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Rachel Lynett.

Rachel Lynett Wins Yale Drama Series Prize

Her ‘Apologies to Lorraine Hansberry (You Too August Wilson)’ imagines a protected Black state founded after a second Civil War.

NEW YORK CITY: The prestigious 2021 Yale Drama Series Prize will be awarded to Rachel Lynett for her play Apologies to Lorraine Hansberry (You Too August Wilson). The play was chosen by Pulitzer-winning playwright Paula Vogel.

Lynett’s play is set in a fictional world, in which a second Civil War has taken place and Bronx Bay, an all-Black state (and neighborhood), has been established to protect “Blackness.” As Jules’s new partner, Yael, moves into town, community members argue over if Yael, who is Dominican, can stay. Questions of safety and protection surround both Jules and Yael as the utopia of Bronx Bay confronts within itself where the line is when it comes to defining who is Black and who gets left out in the process.

This year the Yale Drama Series Prize received over 2,050 submissions from 60 countries. In addition to the winner, Vogel selected three runners-up—the most finalists ever chosen by a judge—including Timothy X Atack for Babel’s Cupid, which, according to Vogel, “depicts two women, a local expert and a translator of multiple languages, engaging with an American man on a critical technological installation on tribal land”; Molly Bicks, for what Vogel calls “her vivid and twisted comedy Miss Atomic Power, in which we crash land in the desert at a UFO attraction with real live aliens”; and Francisco Mendoza for Machine Learning, in which “a brilliant first-generation computer scientist creates a machine to take care of his estranged alcoholic father.”

Now celebrating its 14th year, the Yale Drama Series Prize is presented in cooperation with Yale University Press and is solely sponsored by the David Charles Horn Foundation. The prize is awarded annually for a play by an emerging playwright, selected by a judging panel of one. The winner receives the David Charles Horn Prize of $10,000, as well as publication of the winning play by Yale University Press and a staged reading. Due to COVID, this year’s reading will take place virtually on a date to be announced. The Yale Drama Series is an annual international open submission competition for emerging playwrights who are invited to submit original, unpublished, full-length, English language plays for consideration. All entries are read blindly.

“This year’s submissions were incredibly gifted and aesthetically diverse, and in truth, at least 10 plays could have been chosen as the recipient of the Yale Drama Series Prize,” said judge Paula Vogel in a statement. She described Lynett’s winning play as “a taut examination of the impact of racism…With a metatheatrical playfulness and a direct inclusion of actors and audience alike, Rachel Lynett’s play exposes the many layers to the notion of race in order to awaken us.”

Said Lynett of her play, “I wanted to break as many ‘rules’ as I could. As someone who is multiracial and multicultural, I often feel by existing that I am sometimes breaking the rules, and wanted to write a play that reflected that. I have also spent a lot of time thinking about how to get catharsis in plays about race and how I could find a way to give the actors of color onstage a way to reclaim that.”

Here’s an excerpt from Apologies to Lorraine Hansberry (You Too August Wilson).

JULES: Alright. Damn. Please continue to take your time.

White folx call what I’m about to do “exposition.” But the Black folx in the audience know I’m about to preach. The world you’re about to see ain’t yours. It’s not a parallel universe, it’s not alternate reality. It’s something else. It lives in the imagination of every person of color in this room. 

When I get bored, I like to remove one historical event and say to myself, “Would that make the playing field fair?” What if there had been a revolt when Trump got elected? Or what if there had been no slavery? Like at all. Can you even imagine the world without it? Our whole socio-eco-system is built on the backs of people who look like me. And I know, I know, I know. The playwright’s hand is showing. Get over it. That’s kind of the point. 

So, re-setting the clock. Slavery never existed. And since I know some of y’all are trifflin, let me be clear. The African diaspora due to the slavery of West Africans never happened. The Romans still enslaved the Greeks and the idea of slavery still exists, but Black people, my people, were not slaves. We weren’t forced onto ships, our names and family histories weren’t taken from us. That has been erased.

During the Industrial Revolution, there was a great migration of Africans across the world but especially to Great Britain and the colonies. Though no one came through trying to steal resources from continental Africa, no one came through with resources either. 

The African people became incredibly advanced but the only way to mass-produce the technology was to take it overseas themselves. Black folk all over the world came up with brilliant inventions and became scientists, doctors, inventors. 

But thanks to general xenophobia, many of their inventions, the credit to who invented what, was stolen from them. And when they tried to speak out against it, suddenly people started going missing. And then more and more people went missing. Names vanished from history.

Y’all should know history is written by white folks anyway.

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