The 2017 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize has been awarded to U.S. playwright Clare Barron for her play Dance Nation.  On March 6, New York's Playwrights Horizons hosted a Ceremony honoring the Winner and Finalists of the Prize and celebrating the 39th Anniversary of the international prize, which is based in Houston.

The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize is awarded annually to recognize women from around the world who have written works of outstanding quality for the English-speaking theatre. Artistic Director of LCT3 and one of this year’s Blackburn Prize Judges, Evan Cabnet, presented Clare Barron with an award of $25,000 and a signed and numbered print by artist Willem de Kooning.

Dance Nation chronicles the trials and tribulations of a pre-teen dance competition.  Playwrights Horizons, which will produce the world premiere of Dance Nation in April of 2018, describes it as a "raucous pageant of ambition and ferocity". The play utilizes actors of all ages and races to play the young girls. Speaking earlier this year about the play, Barron stated,  "I wrote this play because I wanted to explore ambition and how that intersects with gender... More literally, I was inspired by Dance Moms — a horrific reality TV show where a grown woman verbally abuses and bullies pre-teen girls and everyone’s kind of okay with it."  Dance Nation was a co-winner (with Sarah Delappe's The Wolves, a Blackburn Prize Finalist in 2016) for The 2016 Relentless Award given by the American Playwriting Foundation in honor of Philip Seymour Hoffman.

The 2017 Finalists for The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, chosen from over 150 plays, are Zinnie Harris (U.K.) This Restless House, Amy Herzog (U.S.) Mary Jane, Charlene James (U.K.) Cuttin' It, Charley Miles (U.K.) Blackthorn, Dominique Morisseau (U.S.) Pipeline, Lizzie Nunnery (U.K.) Narvik, Somalia Seaton (U.K.) Fall of the Kingdom, Rise of the Foot Soldier, Jen Silverman (U.S.) The Moors, and Penelope Skinner (U.K.) Linda.  Each Finalist receives an award of $5000.

In addition to Mr. Cabnet, the international panel of Judges for the 2017 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize includes, from the U.S., playwright/director Robert O'Hara and multi-award-winning actor, Sarah Paulson.  The U.K. Judges for 2017 are director Maria Aberg, actor Nina Sosanya, and writer and dramaturg, Jenny Worton.

The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, co-founded by Susan’s sister, Emilie Kilgore, and Susan’s husband, William Blackburn, honors an outstanding new English-language play by a woman each year. The Houston-based 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. Over 390 plays have been honored as Finalists since the Prize was founded in 1977.

Many of the Winners of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize have gone on to receive other top honors, including Olivier, Lilly, and Tony Awards for Best Play.  Eight Blackburn Finalist plays have subsequently won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama. These plays also benefit from the interest the Prize generates, often leading to productions at theatre companies throughout the U.S., Canada and the U.K.

The 2016 Winner of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, Sweat by Lynn Nottage, is set to open on Broadway on March 26th.  Subsequent to winning the 2012-2013 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for The Flick, Annie Baker was honored with the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Steinberg Playwright Award. The 2013-2014 Winner of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, Chimerica by Lucy Kirkwood also won the U.K.'s Olivier Award for Best New Play and the Evening Standard Award for Best Play.

Each year artistic directors and prominent professionals in the theatre throughout the English-speaking world are asked to submit plays. In addition to the U.S., the U.K. and Ireland, new plays have been submitted from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India. Plays are eligible whether or not they have been produced, but any premiere production must have occurred within the preceding year. Each script receives multiple readings by members of an international reading committee that selects ten Finalists. All six Judges read each finalist’s play.

Over 150 plays were submitted for consideration this year.  The submitting theatres for the 2017 Finalists are Box of Tricks Theatre, Lincoln Center Theater, Manhattan Theatre Club, Playful Productions, The National Theatre of Scotland, The Playwrights Realm, The Royal Shakespeare Company, West Yorkshire Playhouse, and Yale Repertory Theatre.




Clare Barron is a playwright and performer from Wenatchee, Washington. Her plays include You Got Older (Page 73), directed by Anne Kauffman (Obie Award, Susan Smith Blackburn Finalist, Drama Desk Nominee, Kilroys List);  I’ll Never Love Again (The Bushwick Starr, NY Times & Time Out Critics’ Picks); Baby Screams Miracle (Woolly Mammoth, Clubbed Thumb Summerworks);  and Dance Nation, which recently co-won the inaugural Relentless Award established in honor of Philip Seymour Hoffman. She is the recipient of the 2014 Page 73 Playwriting Fellowship and the Paula Vogel Award at the Vineyard. She’s also a member of New Dramatists, and an Affiliated Artist with Target Margin and Masrah Ensemble in Beirut, Lebanon, where she played Mae in an Arabic-English production of Maria Irene Fornés’ Mud.


March 6, 2017