The American Theatre Critics Association has announced its choice for the 1998 New Play Award, Peter Parnell's The Cider House Rules, Part II, which played at WA's Seattle Repertory Theatre in 1997 (part one of the epic was staged in `96). The ATCA Award will be presented to Parnell at the Humana Festival of the Actors Theatre of Louisville, Mar. 28 at 8 PM.
Sponsored this year by the Chicago Tribune, the annual ATCA honor is given to a play that premiered outside New York City during the previous year. Cider House beat five other finalists for the $1,000 prize:
*The Darker Face of the Earth -- Rita Dove's poetic setting of the Oedipus myth in the antebellum South. (Oregon Shakespeare Festival; revised premiere at NJ's Crossroads Theatre). * Black Russian -- Thomas Gibbons' parallel tales of a black immigrant to Russia in the 1930s and his son's later search for his American roots. (Philadelphia InterAct Theatre; Eugene O'Neill Center workshop. A New York production is set to open June 4 at the Blue Heron Theatre.)
* The Old Settler -- John Henry Redwood's tale of a Harlem family's life, love and disappointment. (McCarter Theatre, Princeton, NJ.)
* My Simple City -- Richard Strand's poignant drama about cross cultural misunderstandings and injustice. (Chicago, IL's Rivendell Powertap Productions.) * Jitney -- August Wilson's first full-length version of his own early comedy-drama. (Pittsburgh Public Theatre; revised production at New Jersey's Crossroads Theatre).
Both Jitney and The Old Settler will receive special Citations (as will Cider House). All three plays will be cited and excerpted in the annual Otis Guernsey "Best Plays" compendium. (1997's winners were Jack & Jill, The Ride Down Mt. Morgan and The Last Night of Ballyhoo.)
Ten years in the planning and building, Seattle Repertory Theatre christened its new $8.7 million second stage Jan. 3, 1997 with Parnell's epic, adapted from John Irving's novel. Tom Hulce and Jane Jones co-directed the 8-hour piece, which were developed in workshops at Seattle Rep.
Cider House Rules concerns young Homer Wells, his life in and outside an orphanage, and his father figure, Dr. Larch, who both saves babies and performs abortions. The Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles is scheduled to mount its own production of the show this summer.
Please note that the ATCA New Play Award is separate from ATCA's Osborn Award, which was announced Feb. 21. Beating out more recognizable works as The Old Settler and Freedomland, Rebecca Gilman's The Glory of Living nabbed the 1998 Osborn trophy for a work by an up-and-coming playwright.
The Award, bestowed by the American Theatre Critics Association in honor of late critic Elizabeth Osborn, was given to Gilman Feb. 21 as part of ATCA's annual New York mini-meeting (Feb. 20-22).
The Glory of Living, which premiered at Chicago's Circle Theatre, Dec. 1996, takes a graphic look at "child abuse, sexual deviance and serial murder." Richard Strand's My Simple City, about racial injustice, was the Osborn runner-up.
Ten other Osborn Award nominees were Sharon Bridgforth's No Mo' Blues, Vicky Covington & Randy Marsh's The Last Hotel For Women, Stuart Flack's Sidney Bechet Killed A Man, Amy Freed's Freedomland, Thomas Gibbons' Black Russian, Lynne Kauffman's Fakes, Dawson Nichols' Escher's Hands, John Henry Redwood's The Old Settler and Tracy Young's Euphoria.
The American Theatre Critics Association comprises critics from across the country and is allied with the International Association of Theatre Critics.
-- By David Lefkowitz