ATCA Names Finalists for 2021 Steinberg/ATCA Award

ATCA Names Finalists for 2021 Steinberg/ATCA Award

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

“Top-quality work was staged prior to the COVID-19 shutdowns,” said ATCA New Play Committee chair Lou Harry. “Rather than take a year off or combine years, I’m thrilled that ATCA and the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust agreed that outstanding work that made it to the stage in the first three months of 2020 should be honored in an uncompromised way.”

The top award of $25,000 and two citations of $7,500 each, plus commemorative plaques, will be presented online at a date to be determined. At $40,000, Steinberg/ATCA is the largest national new play award program of its kind.

In 1977, ATCA began to honor new plays produced at regional theaters outside New York City, where there are many awards. No play is eligible if it has gone on to a New York production within the award year. Since 2000, the award has been generously funded by the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust.

The 2020 finalists, listed alphabetically by play (including comments from the judging panel) are:

“Graveyard Shift” by Korde Arrington Tuttle. The worlds of a couple from Illinois and a small-town police officer collide. “Here’s a play that’s true to our moment: It stares the ugliness in the face, while challenging us to move beyond easy, virtue-signaling posturing.” Plus, “the writing is gorgeous, the dialogue is real, and the cross-cutting is deftly handled.” “Graveyard Shift” premiered at the Goodman Theatre, Chicago. 

“Her Honor, Jane Byrne” by J. Nicole Brooks. In 1981, Chicago’s first woman mayor moves into the Cabrini-Green public housing project. “Brooks brings this chapter of history to real, vivid life.” The play “toggles so deftly between personal and political tragedy” while “every angle gets an airing, but not in a way that makes the reader feel like she’s ticking off boxes.” And the dialog is “smart, fast, and very Chicago.”  “Her Honor, Jane Byrne” premiered at Lookingglass Theatre, Chicago.

“The Leopard Play or sad songs for lost boys” by Isaac Gomez. After a decade away, a young man returns to his U.S./Mexico border home to find the truth behind his uncle’s death. “Powerful in so many ways,” the play is “sincere, searching and contains a critique of deeply toxic machismo and how it can poison a family.” “The Leopard Play” premiered at Steep Theatre, Chicago.

“Ship” by Douglas Williams. A young woman returns from rehab to her Mystic, Connecticut hometown where the most coveted job is seaport tour guide and the most interesting person is a classmate who attempted a world record for longest fingernails. “Finding that balance of quirkiness and believable humanity can be difficult. It’s pulled off here” in a “funny and poignant story about two stuck young people.” “Ship” premiered at Azuka Theatre, Philadelphia. 

“Verböten” by Brett Neveu (book) and Jason Narducy (music and lyrics). In 1983, a band of teens channel their homelife frustrations into punk music. “The characters are real and engaging. The dialogue and lyrics are funny and honest” and “the music is great, too.” “Verböten” premiered at The House Theatre, Chicago.

These five finalists were selected from eligible scripts recommended by ATCA members from around the country and evaluated by a committee of theater journalists, led by Lou Harry (Indianapolis, IN). Other participating committee members included Misha Berson (Seattle, WA), Nancy Bishop (Chicago, IL), Evans Donnell (Nashville, TN), Amanda Finn (Chicago, IL), Mike Fischer (Milwaukee, WI), Melissa Hall (Indianapolis, IN), Susan Haubenstock (Richmond, VA), Ed Huyck (Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN), Cameron Kelsall (Philadelphia, PA), Elizabeth Kramer (Louisville, KY), Wendy Parker (Midlothian, VA), Martha Wade Steketee (New York, NY), Doug Strassler (New York, NY), Karen Topham (Chicago, IL), and Bob Verini (Boston, MA). 

Since the inception of ATCA’s New Play Award, honorees have included Lanford Wilson, Marsha Norman, August Wilson, Arthur Miller, Mac Wellman, Adrienne Kennedy, Donald Margulies, Moises Kaufman, Craig Lucas, Robert Schenkkan, Lauren Yee, Lauren Gunderson, and Qui Nguyen. Last year’s honoree was “How the Light Gets In” by E.M. Lewis.

Click here for a full list of all of our past 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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