Primus Prize

The Francesca Primus Prize

Barry Primus, Leah Nanako Winkler and Rafaela Rose Primus, at Sardi’s, Nov. 2, 2019.

The American Theatre Critics Association’s Francesca Primus Prize is an annual $10,000 award honoring outstanding contributions to the American theater by an emerging female-identifying playwright, one who has not yet achieved national prominence. The prize is made possible through the generosity of Barry Primus and the Francesca Ronnie Primus Foundation and honors the writer, critic, performer, dramaturg and cherished ATCA member who died in 1992 of lung cancer at 42.


The Primus Prize operates on an open submission basis – an applicant may submit herself or be nominated by another individual or organization. Members of ATCA are eligible to nominate or provide letters of recommendation. To qualify for consideration in a given calendar year, a playwright must have had a fully staged, professional production of a script within the previous year, but the committee also considers a body of work going back several years.  Given the unusual circumstances of 2020, the committee will also allow submissions of digital productions as part of the playwright’s body of work. Three or more finalists are announced, then the winner.


Due to the pandemic, prize years 2020 and 2021 (covering plays that premiered in 2019 and 2020) have been conflated, with an application deadline of November 1, 2021. Plays already submitted for 2020 are automatically included.


Applicants should provide script of play (including digital links if applicable) if produced in 2020, otherwise submit a full script best representing the recent body of work by the playwright, along with resume, select reviews, and letters of recommendation to Kerry Reid, Primus Prize committee chair, at [email protected]


(NOTE that the relationship of the date of the prize to the year in which the winning work was done has varied over its history.)

  • 2019 — Stephanie Alison Walker, playwright, for The Madres
  • 2018 – Leah Nanako Winkler, playwright, for Two Mile Hollow
  • 2017 – Martyna Majok, playwright, for Cost of Living
  • 2016 – Lauren Yee, playwright, for in a word 
  • 2015 – Sharyn Rothstein, playwright, for By the Water
  • 2014 – Jennifer Haley, playwright, for The Nether
  • 2013 – Stefanie Zadravec, playwright, for The Electric Baby; additional commendation to director Lear deBessonet
  • 2012 – Tammy Ryan, playwright, for Lost Boy Found in Whole Foods; additional commendation to playwright Dominique Morisseau for Follow Me to Nellie’s 
  • 2011 – Caridad Svich, playwright, The House of the Spirits
  • 2010 – Michele Lowe, playwright, Inana
  • 2009 – Jamie Pachino, playwright, Splitting Infinity; also citations to playwrights Jennifer HaleyNeighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom, and Kathryn WalatBleeding Kansas
  • 2008 – EM (Ellen) Lewis, playwright, Heads
  • 2007 – Victoria Stewart, playwright, Hardball
  • 2006 – Karen Zacarías, playwright, Mariela in the Desert, and founder/artistic director, Young Playwrights’ Theater, Washington, D.C.
  • 2005 – Michelle Hensley, artistic director, Ten Thousand Things Theatre Company, Minneapolis, Minn.
  • 2004 – Lynn Nottage, playwright, Intimate Apparel
  • The Primus Prize was originally administered by the Denver Center Theatre Company. ATCA began overseeing the award in 2004. This change meant there was no award in 2003.
  • 2002 – Alexandra Cunningham, playwright, Pavane
  • 2001 – S.M. Shepard-Massat, playwright, Some Place Soft to Fall
  • 2000 – Brooke Berman, playwright, Playing House
  • 1999 – Melanie Marnich, playwright, Blur
  • 1998 – Brooke Berman, playwright, Wonderland
  • 1997 – Julia Jordan, playwright, Tatjana in Color