Michael Cristofer’s “Man in the Ring” wins $25,000 Steinberg/ATCA Award; $7,500 citations go to Tracy Letts and David Rabe

Michael Cristofer’s “Man in the Ring” wins $25,000 Steinberg/ATCA Award; $7,500 citations go to Tracy Letts and David Rabe

Michael Cristofer

April 8 —- ATCA has selected Michael Cristofer’s “Man in the Ring” as the winner of the 2017 Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award, recognizing playwrights for scripts that premiered. The awards were presented tonight by Jim Steinberg and ATCA’s Lou Harry and Bill Hirschman in a ceremony in Louisville during the Humana Festival of New American Plays.

Two citations that carry $7,500 awards were presented to Tracy Letts’ “Mary Page Marlowe” and David Rabe’s “Visiting Edna,” both of which premiered at Steppenwolf in Chicago. At $40,000, Steinberg/ATCA is the largest national new play award program recognizing regional theaters as the crucible for new plays in the U.S.

Based on the true story of a boxer who killed a man during a bout, “Man in the Ring” premiered at the Court Theatre in Chicago. “The playwright threads through guilt and tragedy, weaving past and present together seamlessly,” said one panelist of “Man in the Ring.” This rich play stays “within the playwright’s total control while allowing for the frayed edges that make it feel alive and not premeditated,” added another. With “the inexorable feel of a classic tragedy,” this drama “with its Caribbean songs and its rhythm and thrust, seems at first to be a play of beautiful and utter simplicity. But au contraire. The playwright threads through guilt and tragedy, weaving past and present together seamlessly.”

The winners were selected from 27 eligible scripts recommended by ATCA members from around the country. They were evaluated by a committee of theater critics led by Lou Harry of the Indianapolis Business Journal/IBJ.com.

“The vibrancy and range of the work this year was remarkable,” said committee chair Harry. “Our ATCA committee members relish the opportunity to experience the work of these theater artists and passionately debate them with colleagues. I’m thrilled with the resulting awards, which I hope will encourage future productions of all three outstanding plays.”

In 1977, ATCA began to honor new plays produced at regional theaters outside New York City, where there are many awards. Since 2000, the award has been generously funded by the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust.

Since the inception of ATCA’s New Play Award, honorees have included Lanford Wilson, Marsha Norman, August Wilson, Arthur Miller, Mac Wellman, Donald Margulies, Lynn Nottage, Moises Kaufman and Craig Lucas. Last year’s honoree was Qui Nguyen’s “Vietgone.” For a full list of previous of winners and runners-up, click here.

The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust was created in 1986 by Harold Steinberg on behalf of himself and his late wife. In support of 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.

ATCA was founded in 1974 and works to raise critical standards and public awareness of critics’ functions and responsibilities. The only national association of professional theater critics, with members working in print, on radio and television and websites, ATCA is affiliated with the International Association of Theatre Critics, a UNESCO-affiliated organization that sponsors seminars and congresses worldwide.

ATCA also administers the $10,000 Francesca Primus Prize, funded by the Francesca Ronnie Primus Foundation, honoring contributions to the American theater by female artists who have not yet achieved national prominence, and it awards the Osborn Award to an emerging playwright. Annually, ATCA makes a recommendation for the Regional Theater Tony Award presented by the American Theatre Wing/Broadway League and votes on inductions into the Theater Hall of Fame.

Other committee members are: Misha Berson, Seattle Times, American Theatre (Seattle, WA); Bruce Burgun, The New Orleans Advocate (New Orleans, LA.); Lindsay Christians, The Capital Times (Madison, WI); Mike Fischer, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (Milwaukee, WI); Pam Harbaugh, BrevardCulture.com, florida.theatrestage.com (Indialantic, FL); Michael P. Howley, tehatremontgomery.blogspot.com (Montgomery, AL); Erin Keane, managing editor, Salon.com (Louisville, KY); Mark Lowry, TheaterJones.com, Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Dallas, TX); Jonathan Mandell, NewYorkTheater.me, DC Theatre Scene (New York, NY); Julius Novick, veteran critic and professor (New York City); Marjorie Oberlander, The Shakespeare Newsletter  (New York, NY); Kathryn Osenlund, Phindie, CurtainUp (Philadelphia); Wendy Parker, freelance (Midlothian, Va); David Sheward, ArtsinNY.com, Theaterlife.com (Jackson Heights, NY); Martha Wade Steketee, Howlround.com, TDF Stages (New York, NY); and Perry Tannenbaum, Creative Loafing, CVNC.org, (Charlotte, NC).

For more information on the Steinberg/ATCA Award, contact Wm. F. Hirschman, ATCA chair (954-478-1123), or Lou Harry, New Plays Committee chair (317-472-5202).

Read about the six finalists here.

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