ATCA names four finalists for the 2017 Francesca Primus Prize
April 10, 2018—The American Theatre Critics Association has announced the names of the four finalists for the 2017 Francesca Primus Prize. Jointly sponsored by ATCA and the Francesca Ronnie Primus Foundation, the Primus Prize, which includes a cash award of $10,000, is given annually to an emerging woman playwright.
The four finalists are Laura Jacqmin for “Residence,” Martyna Majok for “Cost of Living,” Emily Schwend for “Utility,” and Andrea Stolowitz for “Berlin Diary.” The winner will be announced by the end of April.
In Laura Jacqmin’s “Residence,” three dislocated people find companionship and an unexpected home in an unlikely place, a Residence Inn in Tempe, Arizona: Maggie, a young woman struggling to make a new start selling medical equipment while she copes with recurrent mental health issues; Bobby, an aimless desk clerk searching for grounding for his restless life; and Theresa, an ambitious management trainee eager to advance up the corporate ladder. “Residence” had its world premiere at Actors Theatre of Louisville during the Humana Festival of New American Plays.
Two of the four characters in Martyna Majok’s compelling “Cost of Living” face isolation and loneliness as they cope with disabilities: John, a charming but difficult PhD student has cerebral palsy, and Ani has become quadriplegic after an automobile accident. The other two characters, Jess and Eddie, are their caregivers. “Cost of Living” shatters stereotypes as it counterpoints the two stories and the compassion and misunderstandings that shape these two very different relationships. The play made its world premiere at the Williamstown Theatre Festival.
Amber, the central character in “Utility,” Emily Schwend’s earthy portrait of blue-collar life in east Texas, is constantly one step from economic disaster. Working two jobs to support three young children, she also has to contend with her now-he’s-here, now-he’s-not husband, Chris, as she fights to maintain a normal life. Only her gritty determination to survive keeps her head above water. “Utility” was produced by the Amoralists theater company at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in New York City.
Fact and memory, past and present, and forgetting and remembering collide in “Berlin Diary,” which charts the playwright’s journey to connect with her roots. When Andrea Stolowitz discovers her great-grandfather’s diary, she travels to Berlin to try to understand the impact of the Holocaust on her family and how that cataclysmic event has shaped her life and legacy. In exploring where she came from, she also learns more about where she is going. “Berlin Story” premiered at the English Theatre Berlin/International Performing Arts Center and had its American premiere at Portland’s CoHo Theater.
The four finalists were selected from 15 award applicants by a nationwide committee of critics, chaired by Barbara Bannon (Salt Lake City, UT) and composed of Julie York Coppens (Juneau, AK), Marianne Evett (Arlington, MA), Michael Howley (Montgomery, Alabama), Marjorie Oberlander (New York City), Kerry Reid (Chicago, IL), and Lynn Rosen (Bellingham, WA). Playwrights can nominate themselves for the award or be nominated by theater companies where their work has appeared.
“The Francesca Ronnie Primus Foundation was established to recognize and support emerging women artists who are making a difference in the theater community in which they work,” observed Barry Primus, the foundation administrator. The Primus Prize originated in 1997 in memory of much loved actress and critic Francesca Primus. Last year’s winner was Lauren Yee for in a word.
ATCA is the nationwide organization of theater critics and an affiliate of the International Association of Theatre Critics. In addition to the Primus Prize, it administers two other playwriting awards: the Harold and Mimi Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award and the M. Elizabeth Osborn Award.