Susan Smith Blackburn finalists named

Here’s announcement of the finalists for the prestigious Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, which goes every year to a woman playwright writing in English.

There have been many noted winners in the past (Sarah Ruhl, Dael Orlandersmith, Paula Vogel, Caryl Churchill and others), and this list of finalists is probably a pretty good guidebook to the promising women playwrights of today:

Susan Smith Blackburn Prize 2011 finalists announced

Prestigious award for outstanding female playwrights celebrates thirty-third year

The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize has announced 10 Finalists for its prestigious playwriting award, now celebrating its thirty-third year. The Houston-based Prize received the 2010 Theatre Communications Group’s National Funder Award. The annual honor goes to a company, foundation or other entity for “leadership and sustained national support of theater in America.”

The ten Finalists for the 2011 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, chosen from over 100 nominated plays, and their nominating theatres are:

  • Lisa D’Amour – Detroit, Steppenwolf Theatre Company (U.S.);
  • Sam Burns – Not the Worst Place, Paines Plough (U.K.);
  • Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig – Lidless, Marin Theatre Company (U.S.);
  • Georgia Fitch– Satellite Faith, The Royal Shakespeare Company (U.K.),
  • Katori Hall – Hurt Village, Signature Theatre Company (U.S);
  • Lisa Kron – In the Wake, Berkeley Repertory Theatre (U.S.);
  • Tamsin Oglesby – Really Old, Like 45, The Royal National Theatre (U.K.);
  • Anne Washburn – Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play, Woolly Mammoth Theatre  Company (U.S);
  • Joy Wilkinson – The Golden Age, Everyman Playhouse Liverpool (U.K.);  and
  • Alex Wood – The Andes, Out of Joint (U.K.).

The 2011 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize Winner will be awarded $20,000, and will also receive a signed print by renowned artist Willem de Kooning, created especially for the Prize. Each of the additional Finalists will receive $1,000.  A Special Commendation of $5,000 may be given at the discretion of the Judges.  A ceremony honoring all Finalists and announcing the Winner will take place in New York City on February 28.

The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize annually honors outstanding new English-language plays by women. For over three decades, the prize has honored and encouraged women playwrights, and raised the visibility of notable new works. Many of the winners have gone on to receive other honors, including Tony Awards and Pulitzer Prizes. The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize generates increased interest and productions at theatre companies across North America and the United Kingdom.

Julia Cho won the 2010 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for her play The Language Archive, which recently completed a limited engagement at Roundabout Theatre Company in New York. Other recipients of the Prize include Chloe Moss’ This Wide Night, Judith Thompson’s Palace of the End, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s Behzti (Dishonour), Sarah Ruhl’s The Clean House, Dael Orlandersmith’s Yellowman, Susan Miller’s A Map of Doubt and Rescue, Gina Gionfriddo’s U.S. Drag, Bridget Carpenter’s Fall, Charlotte Jones’ Humble Boy, Naomi Wallace’s One Flea Spare, Jessica Goldberg’s Refuge, Paula Vogel’s How I Learned to Drive, Moira Buffini’s Silence and Caryl Churchill’s Serious Money.

The international panel of six judges for the 33rd annual Susan Smith Blackburn Prize includes three from the U.K. and three from the U.S.:  Jim Simpson, founder and artistic director of the Flea Theatre in NYC; Tony Award-winning American stage and film actress and director Judith Ivey; Obie-award winning director Anne Kauffman; celebrated English actress Helen McCrory, noted British critic and author Georgina Brown, and Stephen Unwin, Artistic Director of Britain’s The Rose Theatre.

The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize reflects the values and interests of Susan Smith Blackburn, noted American actress and writer who lived in London during the last 15 years of her life.  She died in 1977 at the age of 42. Over 300 plays have been chosen as finalists since the prize was founded in 1977. Over 60 of them are frequently produced in the United States today. Seven Blackburn finalist plays have gone on to win the Pulitzer Prize in Drama. The authors of those plays, Margaret Edson, Beth Henley, Marsha Norman, Lynn Nottage, Suzan-Lori Parks, Paula Vogel and Wendy Wasserstein are the only women to have won the Pulitzer since the Blackburn Prize was first established.

“The Blackburn Prize has done more than any other single force or festival to get plays by women collected and celebrated, but more importantly, produced.”
–    Marsha Norman, 1983 winner for ‘night Mother

“The emergence of women playwrights over the history of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize has spear-headed a change in the position of women in every realm of the theater.”
–    Wendy Wasserstein, 1988 winner for The Heidi Chronicles

Judges of The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize over the past thirty three years are a Who’s Who of the English-speaking theatre and include, Eileen Atkins, Blair Brown, Zoe Caldwell, Jill Clayburgh, Glenn Close, Harold Clurman, Colleen Dewhurst, Edie Falco, Ralph Fiennes, John Guare, A.R. Gurney, David Hare, Doug Hughes Tony Kushner, John Lahr, Todd London, Janet McTeer, Marsha Norman, Joan Plowright, Marian Seldes, Fiona Shaw, Tom Stoppard, Meryl Streep, Jessica Tandy, Paula Vogel, Wendy Wasserstein, Sigourney Weaver, August Wilson and Joanne Woodward among nearly 200 artists in the United States, England and Ireland.

Each year artistic directors and prominent professionals in the theatre throughout the English-speaking world are invited to nominate plays. Plays are eligible whether or not they have been produced, but any premiere production must have occurred within the preceding year.  Each script receives multiple readings by members of an international reading committee that then selects ten finalists. All six judges read each Finalist’s play.

Lisa D’Amour – DETROIT (U.S.)
Lisa D’Amour is a playwright, solo performer and multidisciplinary theater artist. Her play Detroit opened the 2010-11 season at Steppenwolf Theater, directed by Austin Pendleton. Detroit will be presented on Broadway in the fall of 2011 by Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel, and Debbie Bisno, in association with Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Projects include Landmark: 24 Hours @ The Stone Arch Bridge, a site-specific performance on the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis; Nita & Zita (2003 OBIE Award); and Dream of a West Texas Marsupial Girl.  Lisa holds an M.F.A. in playwriting from UT Austin, is a recent alumna of the core membership program at the Playwrights’ Center and an alumna of New Dramatists.

Sam Burns – NOT THE  WORST  PLACE (U.K.)
Sam Burns works as an editor for Leaf Books, a small publishing company based in South Wales. She recently was one of the playwrights in Paines Plough’s production Come to Where I’m From, a tapestry of short plays about playwrights’ hometowns.  She has also written two novels, one of which, The Story Unmakers, was shortlisted in Susan Hill’s Long Barn Books first novel competition in 2007. She lives in Cardiff, Wales and is currently working on a commission for the Bush Theatre, London.

Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig – LIDLESS (U.S.)
Lidless, received the Yale Drama Series Award, an Edinburgh Fringe First Award, the Keene Prize for Literature, and the David Calicchio Emerging American Playwright Prize. Lidless, was produced at the Contemporary American Theatre and Edinburgh Festivals and will soon be produced by Interact Theatre in Philadelphia, P73 Productions in New York and Trafalagar Studios on the West End. Her plays have been developed at the Hedgebrook Women Playwrights Festival, Seattle Rep, PlayPenn, the Alley Theatre, Ojai Playwrights Conference, the Playwright’s Foundation and Yale Rep. Currently Playwright-in-Residence at the Marin Theatre Company in Mill Valley, California, Frances holds an MFA in Writing from the James A. Michener Center for Writers at UT Austin.

Katori Hall – HURT VILLAGE (U.S.)
Hall’s play The Mountaintop was awarded the Best New Play 2010 Olivier (Britain’s top theatre award). Awards include the 2009-10 Lark Play Development Playwrights of New York (PONY) Fellowship, Kate Neal Kinley Fellowship, two Lecompte du Nouy Prizes from Lincoln Center, Fellowship of Southern Writers Bryan Family Award in Drama, NYFA Fellowship, Van Lier Fellowship from the Public Theatre and the Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award. She is a current member of the Lark Playwrights’ Workshop, the Dramatist’s Guild and the Old Vic New Voices program. She is a graduate of the Julliard School’s Lila Acheson Wallace playwriting program.

Georgia Fitch – SATELLITE  FAITH (U.K.)
Georgia Fitch’s plays produced for the stage include adrenalin …heart (Bush Theatre, London), I Like Mine With A Kiss (Bush Theatre), Dirty Dirty Princess (National Theatre/Connections). Earlier work with Angels Theatre Company includes The Footballer’s Wife, Come Dancing, and Arrivals.  (Fitch was the Bush Writer in Residence in 2001 and has been on attachment at both the Royal Court and Soho and had various readings in both theatres.  For Radio (BBC) her plays include Romeo and Juliet in Southwark, The Mother of …, Untitled Lover, I Met A Boy, Fortune’s Always Hiding and adrenalin… heart. In 2004 she was Radio Drama’s Writer in Residence.

Lisa Kron – IN THE WAKE (U.S)
Commissioned by Center Theater Group (LA), In the Wake premiered at Kirk Douglas Theater in L.A. and at Berkeley Rep and was subsequently produced in New York by the Public Theater. The play has received a GLAAD nomination for outstanding New York Theater.  Lisa’s plays include the Tony-nominated Well and 2.5 Minute Ride (Obie, L.A. Drama-Logue, GLAAD Media Award). Honors include Guggenheim, Lortel, Lark and Sundance fellowships and awards from Creative Capital and the Alpert Foundation. Lisa is a founding member of the Obie and Bessie Award-winning theatre company The Five Lesbian Brothers.

Tamsin Oglesby – REALLY OLD, LIKE 45 (U.K.)
Oglesby is a two-time Susan Smith Blackburn Prize Finalist. Previous plays include Olive for the National Theatre’s New Connections, The War Next Door at the Tricycle, US and Them and My Best Friend (both at Hampstead Theatre) and Two Lips Indifferent Red at the Bush Theatre. Really Old, Like 45 premiered in 2010 at the National Theatre’s New Connections in London.

Her work has been produced by 13P, A.R.T., Cherry Lane Theatre, Clubbed Thumb, The Civilians, Dixon Place, E.S.T., London‘s Gate Theatre, NYC’s Soho Rep., DC’s Studio Theater, and NYC’s Vineyard Theatre, among others. She has been commissioned by The Civilians, Soho Rep, the Williamstown Theater Festival, and Yale. She is a member of 13P and The Civilians, and an associated artist with New Georges. Her play A Devil at Noon premieres this spring at the Humana Festival in Louisville, KY.  Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play was commissioned by The Civilians.

Joy Wilkinson  – THE GOLDEN AGE (U.K.)
One of the featured playwrights in The Great Game: Afghanistan, Joy Wilkinson recently completed an attachment at the National Theatre Studio, and is writing a new play for the Liverpool Everyman/Playhouse. Other plays include Fair for Finborough Theatre and the Trafalgar Studios and The Aquatic Ape for the Edinburgh Festival and Worship Ensemble Theater in New York, and Acting Leader for the Tricycle’s Women, Power and Politics.  She has dramatized numerous Agatha Christie novels for BBC Radio 4.  She is a graduate of the BBC’s inaugural Writer’s Academy and is now a lead writer on Doctors.

Alexandra Wood – THE ANDES (U.K.)
Alexandra is the Playwright-in-Residence at Finborough Theatre.  Her play The Eleventh Capital was produced by the Royal Court as part of their Young Writers’ Festival 2007.  She was awarded the George Devine Award for Most Promising Playwright 2007.  Other plays include The Lion’s Mouth; Miles to Go, and Unbroken. She spent three months in 2009 on attachment at the National Theatre Studio, where she worked on The Andes.

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