Keri Healey has won its 2013 M. Elizabeth Osborn New Play Award, give by ATCA each year to recognize the work of an emerging playwright who has not yet achieved national stature. The award specifically recognizes Healey’s play, Torso, which premiered in March 2012 at Printer’s Devil Theater in Seattle, directed by David Bennett. The award will be presented in April at the Humana New Plays Festival at Actors’ Theatre of Louisville. Last year’s Osborn Award went to Darren Canady for Brothers of the Dust.
Seattle-based playwright/director/actor Healey is an increasingly common example of an artist who has become a respected fixture in small theaters in her region, but is little known elsewhere despite producing several short plays, one acts and full-length plays developed in workshops, readings and fringe festivals before receiving full stagings. Among her plays: Don’t You Dare Love Me, The Ikea Cycle: Tiny Domestic Dramas (co-written with Bret Fetzer), Parrot Fever (Or, Lies I’ve Told in Chat Rooms), and Cherry Cherry Lemon.
Following Healey’s dictum that good theater “trusts its audience to connect the dots,” Torso is noirish mixture of comedy and tragedy that examines humanity’s propensity for violence and revenge. Inspired by events in her own life, Healey posits a drunken woman riding through the night on a mission, escorted by a surly cabdriver with whom she once had an abortive date. Her odyssey is to make sense of two tragedies: the recent death of the sister of what was supposed to be a minor illness, and the news that a high school friend has committed a sensational murder. Our judges called the script gripping and a balancing act of serpentine plotting.
The Osborn 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 92nd 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.
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.
Along with the Steinberg/ATCA Award, ATCA also presents the Francesca Primus Prize, funded by the Francesca Ronnie Primus Foundation, honoring outstanding contributions to the American theater by female artists who have not yet achieved national prominence. Annually it makes a recommendation for the Regional Theater Tony Award presented by the American Theatre Wing/Broadway League and votes on inductions into the Theater Hall of Fame.