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"Cambodian Rock Band" at South Coast Repertory in 2018. Pictured: Raymond Lee, Joseph Ngo, Jane Lui, and Brooke Ishibashi.

Lauren Yee’s ‘Cambodian Rock Band’ Takes Steinberg-ATCA Award

Also cited were Noah Haidle’s ‘Birthday Candles’ and Jen Silverman’s ‘Witch,’ with the Osborn Award going to Spenser Davis’s ‘Plainclothes.’

LOUISVILLLE, KY.: Cambodian Rock Band by Lauren Yee has been named the winner of the Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award. The award recognizes the best scripts that premiered professionally outside New York City during 2018 and carries a $25,000 prize. Yee was presented with the award during the 2019 Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville. Also presented at the ceremony on April 6 was the M. Elizabeth Osborn New Play Award for an emerging playwright, which went to Spenser Davis for his play Plainclothes, which premiered at Chicago’s Broken Nose Theatre.

Lauren Yee. (Photo by Joey Yee)

“The notion of exploring the Cambodian holocaust through contemporary investigation, past survivor memories, and rock ’n’ roll is absolutely inspired, and to execute it with such unexpected humor and supple time shifts is a real accomplishment,” adjudicators on the ATCA New Play Committee said in a statement regarding Yee’s play. “This play felt at once fresh and deeply grounded in history.”

Cambodian Rock Band uses flashbacks and live rock music to explore the legacy of the Khmer Rouge genocide, as a young Cambodian American attempts to piece together her family history 30 years after her father fled Cambodia. The play had its world premiere at South Coast Repertory Theatre in Costa Mesa, Calif.

Two citations with prizes of $7,500 each were awarded to Noah Haidle for his play Birthday Candles and to Jen Silverman for her play Witch. Haidle’s Birthday Candles chronicles a woman’s life as she makes an onstage cake. The play had its world premiere at Detroit Public Theatre. Silverman’s Witch is a modern fable that involves multiple deals with a devil. The play had its world premiere at Writers Theatre in Glencoe, Ill.

Since the inception of ATCA’s new-play award in 1977, honorees have included Lanford Wilson, Marsha Norman, August Wilson, Arthur Miller, Mac Wellman, and Adrienne Kennedy. Last year’s honoree was The Book of Will by Lauren Gunderson.

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