Playwrights Jordan E. Cooper, Donnetta Lavinia Grays, and Sylvia Khoury have been named the 2021 Whiting Award winners for drama. The announcement was made during a virtual ceremony April 14. Each theatre artist will receive a $50,000 prize.
The awards, created in 1986, are given to recognize early-career achievement and to empower recipients to fulfill the promise of exceptional literary work to come. This year’s digital honors included a keynote by former U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy K. Smith, a 2005 Whiting Award winner, and brief readings from each winner, introduced by 2015 winner Elena Passarello.
Cooper (Black Boy Fly, Alice Wonder) wrote and starred in the world premiere of Ain’t No Mo’ at The Public Theater in 2019. The satirical odyssey depicts a great exodus of Black Americans. During the pandemic, the theatre artist received a Steinberg Playwright Award and created the short film Mama Got a Cough, starring Tony nominees Danielle Brooks and Da'Vine Joy Randolph.
Grays (Warriors Don’t Cry, Last Night and the Night Before) wrote and starred in the world premiere of Where We Stand in 2020 at the WP Theater. During the pandemic, the theatre artist joined the Geffen Playhouse’s The Writers' Room 2020–2021 cycle and received The New York Community Trust’s Helen Merrill Award for Playwriting, along with a Lilly Award. A virtual production of Where We Stand will debut later this month as part of Steppenwolf’s NOW season.