American Critics Give 2008 Osborn Award to Gee's Bend Playwright Wilder

News   American Critics Give 2008 Osborn Award to Gee's Bend Playwright Wilder The American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) announced March 27 that Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder is the winner of its 2008 M. Elizabeth Osborn New Play Award for an emerging playwright.

The award will be presented March 29 at the Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville, KY.

"While the award is based in part on Wilder's career, it focuses on her 2007 play, Gee's Bend, which depicts the turbulent history of African-Americans in the 20th century by focusing on a single family in the real community of Gee's Bend, AL," the critics announced.

Although the play is fiction, "Wilder did on-the-ground research with the women of the town who earned national recognition through exhibits of the quilts made by several generations."

In an early reading, the play moved Orlando Sentinel critic Elizabeth Maupin to write, "Gee's Bend is a lovefest — between the characters and the land they live on, between the actors and the characters they're portraying, between the play and the audience."

Gee's Bend was commissioned by Kent Thompson for the Alabama Shakespeare Festival's Southern Writers Project. It had a 2006 reading in the Project's Festival of New Plays and its fully-staged premiere in January 2007 at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. It has since toured the state and received productions elsewhere with more slated for 2008. A production of the play is currently being performed by Denver Center Theatre Company, where Thompson is now artistic director.

The Osborn award "is designed to recognize the work of an author who has not yet achieved national stature — e.g., has not had a significant New York production, been staged in more than a few regional theatres or received other major national awards."

Last year's Osborn Award went to Ken LaZebnik, author of Vestibular Sense.

The Osborn Award 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. Honorees are recognized in The Best Plays Theater Yearbook, the annual chronicle of United States edited by Jeffrey Eric Jenkins, now in its 89th year. Making the selection from plays nominated by ATCA members is the ATCA New Plays Committee, which also selects honorees for the Harold and Mimi Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award.

The Osborn Award is usually presented at ATCA 's biannual winter conference in New York or (as this year) at the Humana Festival of New American Plays.

Wilder recently returned to her native Mobile, AL, from Los Angeles to concentrate on her playwriting. She has written The First Day of Hunting Season; Fresh Kills, performed in London; Jubilee; Tales of an Adolescent Fruit Fly, her first play, which was done at the Ergo Theatre Co.; and The Theory of Relativity. She is working on another commission for the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, The Furniture of Home, and a play for the Denver Center, The Bone Orchard.

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The American Theatre Critics Association "was founded in 1974 and works to raise critical standards and public awareness of a critic's functions and responsibilities. The only national association of professional theater critics, it has several hundred members working for newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations and websites across the United States. ATCA is a national section of the International Association of Theatre Critics, a UNESCO-affiliated organization that sponsors seminars and congresses worldwide."

For more information, visit www.americantheatrecritics.org.

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Prior Osborn Award Recipients

2007 — Vestibular Sense, Ken LaZebnik, Mixed Blood Theatre Company, Minneapolis, MN

2006 — American Fiesta, Steven Tomlinson, State Theatre Company, Austin, TX

2005 — Madagascar, J.T. Rogers, Salt Lake Acting Co., Salt Lake City, UT

2004 — The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow, Rolin Jones, South Coast Repertory, Costa Mesa, CA

2003 — The Dinosaur Within, John Walch, State Theatre, Austin, TX

2002 — Chagrin Falls, Mia McCullough, Stage Left Theatre, Chicago, IL

2001 — Waiting to be Invited, S.M. Shephard-Massat, Denver Center Theatre Company, Denver, CO

2000 — Marked Tree, Coby Goss, Senachai Theatre, Chicago, IL

1999 — Lamarck, Dan O'Brien, the Perishable Theatre Company, Providence, RI

1998 — The Glory of Living, Rebecca Gilman

1997 — Thunder Knocking On The Door, Keith Glover

1996 — Beast on the Moon, Richard Kalinoski

1995 — Rush Limbaugh in Night School, Charlie Varon

1994 — Hurricane, Anne Galjour