been recognized as a major production and who have never received a major national award. The award is given through the American Theatre Critics Association and honors play editor Elizabeth Osborn.

“This is a wonderful award to get as an emerging playwright,” LaZebnik said. “This was quite rewarding.”

“Vestibular Sense” delves into the realities of living with autism as an adult. LaZebnik has two family members with autism, which provides him a first-hand insight into the autistic world.

The play premiered in November at the Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis, which emphasizes culture-conscious plays.

LaZebnik, a distinguished professor of film at Stephens, has worked on several television shows such as “Star Trek: Enterprise,” “Providence” and “Touched by an Angel.” Most notably, he co-wrote the screenplay for the 2006 movie “A Prairie Home Companion” with Garrison Keillor.

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