Lauren Gunderson, Aaron Posner and More Nominated for Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award

By Carey Purcell
March 3, 2014

The six finalists for the Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award have been announced.



Recognizing playwrights for the best scripts that premiered professionally outside New York City during 2013, the award gives $25,000 to the top winner, as well as two citations of $7,500 each.

The awards will be presented April 5 at Actors Theatre of Louisville, during the Humana Festival of New American Plays. 

A list of finalists follows, listed alphabetically by playwright, with the theatre where each premiered:

Fear Up Harsh
By Christopher Demos-Brown
Zoetic Stage, Miami, FL 

"The secret backstory behind the awarding of a Congressional Medal of Honor to a wounded Marine emerges in this mercilessly penetrating interrogation about how our need for heroes — a need even among the heroes themselves — can trump the very values of truth, honor and loyalty that they fought to preserve."

I and You
By Lauren Gunderson
Marin Theatre Company, CA, as part of the National New Play Network's rolling world premiere program

"Caroline, a cranky high school student in desperate need of a liver transplant, is enticed by classmate Anthony, a level-headed basketball star with a taste for English lit, into a school project deconstructing Whitman's 'Leaves of Grass.' As their quirky relationship evolves in fits and starts, they explore the meaning of life and death without a shred of condescension or pretentiousness. Delicate, smart and funny with sharp insights, the play grows quietly toward a surprising and overwhelmingly moving conclusion."

Smokefall
By Noah Haidle 
Co-production of South Coast Repertory, Costa Mesa, CA, and the Goodman Theatre, Chicago, IL 

"This delightfully offbeat play embraces inventive theatricality and a poetic lyricism to depict three generations of a Midwestern family as they move through time. It combines a compassionate examination of familial unhappiness and the fragility of life with zany humor, such as twin fetuses arguing in their mother's womb."

H20
By Jane Martin
Contemporary American Theater Festival, Shepherdstown, WV

"Fast and smart and fresh in its intersection of transitory showbiz and enduring faith, this drama depicts a deeply troubled flavor-of-the-month movie idol who is slated to play Hamlet on stage in New York. He woos a talented unknown actress to be his Ophelia after she foils his suicide attempt. Her profound faith in Christianity collides with his dark view of the world as she tries to save his production, his life and his soul in a play that is both terribly funny and deeply moving at almost the same moment."

Stupid F**king Bird,
By Aaron Posner
Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Washington, D.C.

"Unlike almost anything else seen this season, this script was praised as 'funny, wonderful, original, smart with a capital S, consistently imaginative but thoroughly grounded.' On the surface, it's simply a modern retelling of Chekhov's The Seagull that catches all the humor and wistfulness of the original and the inner reality of a great play. But Posner has transmuted the story, 'wrapping new words and ideas around old concepts,' using form-bending theatricality to create a fresh sui generis work of art."

Seven Spots on the Sun
By Martin Zimmerman
Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Cincinnati, OH 

"This meld of magical realism and political issues is an affecting tale that examines whether forgiveness is truly possible, set against the ravages of civil war, lust, plague and a consuming need for vengeance. A widowed doctor in a small village and a newly-married soldier charged with subduing dissent take converging journeys towards redemption in this harrowing play."

Funded at $40,000 by the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust, the Steinberg/ATCA is the largest national new play award of its kind.

Previous honorees have included Lanford Wilson, Marsha Norman, August Wilson, Arthur Miller, Mac Wellman, Adrienne Kennedy, Donald Margulies, Lynn Nottage, Moises Kaufman and Craig Lucas.

Visit americantheatrecritics.org for more information.