Susan Smith Blackburn Prize Celebrates 35th Anniversary With Global Event; 75 Plays Will Be Produced Worldwide

By Michael Gioia
08 Nov 2012

2012 Prize winner Jennifer Haley
2012 Prize winner Jennifer Haley

In celebration of its 35th anniversary, The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, which honors female playwrights, has announced a global celebration where theatres across the English-speaking world will produce 75 plays by past winners and finalists.

"The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize has done more than any other single force to get plays by women collected and celebrated, but more importantly, produced," said Marsha Norman, the 1983 winner for 'night Mother, in a statement. 

The Prize was co-founded by Emilie S. Kilgore, Susan Blackburn's sister, and William Blackburn, her husband. It is awarded annually to recognize women from around the world who have written works of outstanding quality for the English-speaking theatre.

When the Prize was established in 1978, six percent of new plays produced, on both sides of the Atlantic, were written by women; that number is now 20 percent. To mark its 35th anniversary, the Board of the Prize asked its "source theatres," who have been instrumental in creating the Prize's legacy, to consider producing a play by one of the playwrights honored by The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize during this anniversary year. To date, over 75 productions by Blackburn winners and finalists are programmed during the 35th anniversary year — on both sides of the Atlantic.



The 35th awards presentation ceremony will be held in Houston at the Alley Theatre in late February/March 2013. The preceding day, the Prize will host a special event involving finalists, and readings from their plays will be presented by a creative coalition of Houston theatres. This will be followed by a panel discussion entitled Women Writing Today, led by Susan Smith Blackburn Prize board member Matt Wolf.

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Every year, The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize winner is awarded $20,000, and receives a signed and numbered print by Willem de Kooning, created especially for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. Each of the additional finalists receives $1,000. The winner is chosen from the finalists each year by six judges — three in the United States, and three in Britain.

Last year the Prize was awarded to U.S. playwright and Texas native Jennifer Haley for her play The Nether, nominated by the Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles. This year's finalists will be announced in January 2013.

The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize received the 2010 Theatre Communications Group's National Funder Award. The annual honor goes to a company, foundation or other entity for "leadership and sustained national support of theater in America."

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