« Theatre Hall of Fame announces eight for class of 2014 | Main | Theater Hall of Fame ballots coming next week »
Friday
Sep262014

Playwright Jennifer Haley wins $10,000 Primus Prize for 2014

September 17, 2014— ATCA announced today that playwright Jennifer Haley has been awarded the 2014 Francesca Primus Prize for her play The Nether. Haley will receive the $10,000 award check immediately and be officially congratulated at an upcoming ATCA conference. Jointly sponsored by ATCA and the Francesca Ronnie Primus Foundation, the Primus Prize is given annually to an emerging woman playwright.

(For more on the Primus Prize and a full list of winners, click here.)

The Nether is set in a futuristic world where virtual reality has become more seductive and engrossing than daily life. An admitted pedophile, Sims, has set up a Victorian site called the Hideaway where a child avatar named Iris entertains male guests. Its chief client is a science teacher named Doyle … . , whose whole life revolves around Iris and the Hideaway. But the site also attracts the attention of Morris, a female detective who questions both men about its implications. Sims argues that allowing men to indulge their fantasies in the safety of a virtual world keeps them from acting them out in reality, but even if that is the case, does that make their behavior acceptable?

The play’s clever plot twists turn it into an Internet whodunit. Beneath its surface story, however, The Nether asks provocative questions about the limits of freedom, creativity, and imagination. “These ideas really came from a subconscious place, but when I started researching, I found so much material about this theme of living out our imaginations,” Haley says. “Should people be allowed to live in a place of imagination even if it’s a very horrible place? … our imaginations are so powerful. And we spend a lot of our time in daydreams or imagining the future. In some ways, it’s what makes us human. [Carl Jung says] the world of dreams and imagination is a different reality, but it’s just as real as our physical reality.”
 
The Nether was workshopped at the O’Neill Theater Center’s National Playwrights Conference in 2011 and received readings at the Lark Play Development Center and the Philadelphia Theatre Company. The play won the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize in 2012. The Center Theatre Group staged The Nether’s world premiere at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles in March 2013, and Headlong gave it a subsequent production at the Royal Court Theatre in London in July and August of 2014. It is slated to play at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in New York next winter. Both Northwestern University Press (USA) and Faber & Faber (UK) are publishing the play.
 
Haley studied playwriting with Paula Vogel at Brown University and is the founder and director of the Playwrights Union, a Los Angeles organization that supports both local and incoming theater artists. She has received commissions from Center Theatre Group and South Coast Repertory and has participated in the Ojai Playwrights Conference and the Sundance Theatre Lab, among others. She is also a playwright at New Dramatists. In 2009, her play, Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom, received a special citation from the Francesca Primus Prize committee. Other plays include Breadcrumbs, Sustainable Living, and Froggy.
 
Haley was selected from 28 award applicants by a nationwide committee of critics, chaired by Barbara Bannon (Salt Lake City, UT) and composed of Julie York Coppens (Juneau, AK), Marianne Evett (Arlington, MA), Michael Howley (Montgomery, AL), Lynn Rosen (Bellingham, WA), and Herb Simpson (Geneseo, NY).
 
“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. ATCA began overseeing the award in 2004. (For a full list of winners, click here and scroll down.)

References (11)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>