Jennifer Blackmer has an award-winning career as an educator and professional playwright.
But her selflessness and infectious enthusiasm are reasons that the Kennedy Center American College Theater Region 3 Festival honored her this year with its Gold Medallion award.
The award recognizes Blackmer for making “extraordinary contributions to the teaching and producing of theatre” and for devoting significant time to helping develop the festival.
Blackmer was one of only two educators in KCACTF Region 3 to win the award. The region comprises universities and colleges in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. KCACTF presented Blackmer the award during a January 12 dinner in Madison, Wisconsin.
The center provides learning experiences that are interdisciplinary and immersive.
In addition to teaching playwriting in the Department of Theatre and Dance, Blackmer is executive director for immersive learning and director of the Virginia B. Ball Center for Creative Inquiry at Ball State.
Blackmer, a professor of theatre in the College of Fine Arts, has taught at Ball State since 2003.
I’ll always teach, I try very hard to make that connection between my professional work and my teaching. There’s a lovely symbiosis between the two. Students have a fresh outlook on the world. They are just beginning to explore the human condition.
In 2018, she earned the Ball State Outstanding Creative Endeavor Award.
In her professional writing career, Blackmer also won the 2015 PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theatre Award for Emerging American Playwright.
Her plays, which have been produced off-Broadway and across the country, include “Human Terrain,” “Unraveled,” Margaret Atwood’s “Alias Grace” (2018 Joseph Jefferson award for Best Adaptation in Chicago), “Delicate Particle Logic,” and “Borrowed Babies.”
In December, her work, “Predictor,” was one of six plays given readings at the National Showcase of New Plays. The six were chosen from 69 submissions. “Predictor” will have a national Rolling World Premiere of productions around the country.
Originally from New Palestine, near Indianapolis, Blackmer fell in love with theatre at age 7 when her parents took her to see “Annie” at Clowes Hall on the Butler University campus.
Her parents encouraged her curiosity, and she said she feels the need to do the same.
Blackmer is the second Ball State faculty member to win a Gold Medallion. Then-associate professor of theatre design Kip Shawger (now emeritus) won the award in 2001.
What sets theatre education apart at Ball State, according to Blackmer, is a focus on collaboration.
“Our students are talented and very well prepared to have careers,” she said. “But they are also good people. We want people to want to work with them and to make art with them. Theatre is collaborative. It’s people working together. It’s human connection.”