Francesca Primus Prize for an emerging woman playwright

Guidelines for 2018 Applications


The Francesca Primus Prize is an annual $10,000 award honoring outstanding contributions to the American theater by an emerging female playwright, one who has not yet achieved national prominence. 

Administered by the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA), the prize is made possible through the generosity ofFrancesca Ronnie Primus 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. 

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 2018, a playwright must have had a fully staged, professional production of her script within the calendar year 2017. The committee also considers a body of work going back several years. 

A submission must take 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 2016, only one may be submitted, but excerpts from or reviews of others may be part of the portfolio. Portfolios (including scripts) will not be returned. 

(NOTE that in some previous years, theater artists other than playwrights were invited to apply. For 2017, only playwrights will be considered, although other theater work might be described as part of the applicant’s body of work.)

The 2018 application deadline is May 1.

The committee selects six finalists for the award and then chooses a winner from among them. After receiving the check, the recipient is invited to a subsequent ATCA conference (expenses paid) for a small recognition ceremony. 

To apply, applicants should send an e-mail with their portfolio as a single attachment (PDF file preferred) and the produced playscript as a separate attachment to Robert Sokol at Be sure and include Primus Prize Submission in the subject line. Upon receipt of the submission you will be invoiced electronically for a $25 processing fee. If you don’t have the portfolio or the script in electronic form, send a printed copy of both to:

Robert Sokol, Operations Manager
584 Castro Street - #119
San Francisco, CA 94114

If you have questions about the application process, call Robert at 415.964.8040 or contact him via email. Send any other inquiries regarding the Primus Prize chair Barbara Bannon via email.


Playwright Lauren Yee wins 2016 Francesca Primus Prize

March 14, 2017—The American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) has announced that playwright Lauren Yee has been awarded the 2016 Francesca Primus Prize for her play in a word. Jointly sponsored by ATCA and theLauren Yee Francesca Ronnie Primus Foundation, the Primus Prize is given annually to an emerging woman playwright. Yee will receive the $10,000 award check shortly and be officially congratulated at an upcoming ATCA conference. 

What makes in a word so remarkable is the imaginative and unique way Yee plays with language. Yee says that in a word “captures my interest in both the form and architecture of language….To me, the funny and the painful go hand in hand. I’m interested in how human beings rely on fantasy and humor to get through difficult situations….My work varies wildly in subject matter and style. In each, the language is completely specific to the world of that particular play.”

For a full press release about Yee, in a word and the Primus Prize, click here.

See also a list of the seven finalists.

Yee’s prize was celebrated at the NY weekend conference in 2017. Here she receives her plaque from Primus Prize chair Barbara Bannon (center) and Patsy Kahn, representing Barry Primus and the Primus Foundation. The presentation was at Sardi’s, at the traditional lunch mixing critics and Broadway stars.


Playwright Sharyn Rothstein wins 2015 Primus Prize

Sharyn Rothstein has won the 2015 Francesca Primus Prize for an emerging woman playwright for her By the Water, which premiered at Manhattan Theatre Club’s Stage II in Nov., 2014. ATCA adjudicates the award. Primus Playwright Sharyn Rothsteincommittee chair Barbara Bannonof Salt Lake City explained that the 2015 announcement came late because of the larger than usual number of contenders.

The six finalists for the award announced earlier, in addition to Rothstein, were Liz Duffy Adams for “A Discourse on the Wonders of the Invisible World,” Nambi Kelley for her adaptation of Richard Wright’s “Native Son,” Tira Palmquist for “Ten Mile Lake,” Yasmine Rana for “The War Zone Is My Bed” and Catherine Trieschmann for “Hot Georgia Sunday.” 

Click here and scroll down for the full press release.


Recent Primus Prize winners

Jennifer Haley wins 2014 Francesca Primus Prize

Playwright Jennifer Haley has been awarded the 2014 Francesca Primus Prize for her play The Nether. Haley willJennifer Haley receive the $10,000 award check immediately and be officially 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 playwright.

[For a history of the Primus Prize, 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 … .

Click here for full press release.


Playwright Stefanie Zadravec wins 2013 Primus Prize; director Lear deBessonet also honored

Shepherdstown, WV, July 19, 2013—Today the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) announced at its annualStefanie Zadravecconference, held at the Contemporary American Theatre Festival, that playwright Stefanie Zadravec has been awarded the 2013 Francesca Primus Prize for her play The Electric Baby.Zadravec will receive the $10,000 award check immediately and be officially congratulated at an upcoming ATCA conference. 

The committee also gives special commendation to director Lear deBessonet for her exceptional work in expanding theLear deBessonet boundaries of conventional theater to include nontraditional actors; attract a new, broader audience; and involve the community in inventive ways into the dramatic process. 

For full press release, click here.

Playwright Ryan wins 2012 Primus

Chicago, June 14, 2012 — The American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) announced at its annual conference today that playwright Tammy Ryan has Playwright Tammy Ryan 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.”

For full press release, click here.

For a Plaque Party, 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 20thcentury. 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.

For the full press release, click here.


Primus Prize History

Playwright Michele Lowe, 2010 Primus winnerFounded 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 


Jamie Pachino Wins 2009 Primus Prize

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 

2016 - Lauren Yee, playwright, for in a word 

2015 - Sharyn Rothstein, playwright, for By the Water

2014 - Jennifer Haley, playwright, for The Nether.

2013 - Stefanie Zadravec, playwright, for The Electric Baby; additional commendation to director Lear deBessonet.

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 HaleyNeighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom, and Kathryn WalatBleeding 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