American Theatre Critics Honor Steven Tomlinson With Osborn Award

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10 Mar 2006

The American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) announced March 10 that Steven Tomlinson is the winner of its 2005 M. Elizabeth Osborn New Play Award for an emerging playwright.



The Osborn Award was established in 1993 to honor the memory of Theatre Communications Group and American Theatre play editor M. Elizabeth Osborn. It carries a $1,000 cash prize, and receives recognition in "The Best Plays Theater Yearbook," the annual chronicle of United States theatre founded by Burns Mantle in 1920 and currently edited by Jeffrey Eric Jenkins.

Tomlinson will receive his award April 1 at the Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville, KY. His play, American Fiesta, is also one of six finalists in the 2005 Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Awards.

The award, chosen by ATCA's 12-person New Plays Committee, is designed to recognize the work of an author whose plays have not yet received a major production, such as Off-Broadway or Broadway, nor received other major national awards. Last year's Osborn Award went to J.T. Rogers, author of Madagascar.

American Fiesta was commissioned by the State Theatre Company of Austin, TX. It was first presented by that group in October 2005, with a revival scheduled for July 19-Aug. 6, 2006.

In American Fiesta, "Tomlinson uses a collection of Fiestaware to reflect on family dynamics, cultural politics, gay marriage and the doomed search for perfection in America," according to ATCA.

"Sometime during the 2004 Presidential campaign, it dawned on me that I spent all my time with folks who shared my politics and prejudices and that I was developing an ever more distorted picture of those who didn't," said Tomlinson, who also performs the piece. "At about the same time, I became obsessed with Depression-era Fiestaware and set out to collect a complete set of the mixing bowls from antique stores, estate sales, and e-Bay. You quickly figure out that Fiestaware is moving from the Red States to the Blue States. The typical transaction involves a Midwestern grandma selling to an 'urban bachelor' on the coast. My conversations with the folks selling me their dishes became windows into the hearts of my Red neighbors. When you're talking about dishes, people will tell you what they need to say, what you need to know."

He added, "The play also let me explore how my parents, my partner and I renegotiated our relationship in the run-up to our Canadian wedding. I saw in my family politics metaphors for the tensions that divide America; and I wanted to write generously, respectfully, seeking in my own family's experience some hope for the country's healing. Throughout the development process, the dramaturgical team at the State held me to my best intentions."

Tomlinson, whose other works include a monologue on similarities between dating and the real estate market, called Curb Appeal, holds a PhD in economics from Stanford University. He is an award-winning economics and finance professor, formerly at the University of Texas' McCombs School of Business and now at the Acton MBA Program in Austin. He is also an adjunct professor of pastoral ministry at the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest. There he teaches an economics seminar for divinity students and a popular elective, "Money as Metaphor," that explores the spirituality of economic life.

"I'm deeply honored by the Osborn Award," Tomlinson stated. "ATCA's recognition will help us share the piece with a broader audience and expand the hopeful, healing conversation that grew around the production in Austin."

The award is funded by the Foundation of the American Theatre Critics Association. The American Theatre Critics Association was founded in 1974 and works to raise critical standards and public awareness of a critic's duties and responsibilities. It is the only national association of professional theatre critics and has several hundred members working for newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations across the United States. ATCA is a national section of the International Association of Theatre Critics (IATC), a UNESCO-affiliated organization that sponsors seminars and congresses worldwide. For more information, visit www.americantheatrecritics.org.