First Judith Barlow Prize Goes to Selina Fillinger for ‘Machinal’-Inspired One-Act

Given by History Matters/Back to the Future, whose goal is to expand the male-dominated theatrical canon, the award recognizes students for their creative responses to classics by women.

NEW YORK CITY: History Matters/Back to the Future, a coalition of theatre professionals dedicated to including great female playwrights in the theatrical canon, has announced the winner of their first annual Judith Barlow Prize. Selina Fillinger, a student at Northwestern University, will receive the $2,500 award for her one-act play, Three Landings and a Fire Escape, inspired by Sophie Treadwell’s 1928 play Machinal. In addition to the prize money, Fillinger will receive a trip to New York City to be part of a staged reading of the play on May 3.

Selina Fillinger.
Selina Fillinger.

Award-winning actress Kathleen Chalfant will direct the reading, which is free and open to the public, and the cast will include Jennifer Lim (Chinglish, The World of Extreme Happiness), Beth Dixon (The Royal Family, Major Barbara) and Maria-Christina Oliveras (Machinal on Broadway, the Civilians’ Pretty Filthy).

As part of the prize, Fillinger’s professor at Northwestern, Laura Lodewyck, will receive $500. In a statement, Lodewyck said: “Selina’s work is an excellent example of a talented and driven young artist poised to infiltrate the existing canon of contemporary American plays. I am thrilled that the Historic Women Playwrights Initiative and the Judith Barlow Prize motivated Selina to create this play, and I hope that this experience will inspire her to look to historical female artists for her future work.”

The runner-up for this year’s award, Jaime O’Brien of the University of South Florida, will receive $1,000.

The student playwrights and their professors are participants in the “One Play at a Time” initiative, which strives to expand the canon of great plays of the past to include female authors, as well as to inspire today’s writers to create their own responses. Professors participating in the program are asked to dedicate one class period per semester to an historic play by a female playwright. These range from such well-known writers as Lillian Hellman, Claire Booth, Lorraine Hansberry, Sophie Treadwell and Gertrude Stein to less visible playwrights like Alice Childress, Rachel Crothers and Shirley Graham.

The initiative was launched in fall 2013, and has already attracted more than 100 participating professors from the University of Georgia, Ithaca College, Colgate University, Northwestern University, De Pauw University and the University of Buffalo, among others. Participating educators are given sample lesson plans and additional support materials. Educators have the added incentive of the new Judith Barlow Prize to encourage them to explore and teach these women writers.

Teachers interested in joining the One Play at a Time initiative should go here.

The selection committee for prize included Lisa McNulty, artistic director of Women’s Project Theater; actor Tamara Tunie; and writer and feminist activist Sallie Bingham. The winner of the prize must be a current or recent student of a participating professor to be eligible to apply. Submissions for the 2016 Barlow Prize must be submitted by Dec. 30, 2015. The application form is available here.

The award is named for Barlow, professor emeritus of English and Women’s Studies at the University of Albany, SUNY. She was the editor of Plays By American Women 1900-1930, Plays By American Women 1930-1960 and the author of Final Acts: The Creation of Three Late O’Neill Plays and Women Writers of the Provincetown Players, as well as numerous essays on American drama.

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