Douglas Williams wins ATCA’s Osborn New Play Award for “Ship”
NEW YORK – Douglas Williams has won the American Theatre Critics Association’s (ATCA) 2021 M. Elizabeth Osborn Award for his play “SHIP.” Given by ATCA in memory of critic, director, educator and new play advocate M. Elizabeth “Betty” Osborn (1941-1993), the prize recognizes the work of a playwright who has not yet received a major production, such as a Broadway or Off-Broadway engagement, or received any other major national awards. The Osborn Award carries a $1,000 cash prize.
The 2021 award ceremony that included the Steinberg-ATCA and Osborn award winners was presented online on July 21, 2021. The video can be found here.
“SHIP” had its world premiere at Azuka Theatre in Philadelphia, where Williams is playwright in residence. In the play, a young woman returns from rehab to her seaside Connecticut hometown intent on scoring the most coveted job available: as tour guide at the local maritime museum. She also nurses an infatuation with a former classmate who once attempted to grow the world’s longest fingernails.
The production opened on February 29, 2020, and closed early on March 13, 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Of the production, the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote that Williams “has delivered some of the most memorable (and memorably complete) world premieres seen on local stages over the past decade. SHIP … continues this streak of excellence.” Broad Street Review described the play as “funny, warm and current,” while Reclining Standards noted that “Williams’ ear for millennial patois is superb.”
Members of ATCA’s New Play Committee, which awards the Osborn, offered similar praise. “Finding that balance of quirkiness and believable humanity can be difficult. It’s pulled off here,” said one adjudicator. “A distinct and funny and smart playwriting voice,” added another.
“SHIP” was selected from a pool of eligible scripts recommended by ATCA members from around the country. Lou Harry (Indianapolis, IN) served as chair of the ATCA New Play Committee during the adjudication process. Other participating 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).
The M. Elizabeth Osborn Award was established in 1994. An ATCA member and editor-author at Theatre Communications Group, Osborn championed new plays, fostering and promoting the early careers of such dramatists as Paula Vogel, Tony Kushner and José Rivera. Past recipients of the Osborn Award include Rebecca Gilman, J.T. Rogers, Rolin Jones, Chelsea Marcantel, Jonathan Norton and Cori Thomas. Last year’s honoree was “The Purists” by Dan McCabe. Click here for a full list of past Osborn Award winners.