Leah Nanako Winkler’s God Said This has been named the winner of the Yale Drama Series Prize, given annually to a play by an emerging playwright and selected by a distinguished playwright. This year's recipient was chosen by Pulitzer Prize winner Ayad Akhtar (Disgraced, Junk).
Winkler will receive the David Charles Horn Prize of $10,000, as well as the publication of her winning play by Yale University Press and a staged reading at Lincoln Center Theater’s Claire Tow Theater October 30.
This year’s runner-up was Bleu Beckford-Burrell for Lyons Pride.
God Said This concerns Hiro, who returns to Lexington, Kentucky, after years away because her mom is undergoing chemotherapy. Sophie, her born-again Christian sister, fights to maintain her faith amid adversity. James, their recovering alcoholic father, wants to repair his fractured relationship with his daughters, but redemption isn’t easy. And John, an old classmate and single dad, worries about his legacy.
“I was very moved by Leah's play about a family caught between cultures, set in the final weeks of a mother's life,” said Akhtar, who chose God Said This from over 1,600 submissions from 50 countries. “I found it witty and wise, inhabited by a poignant specificity that conveyed me to a deeply felt sense of the universal—of the perfection of our parents' flawed love for each other and for us; for the ways in which the approach of death can order the meaning of a human life. I am grateful to the talented and dedicated members of the jury and to Francine Horn and everyone at the Yale Drama Series for all their hard work.”
Winkler added, “I wrote this play quietly on a hospital couch last spring as my mother was undergoing chemotherapy treatments at the Markey Cancer Center in Lexington, Kentucky. At the time, I would have never imagined that it would win any prize, nevertheless from such a prestigious institution like Yale, chosen by Ayad Akhtar—a playwright I greatly admire who blows me away with his depth and understanding of the world. All I can say is that I’m so happy, grateful and thankful. I can’t help but think of my drama teachers, Jason Meenach and Lisa Osterman at Tates Creek High School who told me theater was a safe place to do unsafe things. I hope to continue writing from the heart without fear, and this honor means the world to me and my mom.”
God Said This will have its world premiere at the Actors Theatre of Louisville’s 2018 Humana Festival, which continues through April 8, and will also be a part of Primary Stages’ 2018–2019 season.
Previous winners of the Yale Drama Series Prize include John Austin Connolly’s The Boys From Siam (selected by Edward Albee in 2007), Neil Wechsler’s Grenadine (selected by Edward Albee in 2008), Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s Lidless (selected by David Hare in 2009), Virginia Grise’s blu (selected by David Hare in 2010), Shannon Murdoch’s New Light Shine (selected by John Guare in 2011), Clarence Coo’s Beautiful Province (selected by John Guare in 2012), Jen Silverman’s Still (selected by Marsha Norman in 2013), Janine Nabers’s Serial Black Face (selected by Marsha Norman in 2014), Barbara Seyda’s Celia, a Slave: 26 Characters Testify (selected by Nicholas Wright in 2015), Emily Schwend’s Utility (selected by Nicholas Wright in 2016), and Jacqueline Goldfinger’s Bottle Fly (selected by Nicholas Wright in 2017).