NEW YORK CITY |  Amy Herzog.  For Belleville. It’s just her season.

On March 17th, Cynthia Nixon announced the 2013 winner of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, a prestigious playwriting award that goes annually to the best new English-language play.  And there’s a whole number involved: the Prize is celebrating its 35th year of existence. The 35th awards presentation ceremony was held in Houston at the Alley Theatre.

The 2012-2013 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize Winner will be awarded $25,000, and will also receive a signed print by the artist Willem de Kooning. Each of the additional Finalists will receive $2,500.

The 10 finalists for the 2012-2013 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, chosen from over 100 nominated plays, are the following:

Karen Ardiff (Ireland), The Goddess Of Liberty; Annie Baker (U.S.),The Flick; Jean Betts (New Zealand), Genesis Falls; Deborah Bruce (U.K.),The Distance; Katherine Chandler (U.K.),Before It Rains; Amy Herzog (U.S.), Belleville; Dawn King (U.K.), Foxfinder; Laura Marks (U.S.), Bethany; Jenny Schwartz(U.S.), Somewhere Fun; and Francine Volpe (U.S.)The Good Mother.

Nixon is one of the six judges this year. She joins Mandy Greenfield, artistic producer of the Manhattan Theatre Club and award-winning Broadway director Michael Wilson from the U.S. Tje U.K. judges are Laura Collier, Head of the National Theatre Studio; Matt Wolf, London editor of broadway.com, and London theatre critic of the International Herald Tribune; and BAFTA Award-winning actor and writer, Susan Wooldridge.

Susan Smith Blackburn, a noted American actress and writer who lived in London during the last 15 years of her life, died in 1977 at the age of 42. More than 300 plays have been chosen as finalists since the Prize was instituted in 1977.  — randy gener

An original Willem DeKooning lithograph: the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize takes this artwork home
An original Willem DeKooning lithograph: the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize takes this artwork home

ABOUT THE FINALISTS

Karen Ardiff (Ireland), The Goddess of Liberty

Submitted by Guna Nua Theatre Co.

Karen Ardiff is an actor and writer living in Dublin. As an actor she has been nominated four times by the Irish Times theatre awards, winning best actress for Hugh Leonard’s Love in the Title at the Abbey Theatre. Her first novel The Secret of my Face has been translated into Chinese and Albanian and her first play, The Goddess of Liberty, was produced in Dublin’s Project Arts Centre by Guna Nua Theatre Company in 2012.

Annie Baker (U.S.), The Flick

Submitted by Playwrights Horizons

Annie Baker’s full-length plays include Circle Mirror Transformation (Playwrights Horizons, Obie Award for Best New American Play, Drama Desk nomination for Best Play), The Aliens (Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, Obie Award for Best New American Play), Body Awareness (Atlantic Theater Company, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nominations for Best Play/Emerging Playwright), and an adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, for which she also designed the costumes (Soho Rep). Her plays have been produced regionally at South Coast Rep, the Guthrie, Victory Gardens, Artists Rep, Huntington Theater Company, Seattle Rep, Studio Theatre in DC, Hyde Park Theatre, Kansas City Rep, Marin Theater Company, A Red Orchid, and over 100 other theaters across the country. Her work has also been produced internationally in England, Australia, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Venezuela, Mexico, Latvia, and Russia. She is a Residency Five playwright at the Signature Theater and a member of New Dramatists, MCC’s Playwrights Coalition and EST. Recent honors include a USA Artists Collins Fellowship, New York Drama Critics Circle Award, Lilly Award, Time Warner Storytelling Fellowship, Yaddo fellowship, and a Master Artist Residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts. A published anthology of her work, THE VERMONT PLAYS, is available from TCG books. Upcoming projects include the world premiere of her play The Flick at Playwrights Horizons in February/March 2013 and productions of Circle Mirror Transformation at the Royal Court and the Moscow Art Theater.

Jean Betts (New Zealand) Genesis Falls

Submitted by Fortune Theatre

Jean has been a freelance actor, director, and more recently, playwright, script advisor and NZ play publisher, most of her life. Most of her work has been in Wellington, but she has spent some time abroad, acting and directing in Europe.

She’s completed seven full-length plays to date, and several one acters. Two plays, The Collective (a dramatization of ‘Brecht & Co’ by John Fuegi) and now Genesis Falls, are Susan Smith Blackburn Prize finalists. Several of her plays have been included on college and university curricula, in particular Ophelia Thinks Harder, the most popular. She has had a number of local awards and commissions, and a smattering of overseas productions; two have been adapted for radio, and five have been published. She is currently working towards a production of her most recent play, The Man from Tamil Nadu.

Deborah Bruce (U.K.) The Distance

Submitted by The National Theatre

Deborah has been a theatre director for 20 years and her work includes productions at the Globe in London, the Royal Court Theatre and Theatre Clwyd. She has now started writing and wrote her first stage play, Godchild in 2010, and The Distance in 2012.

 She had a Writers’ Attachment at the National Theatre Studio in 2012 during which she worked on her third stage play, In Kind. She is under commission to The National Theatre.

Katherine Chandler, Before It Rains

Submitted by Sherman Cymru

Co-produced in 2012 by Bristol Old Vic and Sherman Cymru.

Katherine is a Welsh playwright who has had plays produced by Sherman Cymru, Bristol Old Vic, Theatr Nan’Og, Spectacle Theatre and Dirty Protest. Katherine’s play Before It Rains was produced in 2012 by Bristol Old Vic and Sherman Cymru. The play subsequently went on to win the Writers Guild Playwright award at the Theatre Critics of Wales Awards and in 2013 is being read in Manhattan Theatre Club, New York.

In the Autumn of 2012, Katherine was delighted to win the BBC and National Theatre Wales inaugural Wales Drama Award with her new play Parallel Lines. Katherine is currently under commission to National Theatre Wales and is developing a script with the BBC. She has recently had the privilege of spending two months at the Royal National Theatre, England on a studio attachment.

Amy Herzog (U.S.) Belleville

Submitted by New York Theatre Workshop and Yale Repertory Theatre

Amy Herzog’s plays include After the Revolution (Williamstown Theater Festival; Playwrights Horizons; Lilly Award), 4000 Miles (Lincoln Center; Obie Award for the Best New American Play), The Great God Pan (Playwrights Horizons), and Belleville (Yale Repertory Theater; upcoming, New York Theatre Workshop). She has received commissions from the Yale Rep, Steppenwolf, and Playwrights Horizons. Amy is a recipient of the Whiting Writers Award, the Helen Merrill, the Joan and Joseph Cullman Award for Extraordinary Creativity, and the New York Times Outstanding Playwright Award. She is a Usual Suspect at NYTW and an alumna of Youngblood, Play Group at Ars Nova, and the SoHo Rep Writer/Director Lab. She has taught playwriting at Bryn Mawr and Yale. MFA, Yale School of Drama.

Dawn King (U.K.), Foxfinder

Submitted by West Yorkshire Playhouse

Dawn’s play Foxfinder won the Papatango writing competition in 2011 and was produced at the Finborough Theatre where it was critically acclaimed and sold out. Foxfinder won Dawn the Most Promising Playwright award at the Off West End Awards 2012 and she was Pearson writer in residence at the Finborough for 2012. She was one of ten writers chosen for the BBC Writersroom 10 scheme in 2012 and through this received a seed commission and residency at West Yorkshire Playhouse where she wrote Ciphers. Ciphers is under option to Out of Joint Theatre Company with a production planned for later this year.Dawn is currently participating in the prestigious Channel Four television writing scheme, 4 Screenwriting 2013, and was chosen from over sixteen hundred applicants. Dawn writes regularly for BBC Radio and her latest work, an adaptation of a New Testament parable, was on Radio 3 in December 2012.Previous theatre work includes: Water Sculptures/ZOO double bill – The Union Theatre, Face Value – Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, and Doghead Boy and Sharkmouth Go To Ikea – The Junction, Cambridge. Dawn was a member of both the Soho Theatre and Royal Court Theatre Young Writers’ Programmes and has an MA distinction in Writing for Performance from Goldsmiths University, London.

Laura Marks (U.S.) Bethany

Submitted by The Women’s Project

Laura Marks is the author of Bethany, which premiered off-Broadway at City Center Stage II in January 2013 (produced by the Women’s Project, directed by Gaye Taylor Upchurch, starring America Ferrera). Bethany won the Leah Ryan Prize for Emerging Women Writers, was published in the UK in Methuen’s American Next Wave anthology, and was chosen by John Guare as runner-up for Yale’s David C. Horn Prize. Other plays include Mine (Princess Grace finalist; upcoming production at the Gift Theatre, Chicago) and Gather at the River. Ms. Marks recently graduated from Juilliard’s playwriting program and became a member of New Dramatists. Other honors include a 2012 Helen Merrill Award, a 2013 award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers and a two-year residency in the Public Theater’s Emerging Writers Group. Her plays have been developed at the Public, Juilliard, the Women’s Project, Manhattan Theatre Club, the Black Dahlia, the Royal Exchange Theatre (UK), HighTide Festival Theatre (UK), the Wilma Theater, the Lark, Steppenwolf, Partial Comfort, Prospect Theater, Naked Angels, Synchronicity, Reverie Productions et al. and she currently holds a commission from South Coast Repertory. She’s a native of Kentucky, now living in New York. Proud member of the Dramatists Guild.

Jenny Schwartz (U.S.), Somewhere Fun

Submitted by Clubbed Thumb

Jenny Schwartz’s plays include God’s Ear, Somewhere Fun, and Cause For Alarm. Somewhere Fun will receive its world premiere at the Vineyard Theatre in the spring of 2013, directed by Anne Kauffman. God’s Ear was produced in New York by New Georges and the Vineyard Theatre, also directed by Anne Kauffman. God’s Ear has been produced nationally and internationally from Lisbon, Portugal to Boise, Idaho to Sydney, Australia. Jenny is the 2012 recipient of the Frederick Loewe Award for Musical Theatre for the development of her musical Iowa, which she is writing with composer Todd Almond. Iowa is being developed at Williamstown Theatre Festival and Sundance/MassMoCA. Other awards and honors include the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Benjamin H. Danks Award in Drama, a Kesselring honor, a Susan Smith Blackburn special commendation (for God’s Ear), two grants from Lincoln Center’s Lecomte du Nuoy Foundation, and Soho Rep’s Dorothy Streslin Playwriting Fellowship. This is her second season co-chairing the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab with director Ken Rus Schmoll. Jenny received an MFA in Theatre Directing from Columbia University and is a graduate of Juilliard’s playwriting program.

Francine Volpe (U.S.), The Good Mother

Submitted by The New Group

Francine Volpe is a New York City based playwright and screenwriter. Her play, The Good Mother (with Gretchen Mol, directed by Scott Elliot) is currently a finalist for The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. Other plays include: The Given (directed by Michael Imperioli, also a finalist for The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize), Late Fragment (Studio Dante and The New Company in London), Sweethearts (The New Company) and Giftbox (stageFARM). Other plays have received readings and workshops at A.C.T., Arena Stage, Naked Angels, Rattlestick Theater, SoHo Rep and WET. Francine is a graduate of the Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program at the Juilliard School where studied with Marsha Norman and Christopher Durang. She has twice received Le Comte du Nouy grants. Her screenplays include Queenie and I’ll Be Your Mirror. She teaches screenwriting and playwriting at Sarah Lawrence College, ESPA, Stella Adler Academy in Los Angeles and privately throughout the country. She is a member of New Dramatists.

Collected prize-winning Susan Smith Blackburn Prize
Collected prize-winning Susan Smith Blackburn Prize
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