Eric Samuelsen: Mormon Playwright

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Eric Samuelsen Mormon Playwright

Eric R. Samuelsen was a retired educator, award-winning playwright, literary critic, and director.

Samuelsen was born on April 10, 1956, in Provo, Utah, and was reared in Bloomington, Indiana. His father was an opera singer so Samuelsen was introduced to theatre at an early age. In high school, a teacher involved him in a creative writing workshop and a second teacher involved him in choir.

He served as a missionary to Norway for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which he is a member. He earned his bachelor’s degree in playwriting from Brigham Young University in 1983 and his PhD in Theatre History and Criticism from Indiana University in 1991. He taught at Wright State University before returning to BYU in 1992 where he was a professor in the Theatre and Media Arts department. He became head of the playwriting program n 1999. He retired in 2012 due to a muscular degenerative disease. He became playwright in residence at the Plan-B Theatre in 2012.

Samuelsen was a member of the Playwrights' Circle and the Dramatists Guild. He is three-time winner of the Annual Award in Playwriting offered by the Association for Mormon Letters (AML) and he was president of AML from 2007 to 2009. In 2013 the AML awarded him the Smith Pettit Award for his lifetime work as a playwright and honored him as a Mormon Henrik Ibsen or Charles Dickens.

He was a prolific playwright; his plays include Accommodations, The Way We’re Wired, A Love Affair with Electrons, Family, The Plan, The Seating of Senator Smoot, Gadianton, Nothing Personal, Borderlands, Miasma, and Amerigo. He has also written the novel Singled Out.

In 2014, the Plan-B Theatre Company, in Salt Lake City, Utah, dedicated their season as a "Season of Eric" in which they showcased four of Samuelsen's plays: Nothing Personal, Radio Hour: Fairyana, Clearing Bombs, and 3.

Samuelsen passed away on September 20, 2019. He and his wife, Annette, and their family made their home in Provo, Utah.