The annual prize, which includes a cash award of $10,000, recognizes the women dramatist whose works represent outstanding quality for the English-speaking theatre.
Ruhl's The Clean House centers on a Brazilian woman, serving as a maid to a pair of busy doctors, who longs for the stage as a comedian. The work, yet to see a full production, has received staged readings at the New Jersey's McCarter Theatre, Seattle Repertory Theatre and New York's Women's Project.
Ruhl's other plays include Orlando, Passion Play and Eurydice. Recent Blackburn Prize recipients include Dael Orlandersmith's Yellowman, Susan Miller's A Map of Doubt and Rescue, Gina Gionfriddo's U.S. Drag, Bridget Carpenter's Fall, Charlotte Jones' Humble Boy, Jessica Goldberg's Refuge, Paula Vogel's How I Learned to Drive and Moira Buffini's Silence.
The Susan Smith Blackburn Award, named for the noted American actress and writer, was established in 1978. Submissions for this year's prize ranged from works penned in the United States, United Kingdom, and Ireland to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, India and South Africa.
Other finalists — who received $500 — include Neena Beber (Jump/Cut), Jean Betts (The Collective), Lin Coghlan (Mercy), Zinnie Harris (Midwinter), Carson Kreitzer (The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer), Lisa Loomer (Living Out ), Abi Morgan (27), Ann Noble (Ariadne's Thread), Lucy Prebble (The Sugar Syndrome ), Polly Teale (After Mrs. Rochester) and Karen Zacarias (Mariela in the Desert). Judges for the twenty-sixth annual awards were actress Brown, London's Bush Theatre artistic director Mike Bradwell, New York's Signature Theatre Company artistic director Jim Houghton, Variety chief critic Charles Isherwood, actress Janet McTeer and actor/director Samuel West.
Plays are eligible whether or not they have been produced, but any first production must have taken place within the preceding twelve months.