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Plays and Playwrights

Honors and opportunities all across the U.S.

New Plays Awards Announced

The first Playwrights USA Awards, totalling $20,000, will be presented on April 16 to the authors of the five plays selected for TCG’s New Plays USA 2, an anthology of works developed and produced in nonprofit U.S. theatres over the past two seasons. The cash awards as well as funds to publish the winning scripts have been provided by a grant to Theatre Communications Group from Home Box Office.

The plays are Buck by Ronald Ribman, nominated by the American Place Theatre and Playwrights Horizons of New York; Food from Trash by Gary Leon Hill, nominated by the Actors Theatre of Louisville; Roger Downey’s translation of Mensch Meier by Franz Xaver Kroetz, nominated by The Empty Space of Seattle; Mercenaries by James Yoshimura, nominated by the Interact Theatre of New York; and Secret Honor, The Last Testament of Richard M. Nixon: A Political Myth by Donald Freed and Arnold M. Stone, nominated by the Los Angeles Actors’ Theatre.

The HBO grant, which is the first of its kind to be made by a pay TV company, will be divided into prizes of $4,000 per play. HBO vice president Bridget Potter said the award was created “to help insure the existence of an ongoing pool of dramatic writers from which all performance media can draw.” James Leverett, TCG’s director of Literary Services and editor of the New Plays USA series, said connecting the cash awards to the publication of the plays “brings proper focus to drama as literature. Plays are brought to life on the stage, but only through publication do they continue to live for future generations.”

‘Fen’ Is Winner

British playwright Caryl Churchill has been named winner of the 1983 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for Fen, her bleak, class-conscious drama about the lives of women farmworkers. The award is given annually to a woman writer for an outstanding new work for the English-speaking theatre.

Meryl Streep presented Churchill a cash award of $2,500 and a Willem de Kooning print in ceremonies Feb. 24 at the Players Club in New York.

First performed by Joint Stock Theatre Group in London in 1982-83, Fen was seen with an English cast at the New York Shakespeare Festival last summer and reopened at the Festival’s Public Theater with an American cast Feb. 23.

The Blackburn prize, established in 1978, reflects the values and interests of Susan Smith Blackburn, an American actress and writer who grew up in Houston and lived in London for the last 15 years of her life. The contest has been instrumental in focusing attention on the work of women playwrights and in fostering the interchange of plays between the U.S. and Great Britain. Plays are submitted by theatre professionals from both countries.

Judges for the 1983 award, in addition to Streep, were Edward Albee, Howard Davies, Christopher Hampton, Ann Holmes and Hilary Spurting.

To celebrate the fifth anniversary of the prize, five Houston theatres have chosen nine Blackburn finalist plays for production during 1983-84. The Royal Shakespeare Company has expressed interest in staging the runner-up in this year’s contest, Lynn Siefert’s Coyote Ugly.

Young Playwrights Go Public

After two highly successful years at New York’s Circle Repertory Company, the Young Playwrights Festival, sponsored by the Foundation of the Dramatists Guild for writers under the age of 19, is moving a few blocks west to the Public Theater. Five short plays, together making up one program, may be seen there May 1-20. They are Romance by Catherine Castellani, 18, of Delmar, N.Y.; Meeting the Winter Bike Rider by Juan Nunez, 17, of Steger, Ill.; Fixed Up by Patricia Durkin, 16, of Essex Fells, N.J.; In the Garden by Anne Hann, 17, of Averill Park, N.Y.; and The Itch by Ana Gottlieb, 17, of Brooklyn. The plays will be directed by James Milton, Shelly Raffle and Elinor Ren6eld, and designed by Patricia McGourty, Loren Sherman and Mal Sturchio.

In addition, six more plays will receive staged readings during the festival: Liars by Joseph Yesutis, 16, of Burr Ridge. Ill.; We Three Kings by Alexander Frere-Jones, 16, of Brooklyn; Tender Places by Jason Brown, 12, of Pittsburgh; Biddies by Kevin Hammond, 17, of Washington, D.C.; Living in the USA by Julie Tayco, 16, of Oakland, Calif.; and Always Open by Rebecca Gilman, 18, of Trussville, Ala.

Louisville ‘Greats’ Among Awards

Actors Theatre of Louisville has announced four winners of the 1983 Great American Play Contest. This year one-half of the $7,500 award for full-length plays goes to Independence by Lee Blessing; the other half is being divided equally between 007 Crossfire by Ken Jenkins and Execution of Justice by Emily Mann. Patrick Tovatt has won the $1,000 Heideman award for his one-act play Husbandry. All four winning plays were performed during ATL’s eighth annual Festival of New American Plays, which ran Feb. 22-April 1.

Nina Shengold is the New York State playwright chosen for the 1984 MCA-ESIPA award, consisting of a one-month residency at the Millay Colony for the Arts in Austerlitz, N.Y., followed by a one-week play development workshop at Empire State Institute for the Performing Arts in Albany.

Laura Harrington, Matthew Maguire, Emily Mann, Eric Overmyer and Sheldon Rosen have been chosen for membership in New Dramatists. Dramatists Guild members have named Marsha Norman to the Guild’s 30-member governing council.

Playwrights’ Update

April 10 is the last day to apply for NEA fellowships for playwrights and translators of plays. One-year playwright fellowships will range in amounts up to $17,500, with an additional $2,500 for use in defraying costs of a residency at a professional theatre of the playwright’s choice. A limited number of two-year fellowships may also be granted. Playwrights who have had a play produced by a professional theatre within the last five years are eligible. Translators who have published or had produced by a professional theatre a translation of a play may apply for fellowships of $6,250 or $12,500, depending on the length and scope of the proposed project. To obtain application guidelines, contact the Theatre Program, National Endowment for the Arts, Washington, D.C., 20506; (202) 682-5425.

The Mixed Blood Theatre Cornpany, a professional multiracial theatre ensemble, challenges playwrights whose work has previously been produced by a professional theatre to send them an unproduced script “better” than the new piece the ensemble intends to create. The best play submitted and the play Mixed Blood creates will both be produced during the theatre’s 1984-85 season. Only the first 300 scripts submitted will be considered. The author of the winning play will receive $2,000. Submit scripts to Mixed Blood versus America, 1501 South St., Minneapolis, MN 55454; (612) 3384131.

The Theatre Program in France is seeking new plays written in either French or English for a playreading series at its new home in Avignon. Plays will be read weekly during the spring and daily during the summer Avignon Festival. The series is limited to scripts that have not yet received professional production before an international audience; authors must be willing to grant the Program French translation rights and first performing rights outside North America. Send scripts airmail to Theatre Program in France, 34 rue Paul Sain, 84000 Avignon, France.

Playwrights who are residents of the greater St. Louis area may submit unproduced scripts (include a brief synopsis) to the St. Louis Playwrights Festival, to be held in June and July in conjunction with the Performing Arts Area of Washington University. There will be full productions, workshops and staged readings during the festival, and royalties will be paid for produced scripts. Submit plays by April 20 to St. Louis Playwrights Festival, Box 1108, Performing Arts Area, Washington University, St. Louis, MO 63130.

The deadline for this summer’s Shenandoah Valley Playwrights Retreat has been extended to April 6. Full fee for the program, to take place Aug. 5-26, is $500; fellowship support is available. Contact Pennyroyal Faun, Box I67F, Route 5, Staunton, VA 24401; (703) 248-1868. ❑

For information on hundreds of contests, grants, awards and other opportunities for playwrights, translators. lyricists and librettists, refer to TCG’s Dramatists Sourcebook. The 1983-84 edition can be ordered for $9.95 plus postage and handling by using the order form in the back of this issue.

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