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/Journalists 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. Three or more finalists are announced, then the winner.


As of January 2024, ATCA leadership is examining the future of this prize program and any plans to resume will be posted here.


(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, for The House of the Spirits
  • 2010 – Michele Lowe, playwright, for Inana
  • 2009 – Jamie Pachino, playwright, for Splitting Infinity; also citations to playwrights Jennifer Haley, for Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom, and Kathryn Walat, for Bleeding Kansas
  • 2008 – EM (Ellen) Lewis, playwright, for Heads
  • 2007 – Victoria Stewart, playwright, for Hardball
  • 2006 – Karen Zacarías, playwright, for 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, for Intimate Apparel
  • 2003 — The Primus Prize was originally administered by the Denver Center Theatre Company. ATCA began overseeing the award in 2004, with no award in this transition year.
  • 2002 – Alexandra Cunningham, playwright, for Pavane
  • 2001 – S.M. Shepard-Massat, playwright, for Some Place Soft to Fall
  • 2000 – Brooke Berman, playwright, for Playing House
  • 1999 – Melanie Marnich, playwright, for Blur
  • 1998 – Brooke Berman, playwright, for Wonderland
  • 1997 – Julia Jordan, playwright, for Tatjana in Color