Award-winning playwright found inspiration at the U

William Hector, B.A. ’15, reflects on the people, passions, and university that helped shape his recent award-winning immersive play, G7: 2070.
Award-winning playwright found inspiration at the U
Photo: Ted Hartshorn

Alumnus William Hector is an award-winning playwright who recently debuted “G7: 2070,” a new immersive play set in the heart of The Kampong, a lush botanical garden in Miami’s Coconut Grove neighborhood.

When writing his play, he found himself returning to the University of Miami for inspiration, wisdom, and guidance.

The child of two professors at the University, Hector was always interested in worldbuilding and storytelling.

As a boy, he would delve deep into fictional worlds through their histories and characters.

He also learned from a young age that he had a talent for making people laugh.

 “I think being funny is to some degree about being specific.” Hector said. “Inside jokes and really focused personal humor – I think that’s the type of comedy that a story can really build as you spend time with these characters and form a connection with them.”

He had the opportunity in high school to go on school drama trips to see live performances, which expanded the world of theater as a vehicle for telling diverse stories.

Hector remembers seeing Tracy Lett’s “August Osage County,” the Pulitzer Prize winning family tragedy.

“If a story as dark as this can be so incredibly funny, then everything can,” he thought. “I felt that everything I write can and should be funny.”

From that moment forward, telling stories through theater became his focus.

“What drew me to writing plays is the love of dialogue,” he said. “A blank page filled almost entirely with banter and verbal battles is the joy of playwrighting.”

In high school, Hector had greater freedom to pick his own classes, which exposed him to a diversity of disciplines, perspectives, and philosophies. He flourished.

He applied to the University of Miami and was accepted with the invitation to join the Foote Fellows Honors Program, which supports academically exceptional incoming students with the freedom to explore their studies through enriching learning opportunities, seminars, internships, and faculty-mentored research.

He enrolled at the University and continued with his curious ways, taking advantage of every learning opportunity to broaden his horizons.  

“I was able to take Bruce Bagley’s class on drug trafficking in the Americas, Jim Nickel’s class on the intersection of philosophy and law, and Alex Havenick’s class on how to run casinos,” he said. “As a writer, there was nothing better that I could have asked for.”  

In 2015, Hector became the first student to graduate from the College of Arts and Sciences with an independent major. He graduated with a dual degree in playwriting and philosophy, politics, and economics.

“For my capstone project, I wrote ‘Draco,’ a play about politics, philosophy, and economics. It felt like the perfect capstone to all these classes of incredible intellectual rigor with great professors, synthesizing them into storytelling,” Hector said. “I was able to take those classes, not as foundations for careers in those fields, but as inspirations for deeper storytelling about these topics.”

In 2018, Stephen Di Benedetto, then chair of the Theatre Arts Department at the University of Miami, urged Hector to apply for Miami-Dade County’s Playwright Development Program (PDP). He was one of four playwrights selected. The opportunity culminated in his first immersive theater production, a collaborative project with his fellow PDP writers, the Deering Estate, and the University of Miami.

“I think something unique to immersive theater is the way it can incorporate the audience’s choices into the story,” Hector said. “It makes the production very personal in that the audience feels it has agency in this world.”

Not long after, the Knight Foundation issued their first Knight New Work Miami challenge. A friend encouraged Hector to apply.

Hector submitted a proposal to write “G7: 2070.” This immersive theatrical summit envisions a world set 50 years in the future and enlists audience members to become delegates and join dignitaries representing the seven most powerful nations—the U.S., China, the European Papal Federation, Ethiopia, Uruguay, Russia, and Disney—as they gather in a post-sea level rise Miami to decide the fate of the world.

He drew on the expertise of University of Miami professors to tell his story.

“There are so many immensely knowledgeable professors at the U, and when I was doing research for the play, I was able to talk with Professor Edmund Abaka about Ethiopia, Professor June Teufel Dreyer about China, and Professor Eduardo Elena about Uruguay, all of whom were extremely generous with their time and open to sharing their world-class expertise.”

He created “G7: 2070” as an immersive play so that the audience could “experience the characters by their visions of the world, their ambitions, and their challenges.” The result, he says, is a series of “interconnected stories where the audience takes on the competing perspectives of these different nations in a way that only immersive theater can enable.”

“G7: 2070” won the Knight Foundation New Work Miami award, including a grant that enabled him to write, produce, and stage the play, which premiered in October. Hector hopes to expand the play with more characters and an extended run.

Looking back on the factors that proved formative to his success, Hector encourages students to take advantage of the trove of classes, characters, and talented faculty available at the University of Miami.

“If you look through the course catalog on Canelink, email a professor, or show up to office hours and start asking questions, you’ll find faculty eager to share what they’re working on,” he said. “And you’ll discover something new that sparks a real passion for you.”

As for Hector, he cannot imagine a world without his alma mater:

“Because my parents both teach at the University of Miami, they brought me to campus from an early age, with some of my first memories being the Homecoming fireworks. From that, to going to college at UM, to now, living in Miami as an alumnus, it never feels like ‘what’s changed since I left?’ because I’ve never really left. The U is still a major part of my life and I anticipate all my future projects will bring me back to campus in some way.”