Lindsay Smiling, Brandon Pierce, and Anthony Martinez-Briggs in James Ijames's "Kill Move Paradise" at the Wilma Theater. (Photo by Johanna Austin)

James Ijames Wins Kesselring Prize for ‘Kill Move Paradise’

The Philadelphia-based writer took the $25,000 honor for a play inspired by the killings of unarmed black men.

James Ijames.

NEW YORK CITY: The National Arts Club has announced the winner of its annual Kesselring Prize, a $25,000 award for a rising U.S. playwright. This year it will go to James Ijames, who will receive the prize for his play Kill Move Paradise at a ceremony on Nov. 5 at the New York headquarters of the club. The award also provides Ijames with the opportunity to reside in the National Arts Club’s historic clubhouse to develop his work.

Kill Move Paradise is about four black men who find themselves stuck in a cosmic waiting room in the afterlife, a play inspired by the growing number of slain unarmed black men and women. Ijames, a Philadelphia-based performer and writer, was nominated for the Kesselring by the Wilma Theater, which recently produced the play. In 2015 he was the Kesselring’s Honorable Mention winner for his play The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trail of Miz Martha Washington. His previous playwriting honors include the Terrence McNally New Play Award for White in 2015, a Pew Fellow for Playwriting, and the Whitting Award.  He is on the theatre faculty at Villanova University.

Ijames’s play was one of 16 considered for the 2018 Kesselring, submitted by 16 theatres across the country, including the Actors Theatre of Louisville, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Ars Nova, and the La Jolla Playhouse. The 2018 Kesselring Prize jury comprises playwrights John Guare and Lynn Nottage, as well as Anne Cattaneo, dramaturg of Lincoln Center Theater and creator/head of its Directors’ Lab. The Kesselring Prize’s long-time artistic director is Michael Parva, who also heads the Directors Company in New York City.

Established by the National Arts Club in 1980 by Charlotte Kesselring, widow of Arsenic and Old Lace writer Joseph Kesselring, the Kesselring Prize honors and supports playwrights on the brink of national recognition with an honorarium and added support towards development of their work. Among past recipients are Lucas Hnath, Lindsey Ferrentino, Tony Kushner, Nicky Silver, and Lauren Yee.