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 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize has announced 10 Finalists for its prestigious playwriting award, the oldest and largest prize awarded to women playwrights. Chosen from over 150 nominated plays, the Finalists are:


Sarah Burgess (U.S.) -Dry Powder

Rachel Cusk (U.K.) - Medea

Sarah DeLappe (U.S.) - The Wolves

Sam Holcroft (U.K.) - Rules for Living

Anna Jordan (U.K.) - Yen

Dominique Morisseau (U.S.) - Skeleton Crew

Lynn Nottage (U.S.) - Sweat

Suzan-Lori Parks (U.S.) - Father Comes Home From the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3)

Bea Roberts (U.K.) - And Then Come The Nightjars

Noni Stapleton (Ireland) - Charolais


The international panel of Judges for the 2015-2016 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize includes, in the U.K., critic and author, Kate Bassett; Jeremy Herrin, artistic director of Headlong Theatre, and celebrated stage and screen actress, Tanya Moodie. U.S. Judges are actress and filmmaker Greta Gerwig, Tony award-winning director SamGold, and Obie award-winning playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins.

The Winner of the 2015-2016 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize will be named at the Awards Presentation on February 22 at the National Theatre in London. The Winner will be awarded a cash prize of $25,000, and will also receive a signed print by renowned artist Willem de Kooning, created especially for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. Each of the additional Finalists will receive an award of $5,000.

The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, co-founded by Emilie S. Kilgore and William Blackburn, honors outstanding new English-language plays by women. Many of the Winners have gone on to receive other honors, including Olivier, Lilly, Evening Standard and Tony Awards for Best Play. Eight Blackburn Finalist plays have subsequently won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

The Houston-based Susan Smith Blackburn Prize reflects the values and interests of Susan Smith Blackburn, noted American actress and writer who grew up in Houston and lived in London during the last 15 years of her life. The Prize was founded by Susan's sister, Emilie S. Kilgore, and husband, William Blackburn. Over 350 plays have been honored as Finalists since the Prize was instituted in 1978. Many of the Winners have gone on to receive other honors, including Olivier, Lilly, Evening Standard and Tony Awards for Best Play. Eight Susan Smith Blackburn Finalist plays have subsequently won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama.

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. Subsequent to winning the 2012-2013 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for The Flick, Annie Baker was honored with the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, a Steinberg Playwright Award as well as with the Horton Foote Legacy Project.

Other recipients of the Prize include Caryl Churchill’s Serious Money, Paula Vogel's How I Learned to Drive, Nell Dunn's Steaming, Wendy Wasserstein's The Heidi Chronicles, Katori Hall’s Hurt Village, Chloe Moss’s This Wide Night, Sarah Ruhl's The Clean House, Judith Thompson’s Palace of the End, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti's Behzti (Dishonour), Dael Orlandersmith's Yellowman, Julia Cho’s The Language Archive, Gina Gionfriddo's U.S. Drag, Bridget Carpenter's Fall, Charlotte Jones' Humble Boy, Naomi Wallace’s One Flea Spare, and Moira Buffini's Silence.

Former Judges of The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize over the past thirty-eight years are a Who’s Who of the English-speaking theatre and include Edward Albee, Eileen Atkins, Blair Brown, Zoe Caldwell, Glenn Close, Harold Clurman, Colleen Dewhurst, Edie Falco, Ralph Fiennes, John Guare, A.R. Gurney, Mel Gussow, David Hare, Garry Hynes, Judith Ivey, Tony Kushner, Phyliida Lloyd, Francis McDormand, Janet McTeer, Cynthia Nixon, Marsha Norman, Joan Plowright, Diana Rigg, Marian Seldes, Fiona Shaw, Max Stafford-Clark, Tom Stoppard, Meryl Streep, Daniel Sullivan, Jessica Tandy, Sigourney Weaver, August Wilson and George C. Wolfe among more than 200 artists and theatre professionals in the United States, the United Kingdom and Ireland.

About the Finalists

Sarah Burgess- Dry Powder
Submitted by The Public Theater

Dry Powder will premiere Off-Broadway at The Public Theater in winter 2016. Sarah was a writer for The Tenant (Woodshed Collective) and "Naked Radio," Naked Angels' monthly podcast series. She has been a writer-in-residence at the Cape Code Theatre Project and at SPACE on Ryder Farm in Brewster, NY. Member of the WP Playwrights Lab. Ars Nova Play Group alum.

Rachel Cusk- Medea
Submitted by Almeida Theatre

In 2003, Rachel Cusk was selected by Granta as one of their Best Young British Novelists. The author of seven novels and three works of nonfiction, Cusk won the Whitbread First Novel Award for Saving Agnes, a Somerset Maugham Award for The Country Life, and was shortlisted for the 2007 Orange Prize for Arlington Park. Her latest novel, Outline, was shortlisted for the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction, the Folio Prize and the Goldsmiths Prize. "Spend much time with this novel and you'll become convinced [Cusk] is one of the smartest writers alive" writes The New York Times Book Review. Medea is her fist play, and was produced at the Almeida in the Fall of 2015.

Sarah DeLappe- The Wolves
Submitted by Clubbed Thumb

Sarah DeLappe’s plays include The Wolves (Clubbed Thumb/Playwrights Horizons Theater School, Great Plains Theater Conference), Parabola (FEM: You are too loud at JACK, The Amoralists, Bookshop Workshops), and 1910 Stardust St (Colt Couer Parity Fest, upcoming). She has been a resident artist at Sitka Fellows Program and SPACE on Ryder Farm; a recipient of an EST/Sloan commission and the Holland New Voices Award; a member of the Clubbed Thumb Early Career and the Bookshop Workshops writers groups; and a New Georges affiliated artist. Sarah’s play The Wolves is on The Kilroys List 2015. Currently pursuing an MFA in playwriting at Brooklyn College.

Sam Holcroft- Rules for Living
Submitted by the National Theatre

Rules for Living premiered at the National Theatre in March 2015. Other plays include The Wardrobe (2014) for National Theatre Connections; Edgar And Annabel (2011), part of Double Feature 1 for the National Theatre; Dancing Bears, part of the Charged season for Clean Break; While You Lie at the Traverse Theatre; Pink, part of the Women, Power and Politics Season at the Tricycle Theatre; Vanya, adapted from Chekhov, at The Gate; Cockroach, co-produced by the National Theatre of Scotland and the Traverse Theatre (nominated for Best New Play 2008, by the Critics’ Awards for Theatre in Scotland and shortlisted for the John Whiting Award, 2009). She has also written a libretto, The House Taken Over, for the Festival d'Aix en Provence and Académie Européenne de Musique (2013). Sam was the Writer-in-Residence at the National Theatre Studio from 2013-14 and was the Pearson Playwright in Residence at the Traverse Theatre in 2009-10. In 2014 she was a recipient of the Windham Campbell Prize for Literature in the Drama category, and in 2009 she won the Tom Erhardt Award for up and coming writers. She is under commission from the Royal Court Theatre.

Anna Jordan- Yen
Submitted by Royal Exchange Theatre

Anna is an award winning playwright and director. Awards include the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting 2013 for Yen, Best Fringe Production for Chicken Shop at Park Theatre (West End Frame Awards), Overall Winner / Audience Choice Award for Closer To God (Off Cut Festival) and Best New Writing for Just For Fun - Totally Random (Lost One Act Festival). Writing includes Yen (Royal Exchange), Chicken Shop (Park Theatre London), The Freedom Light (Company of Angels). Writing / Directing includes Freak (Assembly Studios / Theatre503), Stay Happy Keep Smiling (Soho Theatre), Bender (Old Red Lion), Fragments (Riverside Studios). Directing includes Tomorrow I’ll Be Happy (NT Shed / Soho / Lost Theatre), Vote of No Confidence (Theatre503), Only Human (Theatre503). Her plays are also performed internationally with productions of her plays in Germany, Sweden and the USA. Anna is Artistic Director of Without a Paddle Theatre (WAP) and Associate Director at Theatre503.

Dominique Morisseau- Skeleton Crew
Submitted by Atlantic Theater Company and Sundance Institute Theatre Program

Dominique Morisseau is an alumna of the Public Theater Emerging Writer’s Group, Women’s Project Lab, and Lark Playwrights Workshop. Credits include: Detroit ’67 (Public Theater, Classical Theatre of Harlem/NBT); Paradise Blue (Williamstown Theatre Festival); Sunset Baby (Gate Theater; LAByrinth Theatre); Follow Me ToNellie’s (O’Neill; Premiere Stages). She has produced other original works with the Hip Hop Theater Festival, Penn State University, American Theatre of Harlem and The New Group. Her 3-play cycle, entitled “The Detroit Projects” includes Detroit ’67, Paradise Blue, and Skeleton Crew. Dominique is currently the Story Editor on the Showtime series Shameless. Awards: Jane Chambers Playwriting Award, two-time NAACP Image Award, Primus Prize commendation, Stavis Playwriting Award, Spirit of Detroit Award, U of M Emerging Leader Award, Weissberger Award, PoNY Fellowship, Sky-Cooper New American Play Prize, The Graham F. Smith Peace Foundation Award, and the Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama. Skeleton Crew is playing through February 7 at the Atlantic Theater Company.

Lynn Nottage- Sweat
Submitted by Oregon Shakespeare Festival/American Revolutions and Arena Stage

Lynn Nottage is a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and a screenwriter. Sweat premiered at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and is currently running at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C..Nottage's plays have been produced widely in the United States and throughout the world. They include the By The Way, Meet Vera Stark (Lily Award, Drama Desk Nomination), Ruined (Pulitzer Prize, OBIE, Lucille Lortel, New York Drama Critics’ Circle, Audelco, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Award, Susan Smith Blackburn Finalist), Intimate Apparel (American Theatre Critics and New York Drama Critics’ Circle Awards for Best Play), Fabulation, or The Re-Education of Undine (OBIE Award), Crumbs from the Table of Joy, Las Meninas, Mud, River, Stone, Por’knockers and POOF!. Nottage is the recipient of a MacArthur "Genius Grant" Fellowship, Steinberg "Mimi" Distinguished Playwright Award, the Dramatists Guild Hull-Warriner Award, the inaugural Horton Foote Prize, Lilly Award, Helen Hayes Award, the Lee Reynolds Award, and the Jewish World Watch iWitness Award. Her other honors include the National Black Theatre Fest's August Wilson Playwriting Award, a Guggenheim Grant, PEN/Laura Pels Award, Lucille Lortel Fellowship and Visiting Research Fellowship at Princeton University. She is a graduate of Brown University and the Yale School of Drama, where she has been a faculty member since 2001. She is also an Associate Professor in the Theatre Department at Columbia School of the Arts.

Suzan-Lori Parks- Father Comes Home From the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3)
Submitted by American Repertory Theater and The Public Theater

Her plays include Topdog/Underdog, which moved to Broadway and won the Pulitzer Prize, making her the first African-American woman to do so; The Book of Grace; Fucking A; In TheBlood; and Venus. In 2003, Parks wrote a play a day and her project 365 Days/365 Plays was produced in over 700 theaters worldwide. Additional plays include The Death of the Last BlackMan in the Whole Entire World, and Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom. Additional Broadway credits include The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, for which she received a Tony Award. She is a recipient of the MacArthur “Genius” Grant, and is one of Time Magazine’s “100 Innovators for the Next New Wave.” Parks is a former writing student of James Baldwin and an alumna of Mount Holyoke College and New Dramatists. Father Comes Home From the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3) has received the Horton Foote Prize and the Edward M. Kennedy Prize. She is The Public Theater’s Master Writer Chair.

Bea Roberts- And Then Come The Nightjars
Submitted by Theatre503

Credits include Infinity Pool; A Modern Re-Telling Of Madame Bovary (Tobacco Factory Theatres, The Bike Shed Theatre & Plymouth Theatre Royal), Scoop (Lyric Hammersmith UK tour) and Nights With Dolly Henderson (Box of Tricks at The Salisbury Playhouse, The Bike Shed Theatre & Bolton Octagon). In addition to writing plays, Bea has also written and performed sketches, storytelling pieces and stand-up comedy. She currently has work in development with Up In Arms, Pins and Needles productions and BBC Comedy.

Noni Stapleton- Charolais
Submitted by Fishamble: The New Play Company

Noni is an award winning Irish actress and playwright. Her one woman play Charolais won the Little Gem Award (Tiger Dublin Fringe 2014) Best Monologue Bouquet (Ed Fringe) and was shortlisted by The Writers Guild of Ireland for Best Theatre Script 2014. Noni’s adaptation of Charolais for radio has been nominated for the Prix Europa (2015) and a PPI award for Best Drama in Irish Radio Broadcasting. She also won Best Actress for her performance in Charolais at the New York Festivals International Radio Program Awards. Charolais premiered in Dublin Fringe 2014 as part of Show in a Bag, an artist development initiative of Dublin Fringe Festival, Fishamble: The New Play Company and Irish Theatre Institute to resource theatre makers and actors. She is Co-founder of Skipalong Theatre Company for which she co-wrote One for Sorrow and Two for a Girl, also playing multiple roles in both productions. Among her many acting roles, Noni plays Timothy Dalton's wife Gladys Murray in 'Penny Dreadful' (Showtime USA).