The award — issued by the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust — includes a $200,000 prize, the largest theatre award in the country, according to The New York Times. William Zabel, who is on the board of the Trust, told the New York daily, "We wanted to make a splash. We want people to realize the theatre is important, and that a playwright who gets the award is important to our society and our culture. We wanted to create something that was really significant, like the Pritzker Prize in architecture or the Pulitzer in journalism."
Kushner, who the Times reports is "surprised and thrilled" with the award, told the paper, "Playwriting is in a lot of trouble now . . . [Even a playwright with] a string of successful plays cannot make a living at it." Kushner said the prize will allow him "time to work on plays [full time]," which he plans to do following the completion of two film screenplays, one about Abraham Lincoln and the other about Woody Guthrie.
David Rockwell designed the trophy, which is nicknamed The Mimi. The Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award will be awarded every two years. The trust will issue $50,000 awards to two up-n-coming playwrights during the alternating years.
Kushner won back-to-back Tony Awards for the two-part epic Angels in America. The first half, Millennium Approaches, won the 1993 Best Play Tony and the second, Perestroika, was awarded the 1994 Best Play prize. His other works include A Bright Room Called Day, Slavs!: Thinking About the Longstanding Problems of Virtue and Happiness, Henry Box Brown and The Mirror of Slavery.
Kushner's The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures will be produced at the Guthrie in 2009.