Named in honor of late theatrical agent and photographer Merrill, each playwright receives $20,000 as part of the award, which continues Merrill's legacy in nurturing new voices in theatre. The awards were presented Sept. 26 at the Algonquin Hotel.
Jacobs-Jenkins (Neighbors, The Octoroon), Fortenberry (Good Egg), LeFranc (The Big Meal) and Blank (Seed) were acknowledged in the Emerging Playwright Award category, while Kron (Well, In the Wake, Fun Home) was recognized as the recipient of the Distinguished Playwright Award.
The selection committee included Obie Award-winning playwright Christopher Durang, Tony-winning costume designer Susan Hilferty, New Dramatists' director of artistic development Emily Morse, and Tony and Olivier-winning playwright Richard Nelson.
Previous winners include David Adjmi, David Auburn, Brooke Berman, Kara Lee Corthron, Nilo Cruz, Angela Eisa Davis, Bathsheba Doran, Will Eno, Marcus Gardley, Gina Gionfriddo, Noah Haidle, Amy Herzog, Albert Innaurato, Tina Howe, Deborah Margolin, David Rabe, Adam Rapp, Sarah Ruhl, Wallace Shawn, Theodora Skipitares, Michael Weller, Samuel Brett Williams and Lanford Wilson.