Playwright Stefanie Zadravec wins 2013 Primus Prize; director Lear deBessonet also honored

Playwright Stefanie Zadravec wins 2013 Primus Prize; director Lear deBessonet also honored

Director Lear deBessonet also honored

Shepherdstown, WV, July 19, 2013—Today the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) announced at its annual cconference, held at the Contemporary American Theatre Festival, that playwright Stefanie Zadravec has been awarded the 2013 Francesca Primus Prize for her play The Electric Baby. Zadravec will receive the $10,000 award check immediately and be officially congratulated at an upcoming ATCA conference. 

Stefanie Zadravec

Jointly sponsored by ATCA and the Francesca Ronnie Primus Foundation, the Primus Prize is given annually to an emerging woman theater artist. Playwrights, artistic directors, and directors are eligible to apply.

The Electric Baby vividly portrays the power of myth, magic, and stories to transform our daily lives. When a miscellaneous group of Pittsburgh residents—an older childless couple, a lonely waiter, a young man with a stutter, and an angry young prostitute—are involved in a traffic accident, their lives intertwine and intersect with those of an African immigrant cabdriver, his Romanian wife, and their magical dying baby. The play’s intriguing fusion of the everyday realities of urban life with Romanian and Yoruba folklore and folktales subtly reinforces the importance of family and community in coming to terms with loss and grief.

In a strange illustration that life imitates art, Zadravec’s young son was diagnosed with a rare disease while she was writing the play. She became fascinated by “the irreversible sentences—a terminal diagnosis, a car accident, a sick child—that turn your world upside down, leaving you paralyzed and isolated while the outside world rushes past. I was interested in how some people manage to carve new lives from tragedy while others remain stuck.” The result is a lyrical play that is simultaneously mythic and tragic and illuminates the extraordinary in the ordinary.

The Electric Baby received its world premiere at Quantum Theatre in Pittsburgh, had a subsequent production at Two River Theater Company in Red Bank, New Jersey, and is currently playing at the Rivendell Theatre Ensemble in Chicago. It was named one of Pittsburgh’s top 10 shows of 2012 by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, nominated for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, and received the Women in the Arts & Media Coalition’s Collaboration Award. The Electric Baby was developed with support from Theater of the First Amendment’s First Light Discovery Program, Playwrights Realm, and the 2011 PlayPenn Conference.

Zadravec was selected from 20 award applicants by ATCA’s 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, AL), Lynn Rosen (Bellingham, WA), and Herb Simpson (Geneseo, NY).

Lear deBessonet

The committee also gives special commendation to director Lear deBessonet for her exceptional work in expanding the boundaries of conventional theater to include nontraditional actors; attract a new, broader audience; and involve the community in inventive ways into the dramatic process. The scale and vision of her productions mark her as one of the most brave and dynamic directors working in theater today.

“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. Founded in 1997 in memory of actress, critic and ATCA member Francesca Primus, the Primus Prize was originally administered by the Denver Center Theatre Company. ATCA began overseeing it in 2004.

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 playwriting awards: the $50,000 Harold and Mimi Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award and the M. Elizabeth Osborn Award. ATCA members also recommend a regional theater for the annual Tony Award and vote on induction into the Theatre Hall of Fame.

Previous Winners of the Francesca Primus Prize

1997    Julia Jordan, playwright, Tatjana in Color

1998    Brooke Berman, playwright, Wonderland

1999    Melanie Marnich, playwright, Blur

2000    Brooke Berman, playwright, Playing House

2001    S. M. Shepard-Massat, playwright, Some Place Soft to Fall

2002    Alexandra Cunningham, playwright, Pavane

2004    Lynn Nottage, playwright, Intimate Apparel

2005    Michelle Hensley, artistic director of Ten Thousand Things Theatre Company, Minneapolis

2006    Karen Zacarias, playwright and founder/artistic director of Young Playwrights’ Theater, Washington, D.C., Mariela in the Desert

2007    Victoria Stewart, playwright, Hardball

2008    EM Lewis, playwright, Heads

2009    Jamie Pachino, playwright, Splitting Infinity

2010    Michele Lowe, playwright, Inana

2011    Caridad Svich, playwright, The House of the Spirits

2012    Tammy Ryan, playwright, Lost Boy Found in Whole Foods

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