The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, established in 1978, is given annually to recognize women who have written works of outstanding quality for the English-speaking theatre. The Prize is administered in Houston, London and New York by a board of directors who choose six Judges each year, three from each side of the Atlantic.
The Prize currently awards $50,000 annually to the Finalists: Winner- $25,000, Special Commendation-$5,000,and other Finalists- $2,500. Finalists are the top ten plays. In addition, the Winner receives a signed and numbered Willem de Kooning print made especially for the award. The Special Commendation is given at the discretion of the Judges.
Each year, a specified list of professional theatres throughout the English-speaking world is invited to submit plays for consideration. Plays are received in September, and the award ceremony is held in February or March. Plays must be full-length. Plays are eligible whether or not they have been produced, but any premiere production must have occurred within the preceding calendar year. Previous winners are not eligible.
Scripts receive multiple readings by an international reading committee, resulting in the selection of 10 Finalists. All six judges for the Prize read every Finalist.
Our permanent list of Finalists, numbering well over 300 plays, has become an important resource for theatres interested in new work. As a direct result of being Finalists, many playwrights have received productions, grants and public recognition. The Prize has motivated women to write for the theatre, and has also fostered the interchange of plays between the United States and Britain, Ireland and other English-speaking countries. It has anticipated later recognition. Seven Finalists have subsequently won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the only women to be so honored since the founding of the Blackburn Prize. The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize is now firmly established as a highly regarded international competition. There is every indication that it will continue to grow.