In the fall of 1992, Dr. Jo Ann C. McDowell called on past acquaintances and friends—Edward Albee and Marshall W. Mason—to participate in the first Valdez Theatre Conference, produced by Prince William Sound Community College in August of 1993. Dr. McDowell had been associated with the William Inge Festival in Independence, Kansas, for over a decade while serving as Vice President and President of Independence Community College and brought her experiences and connections to bear in creating this new event.
For the next twelve years, the Conference yearly honored a major American playwright and director. Past honorees include Arthur Miller, August Wilson, Terence McNally, and many other household names. The authors were in attendance for the event, teaching classes and talking about their careers, while evening performances focused on presenting their work to participants.
In 2005, Dr. McDowell moved on to a new college and started the Great Plains Theatre Conference. The remaining staff, including PWSC’s new president and Conference staff member since 1992, Doug Desorcie, and Theatre Conference Coordinator and eight-time participant Dawson Moore, revised the Conference’s mission to increase the focus on new work by early and mid-career playwrights. The Conference still has major theatre professionals attend as teachers, with past guests including Y York, Eric, Coble, Timothy Daly, John Cariani, Catherine Butterfield, Jayne Wenger, Aoise Stratford, Jon Klein, John Pielmeier, Kia Corthron, Arlene Hutton, and former Dramatists Guild Executive Director Gary Garrison, to mention a few.