Now in its third year, the Edward M. Kennedy Prize for a theatrical work inspired by American history has gone to Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2, & 3), Suzan-Lori Parks’s epic narrative about a slave serving in the Civil War. Parks, whose play debuted last year at the Public Theater in New York City and is currently playing at American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass., will receive $100,000. Last year the prize went to Dominique Morisseau’s Detroit ’67; in its inaugural year it was split between Dan O’Brien’s The Body of an American and Robert Schenkkan’s All the Way.
Parks is now working on the remaining Parts 4 through 9 of the Father Comes Home saga, which will follow descendants of the Civil War-era characters as the plot unfolds up through the present day.
“The story of Hero, a slave who chooses to fight on behalf of the Confederacy, feels fresh and alive, shining new light on the complicated nature of freedom,” said the panel of jurors for this year’s prize in a statement released Monday. “In its unflinching treatment of homecoming, betrayal and heroism, Father Comes Home from the Wars announces itself as an iconic work that challenges and engages Western theatrical tradition while providing a compelling contribution to the urgent American conversation about race.”
The finalists for the 2015 Kennedy prize were Appropriate by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (oddly, its second year on the finalists’ list); Schenkkan’s follow-up to the LBJ-themed All the Way, The Great Society; Marcus Gardley’s The House that Will Not Stand; and An Octoroon by Jacobs-Jenkins (now running through March 8 at Theater for a New Audience).
The winner was announced by Columbia University and Jean Kennedy Smith, a sister of Mr. Kennedy who established the prize to honor him.