Theater critics honor playwright Jason Wells

Chicago playwright Jason Wells has been named the winner of the 2010 American Theatre Critics Association’s M. Elizabeth Osborn Award, which honors an up-and-coming playwright.

The award recognizes Wells’s play Perfect Mendacity, which premiered last year at the Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota.

(Full disclosure: I was a member of the American Theatre Critics committee that chose Wells as the Osborn winner.)

The whole story follows:

Theater critics honor playwright Jason Wells with 2010 M. Elizabeth Osborn Award

The American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) announces that Jason Wells has won its 2010 M. Elizabeth Osborn New Play Award for an emerging playwright. The award will be presented March 27 at the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville, Ky.

The Osborn Award recognizes Well’s play Perfect Mendacity, which premiered in May 2009 at the Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota, Florida, directed by Michael Donald Edwards. Originally commissioned by the Manhattan Theater Club, Perfect Mendacity was developed as part of Steppenwolf Theatre’s fourth annual First Look Workshop Series, where it was directed by David Cromer.

Originally from St. Louis, Wells is a Chicago-based actor with numerous stage, film and television credits who has turned to writing. His first screenplay, From Missouri, was accepted for development by the New Harmony Project. Men of Tortuga was his highly successful first play, also produced at Steppenwolf’s First Look workshop in 2005 and subsequently at the Asolo.

Perfect Mendacity seemingly focuses on a business executive trying to avoid implication in a lie detector investigation into the leak of a damaging memo. But this look at intrigue, duplicity and self-deception in the corporate world resonates in every aspect of human endeavor.

The Osborn Award is designed to recognize the work of an author who has not yet achieved national stature – e.g., has not had a significant New York production, been staged widely in regional theaters or received other major national awards. Last year’s Osborn Award went to Yussef El Guindi for Our Enemies: Lively Scenes of Love and Combat.

The award was established in 1993 to honor the memory of Theatre Communications Group and American Theatre play editor M. Elizabeth Osborn. It carries a $1,000 prize, funded by the Foundation of the American Theatre Critics Association. Honorees are recognized in The Best Plays Theater Yearbook, edited by Jeffrey Eric Jenkins, the annual chronicle of United States theater now in its 90th year. Making the selection from plays nominated by ATCA members is the ATCA New Plays Committee, chaired by Wm. F. Hirschman. That committee also selects honorees for the Harold and Mimi Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award, for which Perfect Mendacity is one of this year’s six finalists.

The American Theatre Critics Association was founded in 1974 and works to raise critical standards and public awareness of critics’ functions and responsibilities. The only national association of professional theater critics, it has several hundred members who work for newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations and websites across the United States. ATCA is also a national section of the International Association of Theatre Critics, a UNESCO-affiliated organization that sponsors seminars and congresses worldwide.

For more information on the Osborn Award and ATCA, visit www.americantheatrecritics.org.

Prior Osborn Award Recipients

  • 2009 Our Enemies: Lively Scenes of Love and Combat, Yussef El Guindi, Silk Road Theatre Project, Chicago, IL.
  • 2008 Gee’s Bend, EM Lewis, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Montgomery, AL.
  • 2007  Vestibular Sense, Ken LaZebnik, Mixed Blood Theatre Company, Minneapolis, MN.
  • 2006  American Fiesta, Steven Tomlinson, State Theatre Company, Austin, TX.
  • 2005  Madagascar, J.T. Rogers, Salt Lake Acting Co., Salt Lake City, UT.
  • 2004  The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow, Rolin Jones, South Coast Repertory, Costa Mesa, CA.
  • 2003  The Dinosaur Within, John Walch, State Theatre, Austin, TX.
  • 2002  Chagrin Falls, Mia McCullough, Stage Left Theatre, Chicago, IL.
  • 2001  Waiting to be Invited, S.M. Shephard-Massat, Denver Center Theatre Company, Denver, CO.
  • 2000  Marked Tree, Coby Goss, Senachai Theatre, Chicago, IL.
  • 1999  Lamarck, Dan O’Brien, the Perishable Theatre Company, Providence, RI.
  • 1998  The Glory of Living, Rebecca Gilman.
  • 1997  Thunder Knocking On The Door, Keith Glover.
  • 1996  Beast on the Moon, Richard Kalinoski.
  • 1995  Rush Limbaugh in Night School, Charlie Varon.
  • 1994  Hurricane, Anne Galjour.

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