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Will Arbery Receives 2020 Whiting Award for Drama

The ‘Heroes of the Fourth Turning’ playwright will be awarded $50,000.

NEW YORK CITY: The Whiting Foundation has announced the 10 winners of the 2020 Whiting Awards, marking its 35th anniversary celebrating writers in the fields of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama. While the traditional ceremony has been canceled to avoid possible COVID-19 transmission, the foundation looks forward to rescheduling a celebration of the winners once restrictions on public gathering have been lifted. Will Arbery, who will receive $50,000, is the sole winner in this year’s drama category.

Will Arbery. (Photo by Zack DeZon)

Arbery was recognized for his play Heroes of the Fourth Turning, which concluded a run last fall at Playwrights Horizons in New York City. In a statement, the Whiting Foundation described Arbery as a playwright who is “intellectually audacious, formally sly, [with] the courage to let [his] characters seize the stage with impassioned arguments about morality and meaning,” whose writing “moves to the beat of multiple metronomes: the rhythms of thought, the counterpoint of competing logics, the heartbeat of human longing.”

“We wish to celebrate extraordinary writers, but we find ourselves in extraordinary times, ones where we are all reinventing how to gather, exchange ideas, and deepen our connections with each other across a necessary distance,” said Courtney Hodell, the foundation’s director of literary programs, in a statement. “As long as literature has existed, it has served this purpose, and we look to writers for their uncanny ability to sift raw experience for its poetry and truth. What we are living now, Whiting writers will reflect back to us in time, with depth and clarity and heart.” 

Founded in 1985, the Whiting Awards remain one of the most esteemed and largest monetary gifts ($50,000) to emerging writers, and are based on the criteria of early-career achievement and the promise of superior literary work to come. A total of $8 million has been awarded to more than 300 fiction and nonfiction writers, poets, and playwrights to date. Past winners in the drama category include August Wilson, Suzan-Lori Parks, Tony Kushner, and Michael R. Jackson.

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