Artsmash Critic Tim Smith covers classical music, theater and visual arts in Baltimore and beyond

Baltimore veteran and teacher wins first playwright award from Arts in the Armed Forces

Tim Smith
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

Vinnie Lyman, a Baltimore special education teacher and U.S. Army veteran, is the winner of the first Bridge Award, awarded by the nonprofit Arts in the Armed Forces, for his first play, “War Stories.”

The $10,000 prize was established last fall by the nonprofit Arts in the Armed Forces to encourage playwrighting by current or former members of the U.S. military. Lyman, who teaches at William S. Baer School, served tour tours of duty in Iraq with the 101st Airborne.

“This is my first break,” Lyman, 39, said, “and I’m thrilled. I’ve been a writer for a long time, but an unpublished writer. I send things to publishers that get put in a hole where dreams go to die. When I saw an article in the New York Times about the [Bridge Award], I thought I’d give it a shot.”

Announcing the Bridge Award on a Twitter video, Adam Driver, a veteran and successful actor who founded Arts in the Armed Forces, called “War Stories” a “great play” and said it will receive a public reading in New York this fall.

Meanwhile, Lyman will be going in a few weeks for a reading of the play and mentoring at New York’s Juilliard School.

Judging the Bridge Award was Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks. She selected Lyman’s work out of about two dozen semi-finalists selected by a team of readers that considered “hundreds of submissions,” Driver said.

“War Stories” focuses on 10 soldiers from the same unit who recount their experiences in the army on duty overseas and when they returned.

“It is definitely fictional,” Lyman said, but, “with a couple of exceptions, most of the stories are [based on] things I heard.”

Founded in 2008, the New York-based Arts in the Armed Forces offers a variety of free theater arts programs to active duty service members and veterans, as well as their families and support staff, throughout this country and abroad.

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