March 28: ATCA announced today that Darren M. Canady has won its 2012 M.Elizabeth Osborn New Play Award for an emerging playwright, recognizing his Brothers of the Dust, which premiered in May 2011 at Congo Square Theatre Company in Chicago, directed by Daniel Bryant. The award will be presented at ATCA’s June conference in Chicago.
Canady, an assistant professor in the University of Kansas English Dept., frequently writes about the African-American experience in the Midwest during the tumultuous changes of the second half of the 20th Century. Brothers of the Dust looks at a farm family in 1958 Arkansas: the brother who stayed to work the land and is discouraging his son from attending college, the wastrel whose entrepreneurial dreams imploded, and the poet pursuing a writing career in Chicago. As secrets emerge, the potential for discovery of oil on the family homestead pits each against the other in a clash of values.
Canady wrote on the university’s website: “I grew up hearing, seeing, and listening to family stories that were only told if they could be performed with as much blood, life, exuberance, and expressiveness as possible. Many of these stories grew out of personal journeys experienced against the backdrop of Jim Crow, the Great Migration, and the Civil Rights Movement…. [I] find myself consistently returning to investigations of family, history, and social change in the ever-changing landscape of the American heartland.”
Canady received a B.A. in creative writing from Carnegie Mellon University, an M.F.A. from the Tisch School of the Arts, and an Artists’ Diploma from The Juilliard School’s Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program. His plays, the book of a musical and an opera libretto have been produced in Atlanta, Pittsburgh, his native Topeka and small theaters in New York, many while he was still studying for his degrees. He has held residencies at America-in-Play, the Dorothy Strelsin New American Writers Group and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. His work has been recognized with the Kendeda Graduate Playwriting Award from the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta and the Lecomte du Nouy Prize from Juilliard.
ATCA’s Osborn Award is designed to recognize the work of an author who has not yet achieved national stature. Last year’s Osborn Award went to Cori Thomas for When January Feels Like Summer. (Click here for previous winners.)
The award was established in 1993 to honor the memory of Theatre Communications Group and American Theatre play editor M. Elizabeth Osborn. The $1,000 prize is 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. Making the selection from plays nominated by ATCA members is the ATCA New Plays Committee, chaired by Wm. F. Hirschman.