Jennifer Haley Wins 2012 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize

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29 Feb 2012

Jennifer Haley
Jennifer Haley

Los Angeles-based playwright Jennifer Haley, whose work has been seen at the 2011 O'Neill National Playwrights Conference and the Lark Play Development Center, is the winner of the 2012 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, honoring female playwrights. She was chosen from over 100 nominated plays, for her play The Nether.

The winner is awarded $20,000 as well as a signed and numbered print by artist Willem de Kooning, created especially for the Prize. Each of the finalists receives $1,000.

Blackburn Prize judge Imogen Stubbs presented Haley with the Prize at the Awards Presentation Feb. 28 in London. The Prize is awarded annually to recognize women from around the world who have written works of outstanding quality for the English-speaking theatre.

The Nether, press notes state, "is a suspenseful tale of our not-so-distant future, where criminal desire in virtual reality blurs the definition of morality and existence. Haley imagines a future world where our population now creates reality in the vast, virtual world of the Nether, and adults can anonymously live out any fantasy they desire. When a young cyber detective discovers a realm where these fantasies involve crimes against children, she interrogates a charismatic man called Papa. But as the two discover they are linked by more than the case, their battle of wills blows up beyond questions of morality to probing the basic code of existence."

The Nether was nominated by the Center Theatre Group of Los Angeles. It was workshopped as part of the 2011 O'Neill Playwrights Conference. The Lark Play Development Center in New York further workshopped The Nether in September 2011. The Philadelphia Theatre Company’s PTC@PLAY festival will present a staged reading March 7.



American playwright Katori Hall received the 2011 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for her play Hurt Village, which was nominated by Signature Theatre Company (New York), where the play premiered Feb. 7. Other recipients of the Prize include Chloe Moss' This Wide Night, Judith Thompson's Palace of the End, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti's Behzti (Dishonour), Sarah Ruhl's The Clean House, Dael Orlandersmith's Yellowman, Cheryl West's Before It Hits Home, Susan Miller's A Map of Doubt and Rescue, Gina Gionfriddo's U.S. Drag, Bridget Carpenter's Fall, Charlotte Jones' Humble Boy, Naomi Wallace's One Flea Spare, Wendy Kesselman's My Sister in this House, Jessica Goldberg's Refuge, Paula Vogel's How I Learned to Drive, Moira Buffini's Silence and Caryl Churchill's Serious Money.

This year's finalists and their nominating theatres follow:

Johnna AdamsGideon's Knot, The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis (US)
Alice BirchMany Moons, Theatre 503 (U.K.)
Madeleine GeorgeSeven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England, Clubbed Thumb (U.S.)
Nancy HarrisNo Romance, Abbey Theatre (Ireland)
Zinnie HarrisThe Wheel, National Theatre of Scotland (U.K.)
Jaki McCarrickBelfast Girls, King's Head Theatre (U.K.)
Molly Smith MetzlerClose Up Space, Manhattan Theatre Club (U.S.)
Meg MiroshnikThe Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls, Alliance Theatre (U.S.)
Alexis ZegermanThe Steingolds, Playful Productions (U.K.)

The international panel of judges for the 34th annual Susan Smith Blackburn Prize included US judges Randy Gener, award-winning writer/editor/critic; Martha Lavey, artistic director of the Steppenwolf Theatre (Chicago); and Frances McDormand, Oscar and Tony Award-winning film and stage star. Judges from the UK are Jonathan Church, artistic director of the Chichester Festival Theatre; Ben Power, associate director of the National Theatre; and Imogen Stubbs, actress/writer/director and stage and screen star. 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. Over 80 of them are frequently produced in the United States today. Seven Blackburn Finalist plays have gone on to win the Pulitzer Prize in Drama. The authors of those plays, Margaret Edson, Beth Henley, Marsha Norman, Lynn Nottage, Suzan-Lori Parks, Paula Vogel and Wendy Wasserstein, are the only women to have done so since the Blackburn Prize was first established.

The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize was co-founded by Emilie S. Kilgore and William Blackburn. Many winners have gone on to receive other honors, including Tony Awards and The Pulitzer Prize.

For more information, visit www.blackburnprize.org.