ATCA names finalists for 2020 Steinberg/ATCA Award

ATCA names finalists for 2020 Steinberg/ATCA Award

NEW YORK — The American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) has selected six finalists for the $40,000 Harold and Mimi Steinberg / American Theatre Critics Association 2020 New Play Award, recognizing playwrights for the best scripts that premiered professionally outside New York City in 2019.

The finalists are: “Animal Control,” by Chandler Hubbard, produced by Firehouse Theatre of Richmond, Va.; “The Coast Starlight,” by Keith Bunin (La Jolla Playhouse, La Jolla, Calif); “The First Deep Breath,” by Lee Edward Colston II(Victory Gardens Theatre, Chicago); “How the Light Gets In,” by E.M. Lewis(Boston Court, Pasadena, Calif); “Nonsense and Beauty,” by Scott C. Sickles (the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis); and “Sheepdog,” by Kevin Artigue (South Coast Repertory, Costa Mesa, Calif). 

The top award of $25,000 and two citations of $7,500 each, plus commemorative plaques, will be presented at a date still to be determined. This year’s awards were to be presented in April at the Pacific Playwrights Festival in Costa, Mesa, CA but that event has been cancelled. With annual prizes totaling $40,000, Steinberg/ATCA is one of the largest national new play award programs. 

ATCA began honoring new plays produced at regional theaters outside New York City in 1977. Plays receiving a production in New York City during the award cycle are not eligible for the Steinberg/ATCA award, recognizing the many other awards programs that award New York productions. The Steinberg/ATCA award has been funded by the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust since 2000.

The 2020 finalists were culled from 32 scripts submitted from productions that premiered in 13 states.

They are alphabetically:

“Animal Control,” by Chandler Hubbard, produced by Firehouse Theatre of Richmond, Va. An overworked manager of an animal shelter must cope with the highly emotional fallout from a complaint about a dog park altercation.

“The Coast Starlight,” by Keith Bunin, produced by La Jolla Playhouse, La Jolla, Calif. Lives intertwine in reality and in the minds of passengers on a West Coast train.

“The First Deep Breath,” by Lee Edward Colston II, produced by Victory Gardens Theatre, Chicago. A sprawling family drama focusing on the family of a megachurch minister.

“How the Light Gets In,” by E.M. Lewis, produced by Boston Court, Pasadena, Calif. A travel writer who never travels, a struggling architect, a tattoo artist and a homeless girl find each other when one of them falls apart.

“Nonsense and Beauty,” by Scott C. Sickles, produced by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. E.M. Forster, his lover, and his wife occupy the corners of a unique love triangle that spans decades.

“Sheepdog,” by Kevin Artigue, produced by South Coast Repertory, Costa Mesa, Calif. A police-involved shooting creates conflict and self-doubt for a pair of officers in love.

The finalists were selected from scripts recommended by ATCA members from around the country. Led by Lou Harry of and the podcast Lou Harry Gets Real, judges included Misha Berson (Seattle), Nancy Bishop (Chicago), Lindsay Christians (Madison, WI), Amanda Finn (Chicago), Mike Fischer (Milwaukee, WI), Melissa Hall (Indianapolis), Pam Harbaugh (Indialantic, FL), Ed Huyck (Minneapolis/St. Paul), Jonathan Mandell (New York, NY), Julius Novick (New York City), Wendy Parker (Midlothian, VA), Martha Wade Steketee (New York, NY), Perry Tannenbaum (Charlotte, NC), Karen Topham (Chicago), and Bob Verini (Boston). 

Characterizing the work of the finalists, Harry says: “There seems to be a yearning for connectivity — and astute awareness of the challenges to forging and maintaining these relationships — loosely binding many of this year’s entries together. Perhaps that’s true of theater every year, but it seemed pronounced in this cycle.”

Some past honorees of ATCA’s new play award include Lanford Wilson, Marsha Norman, August Wilson, Arthur Miller, Adrienne Kennedy, Donald Margulies, Moises Kaufman, Craig Lucas, Robert Schenkkan, Lauren Yee, Lauren Gunderson, and Qui Nguyen.

Click here for a full list of all of our winners and runners-up. The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust was created in 1986 by Harold Steinberg on behalf of himself and his late wife. Pursuing its primary mission to support the American theater, it has provided grants totaling millions of dollars for new productions of American plays and educational programs for those who may not ordinarily experience live theater.

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