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"Two Mile Hollow" by Leah Nanako Winkler at Theater Mu in 2018. (Photo by Rich Ryan)

ATCA Awards Leah Nanako Winkler 2018 Francesca Primus Prize

The national critics association bestows its $10,000 prize for her play ‘Two Mile Hollow,’ so far produced primarily at smaller companies of color.

NEW YORK CITY: The American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) and the Francesca Ronnie Primus Foundation have named Leah Nanako Winkler the recipient of the 2019 Francesca Primus Prize for her play Two Mile Hollow. Winkler will receive a $10,000 cash prize through the Primus Foundation.

Leah Nanako Winkler. (Photo by Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The award is given in honor of the late  Francesca Primus, a playwright, dramaturg, theatre critic, and ATCA member. The prize is given annually to an emerging female playwright in recognition of a play that received a full production the previous season.

“The Francesca Primus Foundation is so happy in the way Francesca is being honored by the American Theatre Critics Association,” said Barry Primus, brother of Francesca, in a statement. “It was always her delight to encourage and support
promising playwrights.”

This year’s selection committee, led by Kerry Reid, included Marianne Evett, Michael Howley, Marjorie Oberlander, Lynn Rosen, Wendy Rosenfield, and Nicole Serratore. For the first time in the history of the prize, all the Primus finalists were women of color. The finalists included Nambi E. Kelley for Jazz and Jiehae Park for Hannah and the Dread Gazebo. 

Winkler’s Two Mile Hollow premiered at Chicago’s First Floor Theater as part of a National New Play Network rolling world premiere in 2017. The satiric play pokes at the common theatrical narrative of white families near bodies of water complaining about life. Winkler’s other plays include God Said ThisKentucky, Death For Sydney Black, Diversity Awareness Picnic, Linus and Murray, Hot Asian Doctor Husband, and Nevada-Tan.

“I think it could have been easy for critics to dismiss Two Mile Hollow as just a joke because it’s funny and theatre is generally serious or often extremely academic in its humor, and I’m just not and do not pretend to be,” said Winkler in a statement. “But my play is deeper than that, and I’m so honored that the Primus Prize committee recognized that. It was completely unexpected, as I have been told numerous times that this play was not quite right for (white) New York
audiences. So I’m beyond proud that this controversial play that has played predominantly at small theatres of color across the country was chosen for this honor. I’m particularly grateful to First Floor Theater in Chicago, Mu Performing Arts in Minneapolis, Artists at Play in Los Angeles, and Ferocious Lotus in San Francisco, who gave Two Mile Hollow a simultaneous world premiere. This prize is dedicated to their fearlessness, tenaciousness, and, most importantly, sense of fun. I also am deeply humbled to have been a finalist with two incredible women I admire: Jiehae Park and Nambi E. Kelley. I wish all of our plays a bright life.”

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