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W&M Alumnus Clarence Coo Wins Whiting Award

By Sara K. Eskridge May 15, 2017

Clarence Coo ’00 is a 2017 recipient of the prestigious Whiting Award for his body of work as a playwright. The Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation has given these awards since 1985. Each year, nearly 100 people are anonymously nominated for the award, which supports creative writing in the areas of nonfiction, poetry, drama and fiction. There are 10 winners every year, each of which receives a $50,000 prize. Coo won the award for drama.

Coo, who lives in New York, has been producing plays since his days in Williamsburg. His initial inspiration came from his interdisciplinary major–Literary and Cultural Studies. He was interested in performing arts but also enjoyed the juxtaposition of different areas of study. Indeed, Beautiful Province, the story of a 15-year-old boy taking a road trip across Canada with his high school French teacher, draws on a number of different sources: psychology, linguistics and the novels of James Fenimore Cooper. The play also won the 2012 Yale Drama Series Prize.

Having earned an M.F.A. from Columbia University, Coo currently serves as the manager of academic administration of the Graduate Writing Program at Columbia’s School of the Arts. He is currently a resident playwright at New Dramatists and he is also a member of the Ma-Yi Writers Lab, an Asian-American theater company. He just finished a Playwright’s Realm Fellowship, and is also currently a New York Foundation for the Arts fellow.

Coo continues to be a prolific writer, having also authored The Birds of Empathy, People Sitting in Darkness, and The God of Wine, all of which mirror his desire to draw from multiple sources of inspiration. Says Coo, “studying different disciplines gives me a better understanding of what it means to be human.”