(for past Primus winners, scroll down)
The Francesca Primus Prize is an annual $10,000 award honoring outstanding contributions to the American theater by an emerging female theater artist, one who has not yet achieved national prominence.
Administered by the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA), the prize is made possible through the generosity of the Francesca Ronnie Primus Foundation, which honors the writer, critic, performer, dramaturg and cherished ATCA member who died at 42 of lung cancer in 1992.
Historically the award has been given to an outstanding female playwright, but the committee also considers other significant female theater artists, such as directors or artistic directors. The Primus Prize operates on an open submission basis—an applicant may submit herself or be nominated by another individual or organization. Members of ATCA are eligible to nominate or provide letters of recommendation.
To qualify for consideration in 2013, a playwright must have had a fully staged, professional production of her script within the calendar year 2012. For other artists, there must also be some significant achievement in the calendar year. But in either case, the committee will also consider a body of work going back several years.
A submission must be in the form of a portfolio of no more than 20 single-sided pages. It should include a letter recommending the candidate, a synopsis of her body of work, and supporting materials sufficient to familiarize the committee with her achievement, possibly including reviews and/or a statement of the artist’s philosophy. In addition (beyond those 20 pages), playwrights should also submit the produced playscript. If more than one play was produced in 2012, only one may be submitted, but excerpts from or reviews of others might be part of the portfolio. Portfolios (including scripts) will not be returned.
The deadline for application this year is March 15, 2013.
The winner will be announced at a national ATCA conference, and the check mailed soon thereafter. The recipient will then be invited to a subsequent ATCA conference (expenses paid) for a small ceremony in recognition.
To apply, send six copies of an applicant’s entire portfolio—script included—along with a processing fee of $25 (checks made payable to ATCA) to ATCA, c/o Barry Gaines, 12809 Northern Sky NE, Albuquerque NM 87111-8089 (505-856-2101; firstname.lastname@example.org .
Playwright Ryan wins 2012 Primus Prize
Chicago, June 14, 2012 — The American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) announced at its annual conference today that playwright Tammy Ryan has won the 2012 Francesca Primus Prize for her play Lost Boy Found in Whole Foods. She receives $10,000, a wall plaque and a chance to be celebrated 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 theater artist. Playwrights, artistic directors, and directors are eligible.
Ryan’s play poignantly and powerfully integrates a personal story with a current world issue. When single mother Christine meets Gabriel, one of the “lost boys” from Sudan, in the produce section of a Pittsburgh Whole Foods where he works, the two form a relationship that changes both their lives. The play avoids easy, feel-good answers in exploring the very different ways that Christine and Gabriel think he should deal with the challenges he faces. As Pittsburgh theater critic Christopher Rawson observes, “the person who is most truly lost amid middle-class comfort is…Christine… . [The play charts] the faltering, one-forward, one-back steps she takes to find her own usefulness and meaning.”
Lost Boy Found in Whole Foods was developed in 2009 at the New Harmony Project, won the Premiere Stages Play Festival, and was workshopped at the Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey and the Lark Play Development Center. Premiere Stages and Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey coproduced the play in September 2010, and the following fall, Playhouse Rep, the professional company at the Pittsburgh Playhouse of Point Park University, staged a production that garnered critical praise and sold out its entire run.
For full press release, click here.
Caridad Svich wins 2011 Primus Prize
ASHLAND, OREGON, July 8, 2011 – At its annual conference, the American Theatre Critics Association today announced that playwright Caridad Svich has been awarded the $10,000 Francesca Primus Prize for The House of the Spirits. Svich will receive her check immediately and be celebrated 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 theater artist. Playwrights, artistic directors, and directors are eligible to apply.
Svich’s play is a dramatic adaptation of Isabel Allende’s sprawling novel, The House of the Spirits, which follows the fortunes of three generations of a Chilean family, especially its women, against the backdrop of political upheaval that shaped and split the country during the major part of the 20th century. That Svich could translate such an encyclopedic work into a concise and emotionally powerful play is admirable enough, but she does it with a wonderful mix of poetry, song, and earthy realism that brings the characters and events that shape their lives to vibrant life.
The House of the Spirits was read as part of the 2010 Colorado New Play Summit and given a full production at the Denver Center Theatre Company in the fall. A Spanish-language version premiered in 2009 at Repertorio Espanol/NY, where it won numerous awards. The Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis staged a bilingual production last fall.
For the full press release, click here.
Primus Prize History
Founded in 1997, the Primus Prize was until 2002 administered by the Denver Center Theatre Company and limited to emerging women playwrights. Since 2004, a woman in any category of theater has been eligible, with the prize administered by the nationwide American Theatre Critics Association, comprising critics in all media.
Playwright Michele Lowe wins $10,000 Francesca Primus Prize for 2010.
Read Press Release
Playwright Jamie Pachino wins $10,000 Francesca Primus Prize for 2009; Jennifer Haley and Kathryn Walat also cited.
Read Press Release
Full list of Primus winners
2012 - Tammy Ryan, playwright, for Lost Boy Found in Whole Foods; additional commendation to playwright Dominique Morisseau for Follow Me to Nellie’s.
2011—Caridad Svich, playwright, The House of the Spirits
2010—Michele Lowe, playwright, Inana.
2009—Jamie Pachino, playwright, Splitting Infinity;
also citations to playwrights Jennifer Haley, Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom, and Kathryn Walat, Bleeding Kansas
2008—EM (Ellen) Lewis, playwright, Heads
2007—Victoria Stewart, playwright, Hardball
2006—Karen Zacarías, playwright, Mariela in the Desert, and founder/artistic director, Young Playwrights’ Theater, Washington, D.C.
2005—Michelle Hensley, artistic director, Ten Thousand Things Theatre Company, Minneapolis, Minn.
2004—Lynn Nottage, playwright, Intimate Apparel
The Primus Prize was originally administered by the Denver Center Theatre Company. ATCA began overseeing the award in 2004.
2002—Alexandra Cunningham, playwright, Pavane
2001—S.M. Shepard-Massat, playwright, Some Place Soft to Fall
2000—Brooke Berman, playwright, Playing House
1999—Melanie Marnich, playwright, Blur
1998—Brooke Berman, playwright, Wonderland
1997—Julia Jordan, playwright, Tatjana in Color