Robert Lindsey Nassif has won this year's Gilman & Gonzalez-Falla Theatre Foundation Award (officially, the 1997 prize). The prize carries a cash award of $25,000 prize, to be bestowed at a Sept. 14 ceremony in Lincoln Center.
Nassif won for Eliot Ness....in Cleveland, which was developed in alliance with the Harold Prince Musical Theatre Program, and had its world premiere Jan. 30 at the Denver Center Theatre Company in Denver. The work has a book by Peter Ullian (which in turn is based on the play In the Shadow of the Terminal Tower), and additional material by Nick Corley, who also directed the production.
Eliot Ness...in Cleveland is set during the Depression. When a "mad butcher" turns the streets of downtown Cleveland into a minefield of limbs and body parts, Ness (who is referred to as "that Untouchable fella from Chicago") is called in to apprehend the criminal. The cast of characters includes Ness' long-suffering wife, a pair of bumbling detectives, a flirtatious reporter, and the mayor -- who wants the carnage to be stopped immediately, as the town is about to host the Republican National Convention.
Reached in Cedar Rapids, IA, Nassif said he was about to hand in some rewrites of Ness to the Denver Theatre Company. The $1.7 million production may travel to Cleveland this coming season. Nassif said he would use the award money to "support my habit of writing shows."
Founded by Sondra Gilman and Celso M. Gonzalez-Falla, the Foundation hopes "to recognize, encourage and foster musical talent in the American theatre." It has developed a reputation for spotting musical talents in the early stage of their work. Previous winners were Craig Carnelia (1990), Louis Rosen (1991), Jeffrey Lunden & Arthur Perlman (1992), Michael John LaChiusa (1995), Jonathan Larson (Rent) (1993 & special award in 1994), Violet's Jeanine Tesori & Brian Crawley (1995) and Jason Robert Brown (Parade) and Ray Leslee (1996). Andre Bishop, Jerry Herman, Gregory Mosher, Jon Wilner, Robert Falls, and Gilman & Gonzalez-Falla comprise the Foundation Award Committee.