2013-14 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize

2013-14 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize



“The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize has done more than any other single force to get plays by women collected and celebrated, but more importantly, produced.”
— Marsha Norman, 1983 Winner for ‘night Mother

The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize has announced 10 Finalists for its prestigious playwriting award, now celebrating its thirty-sixth year. Chosen from over 100 submitted plays, the Finalists are

Caroline Bird (UK)-Chamber Piece

Sheila Callaghan (US)- Elevada

Alexandra Collier (Australia)- Holy Day

Lauren Gunderson (US)- I and You

Lucy Kirkwood (UK)- Chimerica

Joanna Murray-Smith (Australia)- Switzerland

Lucy Prebble (UK)- The Effect

Theresa Rebeck (US)- Zealot

Beth Steel (UK)- Wonderland

PhoebeWaller-Bridge (UK)- Fleabag.

The Winner of the 2013-2014 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize will be named at the Awards Presentation in late February. The Winner will be awarded $25,000, and will also receive a signed print by renowned artist Willem de Kooning, created especially for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. Each of the additional Finalists will receive $2,500.

The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, co-founded by Emilie S. Kilgore and William Blackburn, annually honors outstanding new English-language plays by women. For over three decades, the Prize has encouraged and given visibility to women playwrights, drawing attention to notable new works. Many of the Winners have gone on to receive other honors, including Olivier, Lilly and Tony Awards for Best Play. Seven Blackburn Finalist plays have subsequently won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama. 

The Houston-based Susan Smith Blackburn Prize reflects the values and interests of Susan Smith Blackburn, noted American actress and writer who lived in London during the last 15 years of her life.  She died in 1977 at the age of 42. Over 350 plays have been chosen as Finalists since the Prize was instituted in 1977. Over 80 of them are frequently produced throughout the world today.

The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize received the 2010 Theatre Communications Group’s National Funder Award. The annual honor goes to a company, foundation or other entity for “leadership and sustained national support of theater in America.” In 2013, Prize founder Emilie S. Kilgore was awarded a Lilly Lifetime Achievement Award for her work promoting women playwrights.

American playwright Annie Baker won the 2012-2013 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for her play, The Flick, which was nominated by Playwrights Horizons (New York), where the play premiered.  Subsequent to winning the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, Ms. Baker was honored with a Steinberg Playwright Award as well as with the Horton Foote Legacy Project.  Center Theatre Group’s production of The Nether by Jennifer Haley, which won the 2011-2012 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, recently swept the Los Angeles Ovation Awards, including the award for Best Play.  The Nether will receive its UK premiere at the Royal Court Theatre this summer.

Other recipients of the Prize include Paula Vogel’s How I Learned to Drive, Chloe Moss’s This Wide Night, Katori Hall’sHurt Village, Judith Thompson’s Palace of the End, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s Behzti(Dishonour), Sarah Ruhl’s The Clean House, Dael Orlandersmith’s Yellowman, Julia Cho’s The Language Archive, Gina Gionfriddo’s U.S. Drag, Bridget Carpenter’s Fall, Charlotte Jones’ Humble Boy, Naomi Wallace’s One Flea Spare, Wendy Kesselman’s My Sister in this House, Jessica Goldberg’s Refuge, , Moira Buffini’s Silence and Caryl Churchill’s Serious Money.

The international panel of Judges for the 2013 – 2014 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize includes, in the U.S., Wendy Goldberg, Artistic Director of the National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center; Broadway star, and television and film actor Jessica Hecht;and Emmy and Golden Globe- winning stage and screen actor, Jim Parsons. U.K. judges are the celebrated stage and screen director Phyllida Lloyd, Olivier Award-winning playwrightSimon Stephens and Tony and Olivier-nominated stage, television and film actor Lia Williams. 

Former judges of The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize over the past thirty-six years are a Who’s Who of the English-speaking theatre and include Edward Albee, Eileen Atkins, Blair Brown, Zoe Caldwell, Jill Clayburgh, Glenn Close, Harold Clurman, Colleen Dewhurst, Edie Falco, Ralph Fiennes, John Guare, A.R. Gurney, David Hare, Doug Hughes, Judith Ivey, Tony Kushner, Francis McDormand, Janet McTeer, Cynthia Nixon, Marsha Norman, Joan Plowright, Marian Seldes, Fiona Shaw, Tom Stoppard, Meryl Streep, Jessica Tandy, Paula Vogel, Wendy Wasserstein, August Wilson and Joanne Woodward among more than 200 artists in the United States, the United Kingdom and Ireland.

About the Finalists

Caroline Bird (UK) Chamber Piece
Submitted by Lyric Hammersmith

Caroline Bird’s theatre credits include The Trojan Women (Gate Theatre), a radical new version which received wide critical acclaim, Sixty Six Books (Bush Theatre) where she wrote a piece inspired by Leviticus, and The Trial of Dennis the Menace (Purcell Room, Southbank Centre), a musical inspired by the Beano. Chamber Piece recently premiered at Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith as part of their ‘Secret Theatre’ season. In 2012, she was shortlisted for ‘Most Promising New Playwright’ at the Off-West-End Awards. She is the author of four poetry collections: Looking Through Letterboxes,Trouble Came To The TurnipWatering Can and The Hat-Stand Union. She has been shortlisted twice for the Dylan Thomas Prize and Watering Can received a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Caroline was one of the five official poets at London Olympics 2012 and her poem ‘The Fun Palace’ is now erected on the Olympic Site. Caroline is currently working on a new play for The Gate Theatre.

Sheila Callaghan (US) Elevada  
Submitted by Yale Repertory Theatre

Sheila Callaghan’s plays have been produced by and developed with Soho Rep, Playwrights Horizons, South Coast Repertory, Clubbed Thumb, The LARK, Actors Theatre of Louisville, New Georges, Woolly Mammoth, and Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, among others. Sheila is the recipient of the Princess Grace Award for emerging artists, a Jerome Fellowship from the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis, a MacDowell residency, a Cherry Lane Mentorship Fellowship, and the Whiting Award. Her plays have been produced internationally in New Zealand, Australia, Norway, Germany, Portugal, and the Czech Republic. These include ScabCrawl Fade to WhiteCrumble (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake)We Are Not These HandsDead City (Susan Smith Blackburn Prize finalist)Lascivious SomethingKate CrackernutsThat Pretty Pretty; Or The Rape PlayFever/DreamEverything You TouchRoadkill Confidential, andWomen Laughing Alone with Salad. She is published with Playscripts.com, Samuel French and Counterpoint Press. Sheila is an affiliated artist with Clubbed Thumb and was a member of the Obie winning playwrights’ organization 13P. Sheila is also an alumnus of New Dramatists. In 2010, Callaghan was profiled by Marie Claireas one of “18 Successful Women Who Are Changing the World.” She was also named one of Variety magazine’s “10 Screenwriters to Watch” of 2010.

Alexandra Collier (Australia) Holy Day 
Submitted by The New Group 5

Alexandra Collier is a writer from Australia, based in New York. Her plays have been developed at Sydney Theatre Company, Women’s Project, New Georges, the Lark and Dixon Place. Her recent work includes Take Me Home (a mobile theatre piece in a New York city taxi, Incubator Art Project, Other Forces Festival), We Play for the Gods (created with the Women’s Project, Cherry Lane), Underland (Sydney Theatre Company workshop and Page to Stage, Dixon Place; nominated for Weissberger Award). Her New York debut, The Will of the Cockroach was commissioned by The Production Company and directed by May Adrales as part of the Australia Project. Alexandra performed in the premiere of Still Waiting (La Mama, Melbourne), which subsequently toured to the Adelaide Fringe Festival and was awarded the RE Ross Trust Playwrights Award. Other awards/fellowships include: UCROSS Foundation Fellowship, SPACE on Ryder Farm residency and Rhinebeck Writer’s Retreat (for Willow’s One Night Stand, musical in development with composer Greta Gertler); MacDowell Fellowship and the Dame Joan Sutherland Award (Australian-American Association). She is a graduate of Mac Wellman’s Brooklyn College MFA playwriting program, a Women’s Project Playwrights Lab ’10-12 alumni and a current member of Terra Nova’s Groundbreaker’s Playwrights Group. 

Lucy Kirkwood (UK) Chimerica 
Submitted by Almeida Theatre

In 2008 Lucy’s play, Tinderbox, was produced by the Bush Theatre. In the same year Hedda, her adaptation of Ibsen’sHedda Gabler was produced by the Gate Theatre, London to wide critical acclaim. In 2009 Lucy’s play it felt empty when the heart went at first but it is alright now was produced by Clean Break at the Arcola Theatre. The play was nominated for an Evening Standard Award Best Newcomer award, the Susan Smith Blackburn award, and made Lucy joint winner of the John Whiting Award 2010. Her stage adaptation of Beauty and the Beast co-devised with Katie Mitchell was performed at the National Theatre in 2010/11 and nominated for an Olivier Award, and Small Hours, co-written with Ed Hime, opened at the Hampstead Theatre in January 2011, directed by Katie Mitchell. Other works include NSFW (Royal Court), Hansel and Gretel (National Theatre) and Chimerica (Almeida). CHIMERICA was awarded “Best Play” in the 2013 Evening Standard Awards. Lucy is developing an original TV series for Kudos, to be shown in February 2014, entitled The Smoke, and she is also working on a screenplay for Film4 / Ruby Films.

Lauren Gunderson (US) I And You 
Submitted by the National New Play Network

An award-winning playwright living in San Francisco, Lauren Gunderson will have had 6 productions (and world premieres) in the Bay Area during 2013/14 including Silent Sky at TheatreWorks, By And By at Shotgun Players, The Taming at Crowded Fire, I And You at Marin Theatre (NNPN Rolling World Premiere heading to 4 other cities), Bauer at San Francisco Playhouse which is moving to 59E59 this fall, and Fire Work at TheatreFirst. Emilie: La Maruise Du Chatelet Defends Her Life Tonight (commissioned and premiered at South Coast Rep) is published  by Sam French and running across the country and England; and Exit, Pursued By A Bear (with over 20 productions across the US and featured in American Theatre Magazine) and Toil And Trouble are published by Playscripts.  Her work has also been produced and developed at companies across the US, including Berkeley Rep, the Kennedy Center, South Coast Rep, the O’Neill Playwrights Conference, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Portland Center Stage, Actors Express, Impact Theatre, Second Stage Theatre and Lark Play Development Center. She is a Playwright in Residence at The Playwrights Foundation. LaurenGunderson.com and @LalaTellsAStory

Lucy Prebble (UK) The Effect 
Submitted by Headlong

Lucy Prebble is a writer for film, television, game and theatre. Her latest play, The Effect, a study of love and neuroscience won the Critics Circle Award for Best New Play 2013 and was performed at the National Theatre. She also wrote ENRON (a Susan Smith Blackburn Finalist), which transferred to the West End and Broadway after sell-out runs at both the Royal Court and Chichester Festival Theatre. Her first play, The Sugar Syndrome, was performed at the Royal Court  and won her the George Devine Award. She is the creator of the TV series Secret Diary of a Call Girl for ITV. She also writes a column for the Observer on technology.

Joanna Murray-Smith (Australia) Switzerland 
Submitted by Sidney Theatre Company

Joanna Murray-Smith’s plays include HonourRaptureNightfallLove ChildSongs For NobodiesRedemption,Rockabye, The Female of the SpeciesNinetyThe GiftDay One, A Hotel, Evening, Bombshells and the adaptation ofScenes From a Marriage for Sir Trevor Nunn. Many have been performed around the world, have been translated into dozens of languages and adapted for Australian and BBC radio. Several of her plays have appeared on Broadway, at the Royal National Theatre and on the West End, including HonourThe Female of the Species (nominated for an Olivier Award) and Bombshells.  RaptureHonour and The Gift have allwon Premier’s Literary Awards. She has been awarded the Commonwealth Medal for Services to Playwriting and has been nominated for many awards. U.S. Variety described her as “Australia’s foremost female playwright”.

Joanna has written three novels, Truce, Judgement Rock and Sunnyside, all published by Penguin/Viking. Judgement Rock has also been translated and published in Germany and won Braille Book of the Year. Sunnyside was long-listed for the Miles Franklin. In 2012 year she was made a Vice Chancellor’s Fellow of the University of Melbourne. at Her new opera, The Divorce, (composed by Elena Kats Chernin) is in development with Opera Australia. Her previous opera Love in the Age of Therapy was commissioned by Oz Opera and produced at the Sydney and Melbourne Festivals.

Theresa Rebeck (US) Zealot 
Submitted by StageFARM

Theresa Rebeck is a widely produced playwright throughout the United States and abroad.New York productions include:Dead Accounts, Seminar, The Understudy, Mauritius, The Scene, The Water’s Edge, Bad Dates, The Butterfly Collection, Spike Heels, Loose Knit, The Family of Mann (Susan Smith Blackburn Prize finalist), View of the Dome, and Omnium Gatherum (co-written, Pulitzer finalist, Susan Smith Blackburn Prize finalist). Publications: Collected Plays Volumes I, II,III and IVFree Fire Zone, all with Smith & Kraus, and two novels, Three Girls and Their Brother and Twelve Rooms With a View, with Random House/Shaye Areheart Books. Film: Harriet the SpyGossip, and the independent features Sunday on the Rocks and Seducing Charlie Barker (adapted from her play The Scene). Awards include the Writer’s Guild of America Award for Episodic Drama and a Peabody Award for her work on “NYPD Blue,” the National Theatre Conference Award, the William Inge New Voices Playwriting Award, the PEN/Laura Pels Foundation Award, the Athena Film Festival Award, an Alex Award, a Lilly Award and in 2011 she was named one of the 150 Fearless Women in the World by Newsweek. She is the creator of the NBC drama, “Smash.”

Beth Steel (UK) Wonderland 
Submitted by Hampstead Theatre

Beth’s debut play Ditch opened at the HighTide Festival before transferring to the Old Vic Tunnels for a six week run.Ditch was shortlisted for the John Whiting Award. Wonderland, her second play, will open on the main stage at the Hampstead Theatre in June with Edward Hall directing.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge (UK) Fleabag 
submitted by Playful Productions

Phoebe is a writer and an actor. Her debut play, Fleabag, which she performed herself, played to sell-out audiences at the Edinburgh Festival and Soho Theatre, London. For Fleabag, Phoebe has been awarded a Fringe First, The Stage Award for Best Solo Performance, was

shortlisted for the Evening Standard Most Promising Playwright Award and is currently nominated for two Off West End Awards. She is now developing Fleabag for the screen and is planning to bring it back to the Soho Theatre later this year. As well as working on her next play,

Phoebe is writing an original musical and developing work for film and television.

Fleabag was originally produced by DryWrite theatre company, which Phoebe co-founded with her long-time creative partner Vicky Jones. Together they have been producing new writing since 2006. DryWrite is now associate company at Soho Theatre.

For more information about the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize visit www.blackburnprize.org

Contact: Leslie Swackhamer, Executive Director, The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize

(206) 683-5369, susansmithblackburn@gmail.com

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