Playwright Darren M. Canady Wins Theatre Critics' Osborn Award | Playbill

News Playwright Darren M. Canady Wins Theatre Critics' Osborn Award
The American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) announced Darren M. Canady as recipient of its 2012 M. Elizabeth Osborn New Play Award for an emerging playwright. The award will be presented at ATCA's June conference in Chicago.

The Osborn Award recognizes Canady's play, Brothers of the Dust, which premiered in May 2011 at Congo Square Theatre Company in Chicago, directed by Daniel Bryant.

Canady is an assistant professor in the University of Kansas English department who often writes about the African-American experience in the Midwest during the tumultuous changes of the second half of the 20th century. Brothers of the Dust, according to ATCA, "looks at a farm family in 1958 Arkansas: the brother who stayed to work the land and is discouraging his son from attending college, the wastrel whose entrepreneurial dreams imploded, and the poet pursuing a writing career in Chicago. As secrets emerge, the potential for discovery of oil on the family homestead pits each against the other in a clash of values."

Canady wrote on his university's website: "I grew up hearing, seeing, and listening to family stories that were only told if they could be performed with as much blood, life, exuberance, and expressiveness as possible. Many of these stories grew out of personal journeys experienced against the backdrop of Jim Crow, the Great Migration, and the Civil Rights Movement…. [I] find myself consistently returning to investigations of family, history, and social change in the ever-changing landscape of the American heartland."

Canady received a B.A. in creative writing from Carnegie Mellon University, an M.F.A. from the Tisch School of the Arts, and an Artists' Diploma from The Juilliard School's Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program. His plays, the book of a musical and an opera libretto have been produced in Atlanta, Pittsburgh, his native Topeka and small theatres in New York, many while he was still studying for his degrees.

He has held residencies at America-in-Play, the Dorothy Strelsin New American Writers Group and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. His work has been recognized with the Kendeda Graduate Playwriting Award from the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta and the Lecomte du Nouy Prize from Juilliard. ATCA's Osborn Award "is designed to recognize the work of an author who has not yet achieved national stature," according to ATCA.

In 2011, the Osborn Award went to Cori Thomas for When January Feels Like Summer. For previous winners, go to


The award was established in 1993 to honor the memory of Theatre Communications Group and American Theatre play editor M. Elizabeth Osborn. The $1,000 prize is funded by the Foundation of the American Theatre Critics Association. Honorees are recognized in The Best Plays Theater Yearbook, edited by Jeffrey Eric Jenkins, the annual chronicle of United States theatre. Making the selection from plays nominated by ATCA members is the ATCA New Plays Committee, chaired by Wm. F. Hirschman. That committee also selects honorees for the Harold and Mimi Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award; its 2012 awards will be announced March 31 at the Humana Festival of New American Plays.

The American Theatre Critics Association was founded in 1974 and works to raise critical standards and public awareness of critics' functions and responsibilities. The only national association of professional theatre critics, it has several hundred members who work for newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations and websites across the United States. ATCA is also a national section of the International Association of Theatre Critics, a UNESCO-affiliated organization that sponsors seminars and congresses worldwide.

ATCA also presents the Francesca Primus Prize, funded by the Francesca Ronnie Primus Foundation, honoring outstanding contributions to the American theater by female artists who have not yet achieved national prominence. Annually it makes a recommendation for the Regional Theater Tony Award presented by the American Theatre Wing/Broadway League and votes on inductions into the Theater Hall of Fame.

For more information on ATCA, visit

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