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"God Said This" by Leah Nanako Winkler, part of the 2018 Humana Festival at Actors Theatre of Louisville through April 7. Pictured: Jay Patterson and Ako. (Photo by Jonathan Roberts)

Leah Nanako Winkler Wins 2018 Yale Drama Series Prize

Her play ‘God Said This’ was selected by playwright Ayad Akhtar for the prize.

NEW YORK CITY: The Yale Drama Series, in cooperation with Yale University Press, has named playwright Leah Nanako Winkler as the winner of the 2018 Yale Drama Series Prize for her play God Said This. Winkler will receive a cash prize of $10,000 sponsored by the David Charles Horn Foundation, and her play will receive a private staged reading at Lincoln Center’s Claire Tow Theater on Oct. 30.

Leah Nanako Winkler. (Photo by Leni Kei Photography)

Winkler was chosen by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Ayad Akhtar from a pool of more than 1,600 submissions from 50 countries.

“I was very moved by Leah’s play about a family caught between cultures, set in the final weeks of a mother’s life,” Akhtar in a statement. “I found it witty and wise, inhabited by a poignant specificity that conveyed me to a deeply felt sense of the universal—of the perfection of our parents’ flawed love for each other and for us; for the ways in which the approach of death can order the meaning of a human life. I am grateful to the talented and dedicated members of the jury and to Francine Horn and everyone at the Yale Drama Series for all their hard work.”

The world premiere of God Said This is currently running at Actors Theatre of Louisville as part of the Humana Festival of New American Plays. The play will also be produced as part of Primary Stages’ 2018-19 season. Her other works include Two Mile Hollow (2017 Kilroys List), Kentucky (2015 Kilroys List, EST/Page 73/Radio Drama Network, East West Players), Death For Sydney Black (TerraNova Collective), The Internet (Incubator Arts Project), and The Adventures of Minami (The Brick). Winkler is the 2018-19 Jerome Fellow at the Lark. She is also a member of Ma Yi, Ensemble Studio Theatre, the WP Theater Playwrights Lab, and the Dorothy Strelsin New American Playwrights Group at Primary Stages. She was a 2017 Sundance/Ucross fellow. She was awarded the first-ever Mark O’Donnell Prize from the Actors Fund and Playwrights Horizons. She is also one of the first recipients of Audible’s new commissioning program for emerging playwrights.

“I wrote this play quietly on a hospital couch last spring as my mother was undergoing chemotherapy treatments at the Markey Cancer Center in Lexington, Ky.,” said Winkler in a statement. “At the time, I would have never imagined that it would win any prize, nevertheless from such a prestigious institution like Yale, chosen by Ayad Akhtar—a playwright I greatly admire, who blows me away with his depth and understanding of the world. All I can say is that I’m so happy, grateful, and thankful. I can’t help but think of my drama teachers, Jason Meenach and Lisa Osterman at Tates Creek High School, who told me theatre was a safe place to do unsafe things. I hope to continue writing from the heart without fear, and this honor means the world to me and my mom.”

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