The ten finalists for the 2009 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize have been announced, shedding light on "women from around the world who have written works of outstanding quality for the English-speaking theatre."
The ten finalists, chosen from over 100 submitted plays, are:
Anupama Chandrasekhar, Free Outgoing (India), is a runner-up for the London Evening Standard's Charles Wintour Prize 2008 for the Most Promising Playwright for Free Outgoing. The play was also short-listed for the Peter Wolff-John Whiting Award in the U.K.
Lucinda Coxon, Happy Now? (England), has worked at the Bush Theatre, Soho Theatre, the Royal Court Theatre, and the National Theatre in London. Happy Now? won the Writer's Guild of Great Britain 2008 Best Play Award.
Ann Marie Healy, What Once We Felt (U.S.), is a five-time finalist for Actors Theater of Louisville's Heideman Short Play Award and a finalist for The Perishable Theater's International Women's Playwriting Festival. She is a member of MCC's Playwrights Coalition.
Michele Lowe, Inana (U.S.), is the author of String of Pearls, which received an Outer Critics Circle Award nomination for Outstanding Off-Broadway Play. Her work appears in "New Playwrights/The Best Plays of 2005" (Smith & Knaus, 2006), "The Best Women's Stage Monologues 2005" (Smith & Knaus, 2006) and "Monologues for Women by Women" (Heinemann, 2004). Inana is currently having its world premiere by the Denver Center Theatre Company.
Elizabeth Meriwether, Oliver! (U.S.), is a recipient of the Newsday Oppenheimer Award for her play Heddatron. She is currently working on commissions from the Yale Repertory Theatre, Ars Nova and Manhattan Theatre Club.
Chloe Moss, This Wide Night (England), is a previous Blackburn Prize Finalist for her play, How Love is Spelt. A graduate of the Royal Court young writers program, she has been a writer-in-residence at the Bush Theatre and Paines Plough and also writes for television.
Lynn Nottage, Ruined (U.S.), has been honored with a MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grant" Award, the 2004 PEN/Laura Pels award for Literary Excellence, two ATT Onstage Awards, a Heideman Award, and numerous best play awards, including the OBIE. She is a previous Blackburn Prize Finalist for her play Mud, River, Stone. Ruined is currently running at the Manhattan Theatre Club.
Kaite O'Reilly, The Almond and the Seahorse (Wales), has won various awards for her work, including the Peggy Ramsay Award for YARD (Bush Theatre, London), Manchester Evening News Best New Play of 2004 for Perfect (Contact Theatre) and Theatre-Wales Best Play of 2003 for peeling (Graeae Theatre).
Amy Rosenthal, On The Rocks (England), has been a playwright-in-residence at the Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre and was a resident writer at the Royal National Studio. Her play, Henna Night, received a Sunday Times Drama Award.
Esther Wilson, Ten Tiny Toes (England), is best known as lead writer on the hard-hitting docu-drama Unprotected, which premiered at the Liverpool Everyman in March 2006. It raised the national debate on proposed safety zones in city centers for street sex workers and went on to win the Amnesty International Award for Freedom of Speech at the Edinburgh Festival that summer.
The 2009 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize ceremony will be Feb. 25 in London. Star of stage and screen and Blackburn Prize Judge, Sigourney Weaver, will present the awards.
The winner will be awarded $20,000, and will also receive a signed and numbered print by renowned artist Willem de Kooning, created especially for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. A Special Commendation of $5,000 may be given at the discretion of the judges, and each of the additional finalists receives $1,000.
The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize reflects the values and interests of Susan Smith Blackburn, noted American actress and writer who lived in London during the last 15 years of her life. She died in 1977 at the age of 42.
Over 300 plays have been chosen as finalists since the prize was instituted in 1977. Six Blackburn finalist plays have gone on to win the Pulitzer Prize in Drama.
In addition to Weaver, the international panel of judges for the 2009 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize awards includes Pulitzer prize winning playwright Edward Albee, British playwright and director Peter Gill, British actress Jenny Jules, McCarter Theatre artistic director and playwright Emily Mann, and Genista McIntosh, executive director of the Royal National Theatre for many years and currently a Trustee of the Theatres Trust.
Each year artistic directors and "prominent professionals" in the theatre throughout the English-speaking world are asked to submit plays. In addition to the U.S., the U.K. and Ireland, new plays have been submitted from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India. Plays are eligible whether or not they have been produced, but any premiere production must have occurred within the preceding year. Each script receives multiple readings by members of an international reading committee that then selects ten finalists. All six judges read each finalist's play.
Over 100 plays were submitted for consideration this year.