2019 SUSAN SMITH BLACKBURN PRIZE
AWARDED TO JACKIE SIBBLIES DRURY FOR FAIRVIEW
Dazzling and Ruthless.
A glorious, scary reminder of the unmatched power
of live theater to rattle, roil and shake us wide awake.
The New York Times
The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize has done more than any
other single force to get plays by women collected and
celebrated, but more importantly produced.
Marsha Norman, 1983 Winner for 'night Mother
The 2019 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize has been awarded to U.S. playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury for her play Fairview. Awarded annually since 1977, The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize recognizes women from around the world who have written works of outstanding quality for the English-speaking theatre. On March 4th, the transatlantic theatre community gathered at Shakespeare's Globe in London to honor Drury and the 9 Finalists. The Winner, Jackie Sibblies Drury, was awarded a cash prize of $25,000, and a signed print by renowned artist Willem de Kooning, created especially for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. Each of the additional Finalists received an award of $5,000.
Fairview was co-nominated for The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize by Berkeley Repertory Theatre and Soho Rep, which co-commissioned the play. Fairview premiered with sold-out runs at both theatres in 2018. The Soho Rep production extended 3 times, and is moving to Brooklyn's Theatre For A New Audience in June. It will receive its U.K. premiere at the Young Vic in November. The play was lauded in the "best theatre of 2018" lists of The New York Times, New York Magazine, Time Magazine, The New Yorker, American Theatre, Buzz Feed, Los Angeles Times, and Time Out New York.
In Fairview, the Frasier family is gearing up for Grandma’s birthday, and Beverly needs this dinner to be perfect. Plus, the radio’s on the fritz, her sister Jasmine is drinking, her husband Dayton isn’t helping, her brother Tyrone might not show up at all, and her daughter Keisha is being a typical teenager. As Beverly’s hostess-neurosis begins to get the better of her while her family acts like family, Keisha’s adolescent malaise starts to seem like maybe it could be something else. (Description from the TFNA/Soho Rep transfer announcement).
Fairview has been universally praised for its innovative narrative strategy. "On its face, “Fairview” is about an extended black family preparing for an important dinner. The tone starts off light and the plot stays within the confines of a family comedy. But as the play progresses, the mood shifts and the assumptions it invites are turned on their heads.....You begin watching by feeling mildly amused, then uneasy, then annoyed, then unsettled. And then abruptly you’re free-falling down a rabbit hole." The New York Times.
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 450 plays have been honored as Finalists of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. Many of the Winners have gone on to receive other top honors, including Olivier, Lilly, Evening Standard and Tony Awards for Best Play. Ten Susan Smith Blackburn Finalist plays have subsequently won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama. The Prize has also fostered an interchange of plays between the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and other English-speaking countries.
Each year artistic directors and prominent professionals in the theatre throughout the English-speaking world are invited to submit plays for consideration. In addition to the U.S., the U.K. and Ireland, new plays have been submitted from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Zimbabwe and India. Each script receives multiple readings by members of an international reading committee that selects ten Finalists. An international panel of six judges then selects the winning play.
Judges for the 2019 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize are: Michael Buffong (U.K.) Artistic Director of the Talawa Theatre Company; Maria Goyanes (U.S.) Artistic Director of the Woolly Mammoth Theatre; Tony and Olivier Award-winning stage director Marianne Elliott, OBE (U.K.); Jennifer Haley (U.S.), playwright and winner of the 2011 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for The Nether, and celebrated stage, television and film actors, Tamsin Greig (U.K.) and Marin Ireland (U.S.).
Over 160 plays were submitted for consideration this year. The submitting theatres of the 2019 Finalists are: The Almeida Theatre, New York Theatre Workshop, Ojai Playwrights Conference, the National Theatre, Playful Productions, the Royal Court, South Coast Repertory and Two River Theatre.
The list of 2019 Finalists for The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize includes
72 miles to go... by Hilary Bettis (U.S.), Cambodian Rock Band by Lauren Yee (U.S.), ear for eye by debbie tucker green (U.K.), How to Defend Yourself by Lily Padilla (U.S.), Sanctuary City by Martyna Majok (U.S.), Stories by Nina Raine (U.K.), The Phlebotomist by Ella Road (U.K.), The Writer by Ella Hickson (U.K.), and What the Constitution Means to Me by Heidi Schreck (U.S.).
Alice Birch won the 2018 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize with her play, Anatomy of a Suicide. The 2017 Winner, Lynn Nottage's Sweat, is set to transfer to London's West End, after a sold-out run at the Donmar Warehouse. Other recipients of the Prize include Caryl Churchill’s Serious Money, Annie Baker's The Flick, Lucy Kirkwood's Chimerica, Paula Vogel's How I Learned to Drive, Chloe Moss’s This Wide Night, Jennifer Haley's The Nether, Rona Munro's Bold Girls, Judith Thompson’s Palace of the End, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti's Behzti (Dishonour), Sarah Ruhl's The Clean House, Dael Orlandersmith's Yellowman, Julia Cho’s The Language Archive, Timberlake Wertenbaker's Three Birds Alighting on a Field, Charlotte Jones' Humble Boy, Naomi Wallace’s One Flea Spare, Wendy Wassertein's The Heidi Chronicles, Moira Buffini's Silence and Marsha Norman's 'night Mother.
Jackie Sibblies Drury is a Brooklyn-based playwright. Her plays include Fairview, Really, Social Creatures and We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as South West Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915. Drury’s plays have been presented by Soho Rep, Berkeley Rep, New York City Players and Abrons Arts Center, Victory Gardens, Trinity Rep, Woolly Mammoth, Undermain Theatre, InterAct Theatre, Company One and The Bush Theatre in London, among others. Her work has been developed at The Bellagio Center, Sundance, The Ground Floor at Berkeley Rep, The Civilians, PRELUDE, Manhattan Theatre Club, Ars Nova, Soho Rep, the Writer/Director Lab, New York Theatre Workshop, PRELUDE, The Bushwick Starr, The LARK, and The MacDowell Colony. She has received many awards, including the Windham-Campbell Literary Prize in Drama, a Van Lier Fellowship at New Dramatists, a Jerome Fellowship at The LARK, a Helen Merrill Playwriting Award, and a United States Artists Gracie Fellowship. Her latest play, Marys Seacole, opened at LCT3 this February.