Georgia playwright S.M. Shephard-Massat has won the 2001 M. Elizabeth Osborn Award, given by the American Theatre Critics Association, for her new play, Waiting to be Invited. The winner of the annual award, for an "emerging playwright," was announced Jan. 24. Shephard-Massat's fact-inspired play had its world premiere in January 2000 by the Denver Center Theatre Company, in a staging directed by Israel Hicks. The drama was billed as a tribute to the ordinary people whose tiny acts helped bring about the U.S. civil rights movement. The production was the professional debut of Shepherd-Massat.
She based the work on a page out of her grandmother's life: Set in the early 1960s, in Atlanta, Waiting to be Invited tells of Miss Louise and three middle-aged co-workers from a local doll manufacturing company who travel to a "whites only" department store to have lunch just after the Supreme Court rules segregated eating establishments unconstitutional.
The action of the play shows the women preparing for the act of civil bravery, and ends as they approach the eatery.
"Waiting to be Invited is strong stuff indeed," said critic Larry Bommer, chair of the ATCA's New Plays Committee. "Its very natural dialogue makes these integration crusading ladies memorable heroines and totally recognizable souls. The play builds to a magnificent and moving finale."
Shephard-Massat attended New York University's Tisch School of the Arts as a dramatic writing major and interned at London's Royal Court Theatre in 1991. She won the Adrienne Kennedy Award as a promising young playwright in 1996, the Delaware Theatre Company Connections Award in 1997 and the Roger L. Stevens Award from the Kennedy Center in 1997. She lives in Smyrna, GA.
The award will be presented Feb. 24 in Manhattan.
— By Kenneth Jones