The award, named for the late American playwright of The Sisters Rosensweig and The Heidi Chronicles, is funded by the Educational Foundation of America (EFA) and administered by Theatre Development Fund (TDF). It comes with a $25,000 award, one of the major cash prizes for an American playwriting award.
TDF announced Nov. 15 that it will "work with EFA over the next two months to continue the ongoing process of refining the selection process for The Wasserstein Prize. Mindful of the concerns of this year's nominees and the deadline facing the funder as it considers whether or not to renew funding in 2011, we have decided to accelerate the refinement process rather than postpone it to next year and a new group of nominees. Instead, this year's nominees will be considered with the refined process."
Victoria Bailey, TDF's executive director said, "The Wasserstein Prize is a young award. This is only the fourth year, and in fact is the final year of this grant cycle. The nomination and selection process has been ongoing throughout. In memory of Wendy, an extraordinary playwright and advocate for women in the arts, we look forward to continuing the work supporting this prize."
There were reportedly 19 finalists for the 2010 prize. The New York Times reported that the new process would likely include examination of several plays by each writer rather than a single title.
Emerging playwright Marisa Wegrzyn was the recipient of the 2009 Wasserstein Prize for her play Hickorydickory. The previous winners of The Wasserstein Prize were Linda Ramsey (2007) and Laura Jacqmin (2008) for their plays, The Feather House and And when we awoke there was light and light, respectively.
Playwrights are nominated for the prize by leading theatrical practitioners who are particularly knowledgeable about new plays and emerging playwrights. The nominated scripts are evaluated by readers and the winner is chosen from a group of finalists by a panel of friends and colleagues of Wendy Wasserstein.