The 2023 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize was awarded March 27 at Playwrights Horizons in NYC to Sarah Mantell for their play In the Amazon Warehouse Parking Lot. The honor, given annually since 1978, recognizes women+ (including trans and non-binary people) playwrights in the English-speaking theatre.
The work, which Mantell describes as "a play about queer aging, capitalism, campfires, and falling in love as the world ends," is about a group of friends, all over the age of 50, living near the end of the world traveling from warehouse to warehouse looking for address labels for the people they've lost.
"When I wrote this play, my wildest dream was that it would become something my generation of actors could age towards," says Mantell in a statement. "There are so few roles for women, trans, and nonbinary actors in the second half of their careers when many of them are just hitting the peak of their ability. Of all the gifts that The Susan Smith Blackburn has given me, perhaps the biggest one is that it suddenly seems like that wild dream is possible."
The work was nominated by Playwright Horizons, who also commissioned the play. The Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation supported the commission with a grant, and the play was also developed through residencies at MacDowell, Yaddo, and Hedgebrook. This year's panel of judges included past Blackburn Prize winner Julia Cho, director Rebecca Frecknall, director-choreographer Raja Feather Kelly, producer Eleanor Lloyd, performer-director-writer Lucian Msamati, and performer Amy Ryan.
Finalists for the honor were Anupama Chandrasekhar's The Father and the Assassin, Maryam Hamidi's Moonset, Karen Hartman's New Golden Age, Katie Holly's Her Hand on the Trellis, Kimber Lee's saturday, a.k. payne's Amani, Francisca Da Silveira's Pay No Worship, Zadie Smith's The Wife of Willesden, and Ruby Thomas's Linck & Mülhahn.