THE SUSAN SMITH BLACKBURN PRIZE 2023-24
PRESTIGIOUS INTERNATIONAL AWARD FOR WOMEN+ PLAYWRIGHTS ANNOUNCES FINALISTS
New York/London (February 5,2024) The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize today announces ten finalists for the prestigious playwriting award - the largest and oldest playwriting award recognizing women+ writers for plays of outstanding quality written for the English-speaking theatre.
The ten finalists, chosen from over 200 submitted plays, are:
Roxy Cook (UK-Russia) A Woman Walks into a Bank
April De Angelis (UK) The Divine Mrs S
Justice Hehir (US) The Dowagers
Rhianna Ilube (UK) Samuel Takes a Break...,In Male Dungeon No.5 After a Long But Generally Successful Day of Tours
Jasmine Naziha Jones (UK) Baghdaddy
Alex Lin (US) Chinese Republicans
Lenelle Moïse (US) K-I-S-S-I-N-G
Hannah Moscovitch (CAN) Red Like Fruit
a.k. payne (US) Love I Awethu Further
Ava Pickett (UK) 1536
The 2024 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize will announce the Winner at a celebration attended by writers, supporters, and artistic leaders in London at the Royal Court Theatre on March 11. The Winner will be awarded $25,000 and will also receive a signed and numbered print by renowned artist Willem de Kooning, created especially for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. A Special Commendation of $10,000 may be given at the discretion of the judges, and each Finalist will receive $5,000.
Prize Executive Director, Leslie Swackhamer said today, “We are thrilled to present the Prize at the Royal Court, a theatre with an incredible history of developing and producing brilliant new plays by women. This year’s finalists include three debut plays, and six playwrights who are new to our family of playwrights. Two playwrights were honored as finalists early in their careers, and have gone on to have brilliant careers. This is a vigorous and vital cohort, and we can’t wait to celebrate and honor their work.”
The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize honors the late American actor, feminist and writer Susan Smith Blackburn who lived in London during the last 15 years of her life. Founded in 1978, the Prize is awarded annually to celebrate women+ who have written works of outstanding quality for the English-speaking theatre. Over 500 plays have been honored as Finalists of the Prize and many have gone on to receive other top honors, including Olivier, Lilly, Evening Standard and Tony Awards for Best Play. Eleven Susan Smith Blackburn Finalist playwrights ave subsequently won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama. The Prize results in more productions of plays by women+ writers and fosters the interchange of plays between the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and other English-speaking countries.
Winners of the Prize include Annie Baker, Julia Cho, Caryl Churchill, Jackie Sibblies Drury, Katori Hall, Lucy Kirkwood, Marsha Norman, Lynn Nottage, Dael Orlandersmith, Lucy Prebble, Wendy Wasserstein, Timberlake Wertenbaker and Cheryl West.
The Process: Each year artistic directors and prominent professionals in the theatre throughout the English-speaking world are asked to submit plays. Over 400 theatres from North America, Africa, India, Australia, New Zealand and the UK serve as Source Theatres for the Prize. Plays are eligible regardless of whether they have been produced, but any premiere production must have occurred within the preceding year. Prior Winners are not eligible. Each script receives multiple readings by members of an international reading committee that then selects ten finalists. A panel of six judges then selects the winning play.
Past Judges of The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize constitute a Who’s Who of the English-speaking theatre and include Edward Albee, Eileen Atkins, Zoe Caldwell, Glenn Close, Harold Clurman, Colleen Dewhurst, Marianne Elliot, Ralph Fiennes, Greta Gerwig, John Guare, David Hare, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Tony Kushner, Marsha Norman, Joan Plowright, Indhu Rubasingham, Fiona Shaw, Tom Stoppard, Meryl Streep, Jessica Tandy, Paula Vogel, Wendy Wasserstein, and August Wilson among over 250 artists in the United States, England and Ireland.
The judges for the 2024 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize are:
Inua Ellams - UK award-winning poet, playwright and curator
Sarah Mantell -US playwright, winner of the 2023 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for In the Amazon Warehouse Parking Lot
April Matthis - US Obie-Award winning actor
Clare Perkins - UK star of stage and screen
Eric Ting - US Obie-Award winning director
Lyndsey Turner - UK Olivier-Winning director of stage and film
About the Finalists:
Roxy Cook, A Woman Walks Into A Bank-Submitted by Theatre503 (London)
Roxy is a half-British, half-Russian writer and director from London, working across theatre and TV. A Woman Walks Into A Bank is her first play and was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Playwriting 2021, longlisted for the Verity Bargate Award and Bruntwood Prize (both 2022), before winning the Theatre503 International Playwriting Award 2023. Roxy directed the premiere production later that year, which enjoyed a sold-out run and extended in a first for the venue. Roxy also is a script editor and development executive in television.
April De Angelis, The Divine Mrs S-Submitted by Hampstead Theatre (London)
April De Angelis is an acclaimed writer whose extensive theatre work includes: Infamous (Jermyn Street Theatre); Kerry Jackson (National Theatre); Saving Grace (RiversideStudios); Gin Craze! (Royal & Derngate Theatre); My Brilliant Friend, a dramatization of Elena Ferrantes’ epic family saga (Rose Theatre Kingston, National Theatre); The Village (Theatre Royal Stratford East); Frankenstein (Royal Exchange Manchester), 2018 Gastronauts (Royal Court); Jumpy (Royal Court/Duke of York’s Theatre); an adaptation of Wuthering Heights (Birmingham Rep); Wild East (Royal Court); A Laughing Matter (Out of Joint at National Theatre); A Warwickshire Testimony (RSC); The Positive Hour (Out of Joint at Hampstead Theatre); Playhouse Creatures (Old Vic Theatre, 1993; Susan Smith Blackburn Prize Finalist); The Life And Times Of Fanny Hill (The Old Fire Station); and Flight (Glyndebourne Opera). The Divine Mrs S will premiere at the Hampstead Theatre in March.
Justice Hehir, The Dowagers-Submitted by Ensemble Studio Theatre (NYC)
Justice is a playwright and doula whose work explores sexuality and resilience. She is a member of Youngblood at EST, a New Georges Affiliated Artist/Audrey Resident, a resident artist at the cell theatre, and a 2023/2024 Winterworks playwright at Clubbed Thumb/ECWG alum. Her plays have been developed with New York Theatre Workshop, Ensemble Studio Theatre, New Georges, and Clubbed Thumb. She received a Clubbed Thumb Constitution Commission from Heidi Schreck and the producers of "What the Constitution Means to Me" in 2021, and with the support of New Georges co-authored “the wish: a manual for a last-ditch effort to save abortion in the United States through theatre,” a free, downloadable play about abortion rights post-Roe (winner of the 2023 A is For Playwriting Prize).
Rhianna Ilube, Samuel Takes a Break..., In Male Dungeon No.5 After a Long But Generally Successful Day of Tours-Submitted by The Yard Theatre (London)
Rhianna is a playwright and curator from London. Her debut play, Samuel Takes A Break..., was Highly Commended for the Soho Theatre’s Verity Bargate Award, shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Playwriting, and is being produced at The Yard Theatre in London in Feb 2024. She is a member of the Soho Theatre's 'Soho Six’ and is an alumni of the Royal Court's Intro to Playwriting Group, the Oxford Playhouse Playmakers and Omnibus Theatre Engine Room. Rhianna was previously Associate Director of Coney, an award-winning UK interactive theatre company, where she co-created '1884', to premiere in Spring 2024. She is also a film programmer for BFI Flare, Europe's largest LGBTQIA+ film festival.
Alex Lin, Chinese Republicans-Submitted by Second Stage Theater
Alex Lin hails from New Jersey and is a writer and actor. Plays developed at Second Stage, Roundabout, NYTW, MTC, the O'Neill, South Coast Rep, Playwrights Realm, Central Square Theatre, and Theater Mu. Guest lectures at CMU, Rutgers, and Union College. As an actor, Actors Theatre of Louisville (The Wolves), New Victory (In the Land of Mauve & Gold), HVSF (Julius Caesar), Ma-Yi (The House of Billy Paul), Jewish Plays Project (Zionista Rising), and Commonwealth Shakespeare (Henry VI Part III, Richard III).
Jasmine Naziha Jones, Baghdaddy-Submitted by Royal Court Theatre (London)
Jasmine is a writer and performer. Her debut play, Baghdaddy, premiered downstairs at the Royal Court Theatre in 2022. In 2023 she was writer on attachment at the Royal Shakespeare Company and under commission for The Globe Theatre’s ‘Burnt At The Stake’ co-production with Hannah Khalil and Morgan Lloyd Malcolm. Jasmine has several scripted projects in development.
Lenelle Moïse, K-I-S-S-I-N-G-Submitted by Huntington Theatre (Boston)
Lenelle is a poet and playwright. Her romantic comedy K-I-S-S-I-N-G (Huntington Theatre) won the 2023 Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding New Script. She wrote, composed, and co-starred in the Off-Broadway show Expatriate (Culture Project). Her play Merit won The Ruby Prize. She is a Hedgebrook Women Playwrights Festival alum, a Huntington Playwriting Fellow, and a member of the Writers Guild of America. Haiti Glass (City Lights Books), her collection of poetry and prose, was a PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award winner and a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Her writing appears in many anthologies, including The Kilroys List, Volume Two.
Hannah Moscovitch, Red Like Fruit-Submitted by 2b theatre company (Halifax)
Hannah is an acclaimed playwright and TV-writer based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Widely produced across Canada and around the world, Hannah has numerous awards for her plays, among them Canada’s highest literary honor the Governor General’s Award, the Trillium Book Award, the Nova Scotia MasterWorks Arts Award and the prestigious Windham-Campbell Prize. Her music-theatre hybrid Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story (co-created with Christian Barry and Ben Caplan) won the Herald Angel and a Scotsman Fringe First at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, received six Drama Desk Award nominations in New York, and has been touring the world since 2017. In television, Hannah is the Co-Creator, Executive Producer and Head Writer of Little Bird. Most recently, Hannah was Co-Executive Producer on Season One and Season Two of AMC’s hit series Interview with the Vampire.
a.k. payne, Love I Awethu Further-Submitted by Eugene O'Neill Theater Center & Yale Repertory Theatre
a.k. is a playwright, artist-theorist, and theatremaker. Her plays engage Black lives and languages beyond the confines of linear time to find/remember stories that might create conditions for our collective liberation(s). Their work has been a finalist for the L. Arnold Weissberger New Play Award and the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize (Amani). She is the current recipient of the Van Lier New Voices Fellowship, National Black Theatre I AM SOUL Playwrights Residency, the Kemp Powers Commission Fund for Black Playwrights and Atlantic Theater Company's Judith Champion Launch Commission. Their work has been developed with the National Playwrights Conference, The New Harmony Project, Great Plains Theatre Conference, and Manhattan Theatre Club's "Groundworks Lab". Their play Furlough's Paradise will premiere at Alliance Theatre, January 31, 2024.
Ava Pickett, 1536-Submitted by Almeida Theatre (London)
Ava is a writer for stage and screen. Her work includes writing on The Great and Brassic. She's currently writing on How To Get To Heaven From Belfast, Lisa McGee's new comedy thriller for C4 and The Buccaneers for Apple. She's developing original projects with Apple and BBC and is currently developing a new show with Tony Mcnamara. 1536 was commissioned by the Almeida Theatre as part of their Genesis Programme and received a special commendation by the George Devine Award in 2023.
For more information about the Prize, as well as a synopsis and breakdown of each play, please visit
The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize