THE SUSAN SMITH BLACKBURN PRIZE
2020 FINALISTS ANNOUNCED
MAJOR INTERNATIONAL AWARD FOR WOMEN PLAYWRIGHTS
CELEBRATES FORTY-SECOND YEAR
"The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize changed my life."
Jennifer Haley, 2012 Winner for The Nether
“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 an international group of over 160 nominated plays, the Finalists are:
Zoe Cooper (U.K.)- Out of Water
Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig (U.S.)- The King of Hell’s Palace
Aleshea Harris (U.S.)- What to Send Up When It Goes Down
Anchuli Felicia King (Australia)- Golden Shield
Kimber Lee (U.S.)- untitled f*ck m*ss s**gon play
Dominique Morisseau (U.S.)- Confederates
Lucy Prebble (U.K.)- A Very Expensive Poison
Stef Smith (U.K.)- Nora: A Doll’s House
Celine Song (U.S.)- Endlings
Anne Washburn (U.S.)- Shipwreck
The Winner of the 2020 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize will be announced at the annual Award Presentation, which honors all Finalists on March 2nd at Playwrights Horizons in New York City. 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 is awarded annually to celebrate women who have written works of outstanding quality for the English-speaking theatre. The Prize is named for noted American author and actor, Susan Smith Blackburn. who lived in London during the last 15 years of her life. She died in 1977 at the age of 42. Susan believed that society urgently needed more influence from talented women. The Prize honors excellence and promotes the high standards, creativity and vitality that were characteristic of Susan's life.
Since the Prize’s founding in 1978, over 460 plays have been honored as Finalists of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. Many 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. The 2019 Winner of the Prize, Fairview by Jackie Sibblies Drury, subsequently won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama and a 2019 Steinberg Playwright Award. It has just completed a sold-out run at London’s Young Vic Theatre.
Winners of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize include Alice Birch's Anatomy of a Suicide, Lynn Nottage's Sweat, Dael Orlandersmith's Yellowman, Annie Baker's The Flick, 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), Julia Cho’s The Language Archive, Jennifer Haley’s The Nether, 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 forty-two 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, Marianne Elliott, Edie Falco, Ralph Fiennes, Greta Gerwig, Sam Gold, John Guare, A.R. Gurney, Mel Gussow, David Hare, Jeremy Herrin, Garry Hynes, Judith Ivey, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Tony Kushner, Phyllida Lloyd, Marsha Norman, Francis McDormand, Janet McTeer, Tanya Moodie, Cynthia Nixon, Joan Plowright, Diana Rigg, Marian Seldes, Fiona Shaw, Tom Stoppard, Meryl Streep, Daniel Sullivan, Jessica Tandy, Sigourney Weaver, August Wilson and George C. Wolfe among more than 200 artists and theatre professionals from the United States, the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Judges for the 2020 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize are: OBIE Award-winning actor Quincy Tyler Bernstine (U.S.); Nataki Garrett (U.S.) Artistic Director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival; Jim Nicola (U.S.) Artistic Director of the New York Theatre Workshop; film, television and theatre producer Kate Pakenham(U.K); actor-director-writer Nathaniel Martello-White (U.K.) and Olivier and Golden Globe-winning stage, television and film actor, Ruth Wilson (U.K.).
About the Finalists
ZOE COOPER (U.K.)- Out of Water
Submitted by Orange Tree Theatre (London)
Out of Water was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Orange Tree Theatre in London, where it premiered in April,2019. It was shortlisted for the Charles Wintour Evening Standard Award for most Promising Playwright. Cooper’s Jess and Joe Forever, premiered at the Orange Tree in 2016 before touring. It has since enjoyed productions in the U.K., Australia and the Czech Republic. Cooper’s the Snow Queen with songs by singer-songwriter Josienne Clarke, was commissioned by the National Theatre's 'Let's Play' scheme in 2018. The 'Let's Play' scheme commissions new plays for primary school children to perform. The Snow Queen has since enjoyed many school productions all over the U.K. Zoe has been shortlisted for the Rod Hall Memorial Award and the Adrienne Benham Award. She won the Off West End Most Promising Playwright Award and the inaugural ScreenSkills New Writers Award. She has enjoyed residencies at the MacDowell Colony and Yaddo. She has been awarded a TS Eliot Commission. Four of her plays are published by Bloomsbury/Methuen. She is currently working on new plays for Northern Stage and the National Theatre.
FRANCES YA-CHU COWHIG (U.S.)- The King of Hell’s Palace
Submitted by Hampstead Theatre (London)
Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig is an internationally produced playwright who has spent the past decade completing a trilogy of theatrical works [The World of Extreme Happiness, Snow in Midsummer, The King of Hell's Palace] that are set in contemporary China and explore global capitalism and intergenerational trauma. The King of Hell’s Palace premiered at Hampstead Theatre in London. Her plays have been staged in the United Kingdom at the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre, Hampstead Theatre, Trafalgar Studios 2 [West End] and the Unicorn Theatre. In the United States her work has been staged at venues that include the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Manhattan Theater Club and the Goodman Theatre. Frances' plays have been awarded the Wasserstein Prize, the Yale Drama Series Award (selected by David Hare), an Edinburgh Fringe First Award, the David A. Callichio Award and the Keene Prize for Literature. She has benefited from artist residencies at Yaddo, MacDowell, Hedgebrook, Ragdale, the Sundance Playwright Retreats at Ucross and Flying Point, and the Santa Fe Art Institute. Her first full length musical, The New Planet, a collaboration with composer Michael Roth and director-choreographer Maija García, will receive a workshop production at the Guthrie Theatre this summer as part of the theatre maker training program A Guthrie Experience. She is currently developing the feature script for Gold Mountain, a Chinese immigrant drama set in 1850s San Francisco, for film and television director Alan Taylor and Starlight Entertainment. She received an MFA in Writing from the James A. Michener Center for Writers at UT Austin, a BA in Sociology from Brown University, and a certificate in Ensemble-Based Physical Theatre from the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre. She is a 2019 United States Artist Fellow.
ALESHEA HARRIS (U.S.)- What to Send Up When It Goes Down
Submitted by The Movement Theatre Company (NYC)
Aleshea Harris works as a playwright and performer and has been presented at Soho Rep., Playfest at Orlando Shakespeare Theater, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Skirball Center and REDCAT to name a few. What to Send Up When It Comes Down, a play-pageant-ritual response to anti-blackness, had its critically-acclaimed NYC premiere in 2018 and was featured in the April 2019 issue of American Theatre Magazine and was nominated for a Drama Desk award. It toured to the Woolly Mammoth and A.R.T. in the Fall of 2019. Harris’ play, Is God Is (premiere, Soho Rep) garnered a 2017 Obie Award for playwriting, won the 2016 Relentless Award, was a finalist for the 2017 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and made The Kilroys List of “the most recommended un-and underproduced plays by trans and female authors of color” for 2017. It will be produced by the Royal Court in London in the summer of 2020 and is published by 3Hole Press and Samuel French. Harris has enjoyed residencies at MacDowell Colony, Hedgebrook, Djerassi and SPACE on Ryder Farm.
ANCHULI FELICIA KING (Australia)- Golden Shield
Submitted by Melbourne Theatre Company and Manhattan Theatre Club
Anchuli Felicia King is a playwright and multidisciplinary artist of Thai- Australian descent. As a playwright, Felicia is interested in linguistic hybrids, digital cultures and issues of globalization. Her plays have been produced by the Royal Court Theatre (London), Studio Theatre (Washington D.C.), American Shakespeare Center (Staunton), Melbourne Theatre Company, Sydney Theatre Company, National Theatre of Parramatta and Belvoir Theatre (Sydney). As a multidisciplinary artist, Felicia has worked with a wide range of companies and institutions, including Punchdrunk, PlayCo, 3LD Arts & Technology Center, Roundabout Theater, 59E59, Ars Nova, the Obie Awards, The Builders Association, Ensemble Studio Theater, NYTW and Red Bull Theater. She is a member of Ensemble Studio Theater's Youngblood Group and Roundabout Theater's Space Jam Program. Formerly based in New York, Felicia continues to work internationally and is based between London, New York and her hometown of Melbourne, Australia. Golden Shield premiered in 2019 at the Melbourne Theatre company and is slated for a 2021 run at the Manhattan Theatre Club.
KIMBER LEE (U.S.)- untitled f*ck m*ss s**gon play
Submitted by The O’Neill National Playwrights Conference
Kimber Lee won the 2019 Bruntwood Prize International Award for Playwriting with untitled f*ck m*ss s**gon play. The play was workshopped at the O'Neill National Playwrights Conference and is in development with the Royal Exchange Theatre (Manchester). Lee’s other plays include: tokyo fish story (South Coast Rep, TheatreWorks/Silicon Valley, Old Globe Theater); brownsville song (b-side for tray)(Humana Festival, LCT3/Lincoln Center, Long Wharf Theatre, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Moxie Theatre, Shotgun Players), and different words for the same thing (Center Theatre Group/Kirk Douglas Theatre). She has also developed work with Lark Play Development Center, The Ground Floor/Berkeley Rep, Page 73, Hedgebrook, Ojai Playwrights Conference, Seven Devils Playwrights Conference, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, Great Plains Theatre Conference, Manhattan Theatre Club, Southern Rep, ACT Theatre/Seattle, TheatreWorks/Silicon Valley, Premiere Stages, Bush Theatre/London, and Magic Theatre. Lark Playwrights Workshop Fellow, Dramatists Guild Fellow, member of Ma-Yi Writers Lab, and recipient of the Ruby Prize, PoNY Fellowship, Hartford Stage New Voices Fellowship, BAU Institute Arts Residency Award, TheatreWorks/SV Leading Ladies Award, Kilroys List, Audelco Nominee, Theatre Bay Area Nominee, and inaugural PoNY/Bush Theatre Playwright Residency in London. MFA: UT Austin.
DOMINIQUE MORISSEAU (U.S.)- Confederates
Submitted by Center Theatre Group (Los Angeles)
Dominique Morisseau is the author of The Detroit Project (A 3-Play Cycle) which includes the following plays: Skeleton Crew (Atlantic Theater Company, Susan Smith Blackburn Prize Finalist), Paradise Blue (Signature Theatre), and Detroit ’67 (Public Theater, Classical Theatre of Harlem and NBT). Additional plays include: Pipeline (Lincoln Center Theatre, Susan Smith Blackburn Prize Finalist), Sunset Baby (LAByrinth Theatre); Blood at the Root (National Black Theatre) and Follow Me to Nellie’s (Premiere Stages). She is also the TONY-nominated book writer on the new Broadway musical Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations (Imperial Theatre). Dominique is alumna of The Public Theater Emerging Writer’s Group, Women’s Project Lab, and Lark Playwrights Workshop and has developed work at Sundance Lab, Williamstown Theatre Festival and Eugene O’Neil Playwrights Conference. She most recently served as Co-Producer on the Showtime series “Shameless” (3 seasons). Additional awards include: Spirit of Detroit Award, PoNY Fellowship, Sky-Cooper Prize, TEER Trailblazer Award, Steinberg Playwright Award, Audelco Awards, NBFT August Wilson Playwriting Award, Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama, OBIE Award (2), Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellowship, Variety’s Women of Impact for 2017-18, and a recent MacArthur Genius Grant Fellow.
LUCY PREBBLE (U.K.)- A Very Expensive Poison
Submitted by The Old Vic (London)
Lucy Prebble is a writer for theatre, film, television and games. The political and emotional meta-thriller A Very Expensive Poison was a five-star hit for the Old Vic in 2019 and won Best New Production of a Play at the Broadway World Awards. Prebble’s The Effect, a study of love and neuroscience, was performed at the National Theatre and won the Critics’ Circle Award for Best New Play, and was a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. Also a Blackburn Prize Finalist, Prebble’s Enron, was a hugely successful piece about the infamous corporate fraud, which transferred to the West End and Broadway after sell-out runs at both the Royal Court and Chichester Festival Theatre. Her first play, The Sugar Syndrome (Royal Court, 2003) won the George Devine Award and was a Susan Smith Blackburn Prize Finalist. Lucy is Co-Executive Producer and writer on the BAFTA, GOLDEN GLOBE and EMMY award winning HBO drama SUCCESSION, for which she has also twice been nominated for a WGA Award. For television, she has written and co-created I HATE SUZIE with her close friend Billie Piper for Sky Atlantic, to be aired in 2020. She is the creator of the TV series SECRET DIARY OF A CALL GIRL(ITV/Showtime), and has recently made a pilot for HBO starring Sarah Silverman. Lucy also writes for Frankie Boyle’s NEW WORLD ORDER (BBC) and appears on the TV show as a guest as well as appearing regularly on HAVE I GOT NEWS FOR YOU. Lucy is the recipient of the 2019 Wellcome Screenwriting Fellowship, allowing her to explore where the world of film meets science and research. Lucy also writes video games and is fascinated by new technology and storytelling. She contributes to major publications as a journalist and wrote a weekly Tech column for the Observer newspaper. In games, she was Head Scene Writer for Bungie’s massively successful first-person shooter video game, Destiny.
STEF SMITH (U.K.)- Nora: A Doll’s House
Submitted by Citizens Theatre (Glasgow)
Stef Smith is a multi-award-winning Scottish writer working for both stage and screen. Nora: A Doll’s House premiered in 2019 in Glasgow at the Citizens Theatre, and opens for a London run at the Young Vic Theatre (co-produced with Citizens) this February.
Other credits include: Enough (Traverse Theatre, Scotsman’s Fringe First Award), Girl in the Machine and Swallow (Traverse Theatre Company, Scotsman’s Fringe Fest First Award, and Scottish Arts Club Theatre Award); Float (BBC Scotland); Nora: A Doll’s House (Citizens Theatre); The Song Project, Human Animals (Royal Court Theatre); Acts of Resistance (Headlong Theatre and Bristol Old Vic); Love Letters To Europe (Underbelly); How to Grow a Nation (Young Vic); Remote (National Theatre Connections Festival); Tea and Symmetry (BBC Radio); Smoke (and Mirrors) (Traverse Theatre Company and DOT Istanbul for Theatre Uncut); Back to Back to Back (Cardboard Citizens); Cured (Glasgow! Festival); Grey Matter (The Lemon Tree); Woman of the Year (Òran Mór) and Falling/Flying (Tron Theatre). Roadkill (Pachamama Productions and Richard Jordan Productions in association with Traverse Theatre Company) won numerous awards, including the Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre. Stef is under commission from several theatres and is also an Associate Artist at the Traverse Theatre and Playwrights' Studio Scotland.
CELINE SONG- Endlings
Submitted by American Repertory Theatre and New York Theatre Workshop
Endlings received its world premiere in 2019 at American Repertory Theater, and will have its New York premiere in February 2020 at New York Theatre Workshop. It was selected for the 2018 O'Neill National Playwrights Conference, and is on the 2017 Kilroys list. Her play Tom & Eliza was a semifinalist for the American Playwriting Foundation's 2016 Relentless Award. Celine has been awarded residencies, fellowships, and commissions from MTC/Sloan, Sundance, the Millay Colony for the arts, the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and the Edward F. Albee Foundation. Celine is a staff writer on Amazon's The Wheel of Time, and she is developing a project for television with Diablo Cody and Beth Behrs. Celine is a member of the Public Theater’s 2016-2017 Emerging Writers Group, Ars Nova’s 2014-2015 Play Group, and The Orchard Project's inaugural NYC Greenhouse 2018. She was a Playwrights Realm Writing Fellow from 2017-2018, a 2014 & 2016 Great Plains Theatre Conference Playwright, and she was a 2017 semifinalist for the P73 Playwriting Fellowship. She holds an M.F.A. from Columbia.
Anne Washburn (US)- Shipwreck
Submitted by Almeida Theatre
Shipwreck premiered at the Almeida Theatre in London in 2019 and will see its U.S. premiere at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre, in Washington, D.C., this February. Washburn’s work includes: 10 out of 12 (Soho Rep, NYC); Antlia Pneumatica (Playwrights Horizons, NYC); Apparition (Connelly Theater, NYC); The Communist Dracula Pageant (ART, Boston); A Devil at Noon (Actors Theater of Louisville, Kentucky); I Have Loved Strangers (Clubbed Thumb Summerworks, NYC); The Internationalist (13P, NYC); The Ladies (The Civilians, NYC); The Small (Clubbed Thumb Summerworks, NYC); Orestes (The Folger, Washington D.C.); Iphigenia In Aulis (Classic Stage Company, NYC), Mr Burns (Playwrights Horizons, NYC, Almeida, London, Susan Smith Blackburn Finalist), The Twilight Zone (The Almeida, Ambassadors, London. Anne’s awards include a Guggenheim, a Whiting, an Alpert, and a PEN/LauraPels award for an artist in mid-career and residencies at MacDowell and Yaddo. Anne is an associated artist with The Civilians, Clubbed Thumb, New Georges, and is an alumna of New Dramatists and 13P.