The American Theatre Critics Association announced the winner April 1 at Actors Theatre of Louisville's Humana Festival of New American Plays. The annual honor is for "outstanding new plays produced around the United States, outside of New York City" placing a focus on regional works not often included in the numerous New York- based awards.
Blessing wins the prize which includes the highest American playwriting cash award of $25,000 (up from previous years' $15,000). Rapp and the Wilson estate will receive additional citations with cash prizes of $7, 500 (previously $5,000) each. All prizes are funded by The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust.
In A Body of Water, playwright Blessing sets a man and a woman in an unfamiliar house atop a mountain surrounded by water where the two characters awake with no memory of who they are or how they got there. On three different visits, a mysterious young woman named Wren fills in their biographies. Each time she does, however, the scenarios of their lives change radically. The work was first produced in June 2005 at Minneapolis' Guthrie Theater.
Blessing's works include Patient A, Thief River, A Walk in the Woods, Eleemosynary, Cobb, Two Rooms, Down the Road, Going to St. Ives and Chesapeake.
The five other finalists (and the regional theatre at which they were first produced) were:
Radio Golf by August Wilson (Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven, CT) For this year's award, 25 eligible scripts were submitted by ATCA members, representing over 250 regional media outlets. A committee of 12 professional theater critics reviewed and selected the finalists.
Last year's winner of the Steinberg New Play Award was Craig Lucas' The Singing Forest with the other citations going to Sarah Ruhl's The Clean House, Gina Gionfriddo's After Ashley and J.T. Rogers' Madagascar. Previous recipients of the honor include Lynn Nottage's Intimate Apparel (2004), Nilo Cruz's Anna in the Tropics (2003), Horton Foote's The Carpetbaggers Children (2002), Jane Martin's Anton In Show Business (2001), Regina Taylor's Oo-Bla-Dee (2000) and Lanford Wilson's Book of Days (1999).
For more information on the American Theatre Critics Association, visit www.americantheatrecritics.org.