The Francesca Ronnie Primus Foundation and the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) are pleased to announce that playwright Michele Lowe has been awarded the 2010 Francesca Primus Prize for her play Inana. Lowe will receive her award at an upcoming ATCA conference.
The Primus Prize is given annually to an emerging woman theater artist. Playwrights, artistic directors, and directors are eligible to apply. Lowe’s play merges the personal and the political in a powerful and provocative way. It is set in London on the eve of the United States invasion of Iraq, where a seemingly mismatched Iraqi couple, Darius and Shali, have come to spend their honeymoon and evade the turmoil in their home country. By cleverly interweaving flashbacks with the present story, Lowe reveals the events that led to their arranged marriage and the difficult ethical decision Darius, a museum director, faces if he wishes to safeguard the timeless artifacts entrusted to his care. The play raises timely questions about the nature of relationships and the preservation of art in a war-torn world.
Inana was commissioned by the Denver Center Theatre Company, where it was read as part of the 2008 Colorado New Play Summit and given a full production in January 2009. Artistic director Kent Thompson describes Lowe’s work as “intelligent, well crafted and theatrically satisfying. There is often a mystery at the core of her plays that pulls the audience along. She writes characters with great empathy even in cases where that might seem difficult to do.” About Inana, he adds, “She found a way to explore a difficult subject—the war in Iraq—through an unexpected lens—the world of ancient art….all of the design elements came together to create a haunting, unique theatrical experience that was very popular with our audiences.” The Denver Center is staging Lowe’s latest play, Map of Heaven, this season; she is the first woman to have two world premieres produced at the theater.
Lowe was selected from 24 nominees by a nationwide committee of critics, headed by Barbara Bannon and composed of Marianne Evett, Judith Reynolds, Lynn Rosen, and Herb Simpson.
“The Francesca Ronnie Primus Foundation was established to recognize and support emerging women artists who are making a difference in the theater community in which they work,” observed Barry Primus, the foundation administrator. Founded in 1997 in memory of actress and critic Francesca Primus, the Primus Prize was originally administered by the Denver Center Theatre Company and limited to playwrights. ATCA began overseeing the award in 2004, and the qualifications were expanded to include directors and artistic directors.
Lowe’s other plays include The Smell of the Kill (1999), Backsliding in the Promised Land (2003), String of Pearls (2004), which received an Outer Critics Circle nomination for outstanding Off-Broadway play; Mezzulah, 1946 (2007), and Victoria Musica (2009). Victoria Musica and Inana were both finalists for the 2010 Steinberg /ATCA Award for new plays, the first time a single playwright has had this distinction. Inana was also a finalist for the 2009 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. Lowe’s work has been commissioned and produced at theaters ranging from the Cincinnati Playhouse to the Intiman Theater, Florida Stage, and the Reykjavik City Theatre.