Lavery, Diamond, Stewart, Thompson Among Ten Susan Smith Blackburn Prize Finalists

News   Lavery, Diamond, Stewart, Thompson Among Ten Susan Smith Blackburn Prize Finalists
Finalists have been announced for The 2008 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, the prestigious playwriting award that recognizes women playwrights writing for the English-speaking theatre. The annual award's 30th anniversary is this year.
Susan Smith Blackburn
Susan Smith Blackburn

The ten finalists, chosen from 92 submitted plays, include Linda Brogan (Black Crows - U.K.), Lydia Diamond (Stick Fly - U.S.), Bryony Lavery (Stockholm - U.K.), Lisa McGee (Girls and Dolls - Northern Ireland), Linda McLean (Strangers, Babies - Scotland), Julie Marie Myatt (Boats on a River - U.S.), Jenny Schwartz (God's Ear - U.S.), Polly Stenham (That Face - U.K.), Victoria Stewart (Hardball - U.S.) and Judith Thompson (Palace of the End - Canada).

The 30th annual Susan Smith Blackburn Prize awards will be celebrated with a special ceremony in March in Houston, TX, at the Alley Theatre, where Blackburn first became involved in theatre.

The to-be-named winner will be awarded $20,000, and will also receive a signed and numbered print by renowned artist Willem de Kooning, created especially for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. Special Commendations of $5,000 may be given at the discretion of the judges, and each of the additional finalists receives $1,000.

"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," according to the awards organizers. "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 60 of them are frequently produced in the United States today. Six Blackburn finalist plays have gone on to win the Pulitzer Prize in Drama. The authors of those plays, Margaret Edson, Beth Henley, Marsha Norman, Suzan-Lori Parks, Paula Vogel and Wendy Wasserstein are the only women to have done so since the Blackburn Prize was first established."

The international panel of judges for the 30th annual Susan Smith Blackburn Prize awards includes Long Wharf Theatre artistic director Gordon Edelstein, Golden Globe and Emmy Award winning actress Edie Falco, Tony Award winning producer Thelma Holt (A Doll's House), British stage director and television producer Francis Matthews, Olivier and Tony Award winning actress Janet McTeer (A Doll's House) and playwright Sarah Ruhl (Pulitzer prize finalist for The Clean House). In 2007, in an unprecedented decision by the judges, four playwrights won Susan Smith Blackburn Special Commendations rather than one primary prize: Lucy Caldwell for Leaves, Sheila Callaghan for Dead City, Stella Feehily for O Go My Man and Abbie Spallen for Pumpgirl. (It was the second time in 29 years that a single top prize was not given. In 2006, playwrights Amelia Bullmore and Elizabeth Kuti split the Blackburn Prize award for Mammals and The Sugar Wife, respectively.)

According to organizers, "Each year artistic directors and prominent professionals in the theatre throughout the English-speaking world are asked to submit plays. In addition to the U.S., the U.K. and Ireland, new plays have been submitted from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India. Plays are eligible whether or not they have been produced, but any premiere production must have occurred within the preceding year. Each script is read by a minimum of three members of an international reading committee that then selects ten to twelve finalists. Finalists' plays are read by all six judges."

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