Judith Thompson Wins 2008 Blackburn Prize for Palace of the End

News   Judith Thompson Wins 2008 Blackburn Prize for Palace of the End
The 2008 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize has been awarded to Canadian playwright Judith Thompson for her acclaimed play, Palace of the End, marking the first time a Canadian writer has received the playwriting award's highest honor.

Thompson received $20,000 and a signed and numbered print by artist Willem de Kooning at a special 30th Anniversary ceremony on March 10 at the Alley Theatre in Houston, where Blackburn first became involved in theatre.

In addition to the top prize, Special Commendations of $2,500 each were presented to playwrights Lisa McGee (Northern Ireland) for Girls and Dolls; Jenny Schwartz (U.S.) for God's Ear; and Polly Stenham (England) for That Face.

Alley Theatre artistic director Gregory Boyd, a previous judge for the prize, presented the award to Thompson, followed by comments from former Susan Smith Blackburn Prize winner and judge Marsha Norman.

In memory and honor of Wendy Wasserstein, who was intimately connected to the Prize as a former winner, judge and director, Alley resident company member Annalee Jeffries performed a monologue from The Heidi Chronicles in addition to reading an excerpt from Palace of the End.

Thompson's lauded Palace of the End recently concluded a limited engagement at Canadian Stage Company in Toronto. It will transfer Off-Broadway when the Epic Theatre Ensemble's New York premiere production begins performances at the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre at Playwrights Horizons in June. The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize is given annually to recognize women from around the world who have written works of outstanding quality for the English-speaking theatre.

According to the Blackburn organizers, "Palace of the End is a triptych of monologues from real-life characters who have all been gravely impacted by the War in Iraq. This is a theatrical Guernica, with each monologue taking the audience on a harrowing but somehow illuminating journey into the heart of this conflict."

Thompson's plays include Habitat (Susan Smith Blackburn Prize finalist), Enoch Arden at the Hope Shelter, Capture Me, Perfect Pie, Sled, Lion in the Streets, I Am Yours, White Biting Dog and The Crackwalker.

Here's how the Blackburn organizers characterize the Special Commendation recipients:

  • Girls and Dolls "is a striking play from Northern Ireland about two women and the childhood tragedy they'll never be allowed to forget. For Emma and Clare, 1980 was the summer they met at the swings, the summer they built a tree house and stole from Dennis O'Donnell's shop. The summer a young mother and her infant daughter moved into number 14...Now in their thirties, Emma and Clare struggle to come to terms with the chain of devastating events that began that summer, to understand what they did, what they became and how they were judged."
  • God's Ear "is an original, deeply moving, and wildly eccentric new play about a young couple who struggles with the loss of their child."
  • That Face "is a compelling portrayal of an affluent family in freefall. Mia is at boarding school. She has access to drugs. They are Martha's. Henry has dropped out of school. He has access to alcohol. From Martha. Martha controls their lives. Martha is their mother. That Face is a powerful and darkly comic exploration of children who become parents to their parents." The international panel of judges for the 30th Annual Susan Smith Blackburn Prize Awards included 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, 2004 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize winner).

    The 2008 finalists for The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize also included Linda Brogan for Black Crows (England), Lydia Diamond for Stick Fly (U.S.), Bryony Lavery for Stockholm (England), Linda McLean for strangers, babies (Scotland), Julie Marie Myatt for Boats on a River (U.S.) and Victoria Stewart for Hardball (U.S.). Each of the additional finalists received $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. 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.

    For more information, visit www.blackburnprize.org.

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