Spenser Davis wins 2019 Osborn New Play Award for “Plainclothes”

Spenser Davis wins 2019 Osborn New Play Award for “Plainclothes”

ATCA is pleased to announce that Spenser Davishas won the 2019 M. Elizabeth Osborn New Play Award for an emerging playwright. The Osborn Award recognizes Davis’ “Plainclothes,”which premiered at The Den Theatre in Chicago. The award will be presented at the Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville on April 6. 

Spenser Davis

“Plainclothes” had its world premiere at Broken Nose Theatre, a pay-what-you-can theater in Chicago where Davis serves as Director of Programming. He’s also an ensemble member of The Factory Theater and a series writer, director, and co-creator of the short-form comedy series SQUID, available on Amazon Prime.

Set in the security room of a department store after a violent encounter with a shoplifter has left half the team fired or hospitalized, “Plainclothes” focuses on those who remain — a short-staffed crew that has to decide whether to listen to their superiors or try to do what they think is right. 

Panelists on ATCA’s New Play Committee, which selects the Osborn winner, called the play a “wonder of language and dialogue excellence.” “It considers racial issues in today’s uncertain workplace and incorporates great heart.” “With terrific energy, distinctive characters, lots of humor, and something to say about race and class and corporate benign neglect,” it weaves “an entertaining scenario while also gut-punching the audience with real-world consequences.” 

ATCA’s Osborn Award is designed to recognize the work of an author who has not yet achieved national stature. It was established in 1993 to honor the memory of Theatre Communications Group and American Theatre play editor M. Elizabeth Osborn. It carries a $1,000 prize, funded by the Foundation of the American Theatre Critics Association. Click here for a list of previous Osborn Award winners.

Making the selection from plays nominated by ATCA members is the ATCA New Plays Committee, chaired by Lou Harry (www.louharry.com). That committee also selects honorees for the $40,000 Harold and Mimi Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award, to be announced and presented in the same ceremony on April 6.

Other participating committee members included Nancy Bishop (Chicago), Lindsay Christians (Madison, Wis.), Mike Fischer (Milwaukee), Amanda Finn(Chicago), Melissa Hall (Indianapolis), Pam Harbaugh(Indialantic, Fla.), Mark Lowry (Dallas), Jonathan Mandell (New York), Julius Novick (New York), Marjorie Oberlander (New York), Kathryn Osenlund (Philadelphia), Wendy Parker (Midlothian, Va.), Wendy Rosenfield (Philadelphia), Martha Wade Steketee (New York), and Perry Tannenbaum (Charlotte, N.C.).

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, it has several hundred members who work for newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations, and websites across the United States. ATCA is also a national section of the International Association of Theatre Critics, a UNESCO-affiliated organization that sponsors seminars and congresses worldwide.

ATCA also presents the Francesca Primus Prize, funded by the Francesca Ronnie Primus Foundation, honoring outstanding contributions to the American theater by female artists who have not yet achieved national prominence. Annually it makes a recommendation for the Regional Theater Tony Award presented by the American Theatre Wing/Broadway League and its members vote on inductions into the Theater Hall of Fame.

Lou Harry, ATCA New Plays Chairman
Wm. F. Hirschman, ATCA Executive Committee Chair

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