Dominique Morisseau's Detroit '67 Wins Kennedy Prize for Drama

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24 Feb 2014

Dominique Morisseau's drama Detroit '67, set against the riots that ravaged the Motor City, has been named the 2014 winner of the Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History.

The EMK Prize was created by Columbia University and Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith to honor the life and legacy of her late brother, Senator Ted Kennedy. The inaugural Kennedy Prize was awarded last year to Robert Schenkkan's L.B.J. drama All The Way, now on Broadway; as well as Dan O'Brien's Body of an American. The award is presented each year on Kennedy's birthday.

Detroit '67 had its world premiere at the Public Theater last year and was presented in association with the Classical Theater of Harlem and the National Black Theater.

Here's how the Public premiere was characterized: "It's 1967 in Detroit and Motown music gets the party started. Chelle and her brother Lank transform their basement into an after-hours joint to make ends meet. But when a mysterious woman winds her way into their lives, the siblings clash over much more than family business. As their pent-up feelings erupt, so does their city, and the flames of the '67 Detroit riots engulf them all."

"We are thrilled to award this year's prize to Dominique Morisseau's Detroit '67, an exceptional work that exemplifies the mission of the prize in its exploration of the rich history of our country through the power of theatre," said Ambassador Smith in a statement. "Ted was a great student of American history and enjoyed theatre immensely, and I know he would salute this deserving young artist's success and her illumination of important historical issues that affect our country."



Morisseau will receive an award of $100,000. Finalists for the Kennedy Prize this year were Appropriate by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Fun Home by Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori, Party People by UNIVERSES, and the road weeps, the well runs dry by Marcus Gardley.

The voting jury this year included Carol Becker, Dean of Columbia University School of the Arts; Susan Birkenhead, lyricist; J. Michael Friedman, composer/lyricist; Rinne Groff, playwright/performer; Stephen Adly Guirgis, playwright/director/actor; Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies, Columbia University; Young Jean Lee, playwright/director; James Shapiro, Larry Miller Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University; and Diana Son, playwright.

"[We have] unanimously chosen to award the Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History to Detroit '67 by Dominique Morisseau," the jury said in a statement. "The first in a 3-play cycle about her hometown Detroit, the play explores an explosive and decisive moment in a great American city. The jury was completely drawn into the world of Detroit '67, whose compelling characters struggle with racial tension and economic instability. The jury also felt strongly that the play powerfully exemplifies the goals of the Kennedy Prize. Detroit '67 is a work grounded in historical understanding that also comments meaningfully on the pressing issues of our day."