The 27th annual honor — which includes a cash award of $10,000 — recognizes the women dramatist whose works represent outstanding quality for the English speaking theatre. The Awards was presented in London at a private reception March 7.
Bezhti (Dishonour) caused much controversy in England as violent protests broke out at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre premiere of the work — which depicts a rape and murder in a Sihk temple. The Sihk playwright went into hiding following the cancellation of her work. The work was chosen as a finalist prior to the production's opening according to a release.
In an unique decision, the judges also awarded two Special Commendations of $2,000 each to Iraqi-American actress and playwright Heather Raffo for Nine Parts of Desire, which currently plays Off-Broadway at the Manhattan Ensemble Theater and London playwright Chloe Moss for her second play How Love Is Spelt which was first produced at the Bush Theatre in 2004.
The nine other finalists (and works for which they are nominated for) who will receive $1,000 each are as follows:
Leslie Ayvazian - Rosemary and I
Rebecca Gilman - Sweetest Swing in Baseball
Joanna McClelland Glass - Trying
Bryony Lavery - Last Easter
Rebecca Lenkiewicz - The Night Season
Melanie Marnich - Cradle of Man
Mia McCullough - Since Africa
Katherine Thomson - Harbour
Patricia Wettig - My Andy
Judges for the 2005 awards include actors Stockard Channing and Corin Redgrave, Philadelphia Theatre Company artistic director Sara Garonzik, London's Talawa Theatre Company artistic director Paulette Randall, U.K. theatre journalist and critic Carole Woddis and Variety's London theatre critic Matt Wolf.
Playwright Sarah Ruhl won last year's 26th annual Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for her work The Clean House. Other recipients of the honor include Dael Orlandersmith's Yellowman, Susan Miller's A Map of Doubt and Rescue, Gina Gionfriddo's U.S. Drag, Bridget Carpenter's Fall, Charlotte Jones' Humble Boy, Jessica Goldberg's Refuge, Paula Vogel's How I Learned to Drive and Moira Buffini's Silence.
The Susan Smith Blackburn Award, named for the noted American actress and writer, was established in 1978. Submissions for this year's prize include works penned in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Canada.
Plays are eligible whether or not they have been produced, but any first production must have taken place within the preceding twelve months.