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"We are very proud of Richard Byrne, who has built on his experiences as a UMBC student to become both an outstanding news editor and internationally acclaimed playwright.”

President Freeman A. Hrabowski, III


Alumnus Richard Byrne '86 Earns Prestigious Theatrical Honor


April 12, 2007 Alumnus Richard Byrne, English '86, a playwright and prominent journalist, is the winner of the inaugural Prague Post Playwriting Festival for his one-act play Burn Your Bookes.

A work about poetry and medieval chemistry, Burn Your Bookes received a full production at the Divadlo Minor Theater in Prague during March 2007. The prize of 20,000 Czech crowns (U.S. $900) was awarded on the festival's closing night.

Byrne established himself as a journalist while earning an M.F.A. in poetry and playwrighting from Washington University in St. Louis. His first play, Untangling Ava, won the inaugural A.E. Hotchner Playwriting Festival at that institution in May 1989.

Based in Washington, D.C., Byrne is the senior editor for research and books at the Chronicle of Higher Education and the American editor of the Belgrade publishing house Alexandria Press. He has been published in the Washington Post, Foreign Policy, American Prospect and on TIME magazine's Web site. In 1999, he was awarded a Pew Fellowship in International Reporting to study media in postwar Bosnia.

Burn Your Bookes is set in Prague in the Renaissance court of Emperor Rudolph II. Two alchemical pretenders are under sentence of death by starvation when they engage in a desperate battle of deception with the noted English alchemist Edward Kelley. The noted international director and translator Julek Neumann directed the work.

"Researching a play on 15th-century alchemy requires diligent research and sensitivity to textual nuance," Byrne said. "My courses at UMBC prepared me for that sort of undertaking."

During his recent month-long stay in Prague, Byrne completed a longer version of a play about alchemy and poetry based on the life of Kelley and his step-daughter, the Neo-Latin poet Elizabeth Jane Weston.


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