The 2017 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize has been awarded to playwright Clare Barron for her play Dance Nation, which follows the trials and tribulations of a pre-teen dance competition. The award, which is the oldest and largest prize exclusively for women playwrights, was presented March 6 at New York's Playwrights Horizons.
Dance Nation is set to have its world premiere at Playwrights Horizons in April 2018.
Speaking earlier this year about her newest work, Barron stated, “I wrote this play because I wanted to explore ambition and how that intersects with gender... More literally, I was inspired by Dance Moms—a horrific reality TV show where a grown woman verbally abuses and bullies pre-teen girls and everyone’s kind of okay with it.“
The play was previously a co-winner (with Sarah Delappe's The Wolves, a Blackburn Prize Finalist in 2016) for The 2016 Relentless Award given by the American Playwriting Foundation in honor of Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Artistic director of LCT3 and one of this year’s Blackburn Prize judges, Evan Cabnet, presented Barron with a prize of $25,000 and a signed print by artist Willem de Kooning. Each of the finalists also received an award of $5,000.
The 2017 finalists for The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, chosen from over 150 plays, were Zinnie Harris (U.K.) for This Restless House, Amy Herzog (U.S.) for Mary Jane, Charlene James (U.K.) for Cuttin' It, Charley Miles (U.K.) for Blackthorn, Dominique Morisseau (U.S.) for Pipeline, Lizzie Nunnery (U.K.) for Narvik, Somalia Seaton (U.K.) for Fall of the Kingdom, Rise of the Foot Soldier, Jen Silverman (U.S.) for The Moors, and Penelope Skinner (U.K.) for Linda.
The judges for the 2017 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize were, in the U.K., director Maria Aberg, actor Nina Sosanya, and writer and dramaturg Jenny Worton. In addition to Cabnet, U.S. judges were actor Sarah Paulson and playwright and director Robert O'Hara.
Founded in 1977 by Blackburn’s sister, Emilie Kilgore, and Blackburn’s husband, William Blackburn, the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize honors an outstanding new English-language play by a woman each year. Susan Smith Blackburn was an American actor and writer who lived in London during the last 15 years of her life.
Last year’s winner of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize was Lynn Nottage for her play Sweat, which is now in previews on Broadway and will officially open March 26.