ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - From Catawba College: Catawba College alumnus Mike Wiley, Class of ’95, of Pittsboro, NC, is a recipient of a 2020 Ann Atwater Theater Award, presented by Manbites Dog Theater of Durham, NC. This year, the award recognized six Triangle theater artists and companies whose bodies of work reflect and honor Ann Atwater’s lifelong commitment to activism for social justice.
Each award comes with an unrestricted cash grant of $4,000 from the Manbites Dog Theater Fund, as well as an original sculpture being created by Durham artist/designer Andrew Preiss.
Wiley is a Pittsboro-based playwright, actor, director, and educator, and the founder of his own company, Mike Wiley Productions. His mission is to bring educational theatre to young audiences and communities in the Triangle, around the state, and across the country, shining a light on key events and figures in African American history.
Nominations for the award were solicited from the public in February and March 2020, and were evaluated by the Manbites Dog Theater Board of Directors who selected the final recipients.
Wiley’s shows include One Noble Journey, Dar He: The Story of Emmet Till, Blood Done Sign My Name, A Game Apart, The Parchman Hour, Downrange:
Voices from the Homefront, Brown V. Board of Education, Breach of Peace, Tired Souls: King and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Leaving Eden, Witness to an Execution, and Life Is So Good.
The Parchman Hour was produced at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minn., and at Lee Street Theatre in Salisbury. Blood Done Sign My Name was performed by Raleigh Little Theatre. Wiley, who has presented it as a one-man show for a decade, performed it on Zoom In September.
Wiley has a Master of Fine Arts degree from the professional acting program at UNC-Chapel Hill and was the 2010 and 2014 Lehman Brady Visiting Joint Chair Professor in Documentary Studies and American Studies at Duke University and the UNC-Chapel Hill.
He has led theatre workshops for students, teachers, and aspiring actors in Catawba’s Hedrick Little Theatre. He was inducted into the Catawba College Blue Masque Hall of Fame in 2013.
In addition to his school and community performances, he has also appeared on Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel and National Geographic Channel and has been featured in Our State magazine and on PBS' North Carolina Now and WUNC’s The State of Things. In 2012, he was named the Indie Artist of the Year by The Independent Weekly.
Ann Atwater (1935-2016) was an African American activist and grassroots organizer in Durham, who worked all her life as an advocate for issues of civil rights, fair housing, education, and employment. Her unlikely alliance and friendship in the early 1970s with local Ku Klux Klan leader C.P. Ellis as Durham struggled with the integration of public schools became the subject of the book (and later play and movie) The Best of Enemies.
Manbites Dog Theater, a professional non-profit theater company founded in Durham in October 1987, serves the Triangle area of central North Carolina. Manbites Dog’s purpose is to foster, promote, and increase public knowledge and appreciation of theater by producing and sponsoring live theater performance and conducting other activities to encourage public interest in and discussion of theater, including making grants to further such purposes.