Monday, January 22, 2024

Premiere Stages at Kean University Announces 2024 Bauer Boucher Playwriting Award Winners


From left to right: Bauer Boucher Alumnus winner Dustin Ballard, Nancy Boucher, W. John Bauer and Premiere Stages Producing Artistic Director John J. Wooten.

Premiere Stages, the professional theatre company in residence at Kean University, has named Kean University student Riv Dabul (Class of ’24) and alumnus Dustin Ballard (Class of ‘09) as the winners of the 2024 Bauer Boucher Playwriting Awards, named for longtime donors W. John Bauer and Nancy Boucher. Both winners received a cash prize and a one-day developmental reading of their plays with a professional cast and director.

The reading of Wayfarers by Dustin Ballard was held on Wednesday, January 17, at Lantern Hill, where both Mr. Bauer and Ms. Boucher reside. A play in two acts, in two distinct moments in time, Wayfarers explores the tenuous nature of love in its different forms. Tucked away near a boat dock on a remote island, a small house becomes a safe haven away from the rest of the world. In September of 2019, when JP arrives a weekend early to the island, Wade takes him in sparking an unexpected connection that neither of them knew they needed. And in September of 1979, when Owen and Vern meet for their annual weekend getaway, significant moments in their personal lives force them to reevaluate what they want and who they are to each other.

Dustin Ballard is an actor, director, writer who graduated from the Kean Theatre Conservatory in 2009. As an actor, he has been seen on stage at Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, Two River Theatre, and Premiere Stages, and was the 2009 National Finalist for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship. He recently directed Peter and the Starcatcher and John Proctor is the Villain for Middlesex College’s Department of Theatre. As a writer, his play Daemon was a previous winner of the Bauer Boucher Alumnus Award with Premiere Stages, and he premiered his original work Bend in the River at the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He is also the co-creator and co-host of the acclaimed outdoors podcast Gaze at the National Parks.

The reading of every little thing by Riv Dabul was held on Thursday, January 18, at Kean University. We all long for connection. But what happens when it becomes your currency? The way you structure your day? The way you pay for a meal? Your last viable resource in an isolated, independent world? These are the questions that are posed as events unfold in every little thing, as a homeless woman on the streets of New York navigates grief and survival using one of the greatest joys in her life: human connection. How will our hero cope? Will she ever let go?

Riv Dabul is pursuing a BFA in Theatre Performance (Musical Theatre). She is a new playwright and every little thing is her debut. Performance credits include Animal Farm (Clover), dir. Nehprii Amenii; Avenue Q (Bad Idea Bear), dir. Charles DelRisco; The Tempest (Spirit), dir. E. Teresa Choate; Into the Woods (Little Red Riding Hood); Indecent (Virginia, ensemble, u/s Chana). Riv has worked in the costume shop at Kean and in the ranks of counselors at Camp Half-Blood. And they can juggle.

Honorable mentions include Ryuuchi Kariyawasam-Chavez in the student category and Joelle Zazz in the alumnus category.

The Bauer Boucher Playwriting Award, established in 2014 through funding by Premiere Stages supporters W. John Bauer and Nancy Boucher, recognizes the work of one Kean University student and one playwright from the alumni community on an annual basis. The Bauer Boucher Award supports Kean University writers with enhanced visibility, dramaturgical feedback, a cash award, and the opportunity to hear their play read out loud by an ensemble of professional actors. The selected plays are directed by John J. Wooten, producing artistic director of Premiere Stages, and performed by a cast of professional actors under Actors’ Equity Association Staged Reading Guidelines. The winning student receives a cash prize of $1,000 and the winning graduate receives a $2,000 award. Honorable Mention recipients receive $100 each.

Premiere Stages is made possible in part through funding from W. John Bauer and Nancy Boucher, The New Jersey State Council on the Arts, The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, The Shubert Foundation, Carole Shaffer-Koros and Robert Koros and ExxonMobil Foundation, The Dubose and Dorothy Heyward Foundation, Blue Foundry Charitable Foundation, The Northfield Bank Foundation, The Hyde and Watson Foundation, The Union Foundation, E.J. Grassmann Trust, The New Jersey Theatre Alliance, The Union County HEART Grant and through the generous support of individual patrons and local organizations. Discover Jersey Arts is our marketing partner. Visit for more information about other arts programming happening around the Garden State.

Premiere Stages is committed to producing topical plays and interactive programs that reflect people of all ethnic and racial backgrounds, national origins, nationalities, ancestry, religious groups, gender expression or identities, sexual orientation, political beliefs, ages, abilities and disabilities.

Created in 2004, Premiere Stages is the professional Equity theatre in residence at Kean University. Through its unique partnership with Kean, Premiere’s play development programs, educational initiatives, and professional development opportunities actively embrace the university's academic curriculum while expanding the scope, accessibility, and prestige of the professional programming on campus. For more information, please visit Premiere Stages online at

Founded in 1855 as a teachers college, Kean has evolved into a thriving research university that supports students as they persist to graduation, give back to their communities and launch successful careers. Kean’s six colleges offer more than 50 undergraduate programs, six doctoral degree programs and more than 70 options leading to master’s degrees, professional diplomas or certifications, across a full range of academic subjects. With campuses in Union, Toms River and Manahawkin, New Jersey, and Wenzhou, China, as well as Kean Online, the University provides students of all backgrounds an affordable and accessible world-class education. Learn more at