The Francesca Ronnie Primus Foundation and the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) announced the winner on Jan. 25.
The Primus Prize is given annually to an emerging woman theatre artist, either playwright, artistic director or director. Included in the award is a trip to this summer's ATCA conference at the O'Neill Theater Center in Connecticut.
Splitting Infinity "focuses on Leigh, a Nobel Prize–winning astrophysicist, who pursues evidence of God through physics," according to the award administrators. "The polarity between faith and science finds dramatic expression in two relationships, the first with a handsome rabbi, Saul, and the other with Robbie, a young graduate student who idolizes her."
Splitting Infinity was commissioned by the Steppenwolf Theatre and premiered at the Geva Theatre, directed by Mark Cuddy and starring Elizabeth Hess and Michael Rupert. It has had subsequent productions at San Jose Rep, Florida Stage and elsewhere. It has already received such recognition as the Laurie Foundation Theatre Visionary Award and the STAGE International Script Competition (Professional Artists Lab/California NanoSystems Institute), plus awards from the Dorothy Silver Playwriting Competition, the Ashland New Plays Festival, and the Becket Arts Festival.
Kirsten Brandt, who directed the production at San Jose Rep, acclaims Pachino's "lyric style" and says the theatre chose the play because of its "inherent theatricality," complex main characters that provide great roles and "ability to make an audience think." The San Jose Mercury News named it one of the top 10 productions of 2008. Informed of her award, playwright Pachino said, "The Primus Prize is one that is extremely respected by women playwrights and I am so honored and delighted to be recognized."
Pachino was selected from 41 nominees by a nationwide committee of critics, headed by Barbara Bannon (Salt Lake City) and composed of Marianne Evett, Glenda Frank, Judith Reynolds and Herb Simpson.
Given the number of contenders for the award, the committee also chose two to receive $1,000 Primus Citations, funded by ATCA: Jennifer Haley of North Hollywood, CA, for Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom, which premiered at the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville, directed by Kip Fagan; and Kathryn Walat of New York City for Bleeding Kansas, which premiered at the Hanger Theatre in Ithaca, NY, directed by Kevin Moriarity.
"The Francesca Ronnie Primus Foundation was established to recognize and support emerging women artists who are making a difference in the theatre community in which they work," Barry Primus, the foundation head, said in a statement.
Founded in 1997 in memory of actress, critic and ATCA member Francesca Primus, the Primus Prize was originally administered by the Denver Center Theatre Company and limited to playwrights. ATCA began overseeing the award in 2004.
Pachino has been writing plays for more than a decade, and her work includes Waving Goodbye, The Return to Morality, Aurora's Motive and Race. Her plays have been produced and developed at theaters ranging from Steppenwolf to the American Conservatory Theatre, Hartford Stage, Long Wharf Theatre, Pasadena Playhouse and Northlight Theatre. She also has extensive writing credits for both film and television, and she is an actress and choreographer. ATCA is the nationwide organization of theatre critics, an affiliate of the International Association of Theatre Critics. In addition to the Primus Prize, it administers the $40,000 Harold and Mimi Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award and the M. Elizabeth Osborn Award. ATCA members also recommend a regional theater for the annual Tony Award and vote on induction into the Theatre Hall of Fame.
Submissions for the 2010 Primus Prize are now being accepted. The prize operates on an open submission basis — an applicant may submit herself or be nominated by another individual or organization.
Historically the award has been given to an outstanding female playwright, but the committee may also consider directors or artistic directors. To qualify for consideration, a playwright must have had a fully staged, professional production of her script within 2009. For other artists, there must also have been some significant achievement in the calendar year. But in both cases, the committee will consider a body of work going back several years.
For further information, contact Primus Prize chair Barbara Bannon at email@example.com, or ATCA chair Chris Rawson at firstname.lastname@example.org.