Playwrights Carlyle Brown, Mia Chung, Aleshea Harris, Michael R. Jackson, and Daniel Alexander Jones are the 2019 winners of The New York Community Trust’s Helen Merrill Award for Playwriting. The award, which is named after the late theatrical agent Helen Merrill, comes with a no-strings-attached $30,000 prize.
The playwrights were selected by an advisory committee comprised of leaders in the American theatre (Emily Morse, Niegel Smith, Lisa McNulty, Raplh Peña, and Stephanie Ybarra), and will be presented with the awards in New York City June 27.
“Each one of the Helen Merrill Award recipients has demonstrated dedication to, and exceptional talent for, live event storytelling,” said Morse, the chair of the advisory committee. “They are boundary breaking and category defying artists.”
Brown is a writer-performer and artistic director of Carlyle Brown & Company, based in Minneapolis. His plays include The African Company Presents Richard III, The Little Tommy Parker Celebrated Colored Minstrel Show, Buffalo Hair, The Beggars' Strike, The Negro of Peter the Great, Pure Confidence, A Big Blue Nail, Dartmoor Prison, and others.
Chung's plays include Catch as Catch Can, seen Off-Broadway in 2018 and scheduled for production at Steppenwolf in Chicago next season, as well as You for Me for You, seen at London's Royal Court (London), the National Theatre Company of Korea (Seoul), and Woolly Mammoth Theatre in Washington D.C.
Harris is a playwright, performer, and educator. Her play Is God Is was the winner of the 2016 Relentless Award, an Obie Award for playwriting in 2017, and was a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. Her play What to Send Up When It Goes Down debuted to critical acclaim Off-Broadway last year.
Jackson's musicals include White Girl in Danger and A Strange Loop, which is currently receiving its world premiere at Playwrights Horizons. His awards include a Jonathan Larson Grant, the Lincoln Center Emerging Artist Award, ASCAP Harold Adamson Award, and the Whiting Award.
Jones’ plays and performance works include Black Light (Public Theater, Greenwich House Theater), Duat (Soho Rep.), An Integrator’s Manual (La MaMa), Bright Now Beyond (Salvage Vanguard), and Radiate (Soho Rep. and National Tour). His alter-ego, Jomama Jones, will release the album, Anew, in 2019. Jones is a Guggenheim Fellow, and received the Doris Duke Artist Award, the Alpert Award in the Arts, and a Creative Capital grant.