Finalists Named for 2023 Steinberg-ATCA New Play Award
NEW YORK — The American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) today announced six finalists for the 2023 Harold and Mimi Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award, recognizing the playwrights who produced the best scripts that premiered professionally outside of New York City in 2022.
The top award, which carries a $25,000 prize and two citations valued at $7,500 each, will be presented on May 6, 2023 at South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, Calif., as part of the annual Pacific Playwrights Festival. At $40,000, Steinberg–ATCA is the largest national new play award program of its kind.
“Regional theaters around the country generate some of the most exciting new work in the American theater landscape, and we are pleased to recognize these fine artists and their brilliant plays,” said ATCA New Play Committee co-chair Cameron Kelsall, chief theater critic for Philadelphia’s Broad Street Review.
“This year we saw more play submissions, reflecting the return of live theater in communities across the country – a happy development for playwrights, theaters and audiences,” commented ATCA New Play Committee co-chair Misha Berson, Seattle author and freelance drama critic.
In 1977, ATCA began to honor new plays produced at regional theaters, as a way of balancing the existing awards landscape, which often focuses on works produced in New York. 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 2023 finalists, listed alphabetically by title, are:
Born With Teeth by Liz Duffy Adams. An exuberant fantasia on an imaginary collaboration between William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, which members of the judging panel described as “bright, dangerous, with crackling dialogue and great characters.” Premiered by Alley Theatre (Houston, TX).
Good Night, Oscar by Doug Wright. Transcending the trappings of a traditional biographical play, this work explores addiction and mental illness through the perspective of mid-20th century pianist, actor and television personality Oscar Levant. A juror commented that the play explores how “we need our court jesters to reveal some essential truths … and suggests how Levant set the table for such transgressive and revelatory comedians as George Carlin, Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor and others.” Premiered by Goodman Theatre (Chicago, IL).
the ripple, the wave that carried me home by Christina Anderson. A tender and moving exploration of the legacy of political activism and the enduring bonds of family, judges described this play as “compelling,” “thoughtful” and “lyrical.” Premiered by Berkeley Repertory Theatre (Berkeley, CA), in association with Goodman Theatre (Chicago, IL).
Sally & Tom by Suzan-Lori Parks. The complicated and often misinterpreted historical narrative of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings is explored through the lens of a play-within-a-play in this provocative new work. Said one judge: “This play is full of creative riches.” Premiered by Guthrie Theater (Minneapolis, MN).
Spay by Madison Fiedler. Set in contemporary West Virginia, this play refracts the opioid epidemic through the lens of a family touched by tragedy and trying imperfectly to move forward. “This play lives in the uncomfortable realities of life,” said one judge. Premiered by Rivendell Theatre Ensemble (Chicago, IL).
Swing State by Rebecca Gilman. A topical consideration of many contemporary themes, this Wisconsin-set work examines the lives and concerns of rural individuals that often go unreported. As one judge put it: “Beautiful and nuanced, not overwrought in spite of charged emotions, with plenty to say in a social and political way, without ever straying from the very human.” Premiered by Goodman Theatre (Chicago, IL).
These six finalists were selected from eligible scripts recommended by ATCA members from around the country and evaluated by a committee of theater journalists, led by Misha Berson (Seattle, WA) and Cameron Kelsall (Philadelphia, PA). Other participating committee members included Nancy Bishop (Chicago, IL), Lindsay Christians (Madison, WI), Evans Donnell (Nashville, TN), Amanda Finn (Chicago, IL), Mike Fischer (Milwaukee, WI), Lou Harry (Indianapolis, IN), Susan Haubenstock (Richmond, VA), Ed Huyck (Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN), Wendy Parker (Midlothian, VA), Martha Wade Steketee (New York, NY), Doug Strassler (New York, NY), Perry Tannenbaum (Charlotte, NC), 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, Lynn Nottage, Adrienne Kennedy, Donald Margulies, Moises Kaufman, Craig Lucas, Nilo Cruz, Lauren Yee, Horton Foote and Qui Nguyen. Last year’s honoree was Poor Clare by Chiara Atik.
Find the full list of past awards and citations at the Award program page.