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Blackburn Prize Announces 10 Finalists for 2023

The winner will be named at the award presentation and 45th anniversary celebration on March 27 at Playwrights Horizons in New York City.

NEW YORK CITY: The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize has announced 10 finalists for its prestigious playwriting award, the oldest and largest international prize awarded to women+ playwrights. Chosen from a group of over 190 plays nominated from around the world, the 2023 finalists are Anupama Chandrasekhar (India) for The Father and the Assassin, Maryam Hamidi (U.K.) for Moonset, Karen Hartman (U.S.) for New Golden Age, Katie Holly (Ireland) for Her Hand on the Trellis, Kimber Lee (U.S.) for saturday, Sarah Mantell (U.S.) for In the Amazon Warehouse Parking Lot, a.k. payne (U.S.) for Amani, Francisca Da Silveira (U.S.) Pay No Worship, Zadie Smith (U.K.) for The Wife of Willesden, and Ruby Thomas (U.K.) for Linck & Mülhahn.

The submitting theatres of this year’s finalists are 59E59 (NYC), Hampstead Theatre (London), Kiln Theatre (London), Ma-Yi Theater Company (NYC), Mermaid Arts Center (Co. Wicklow, Ireland), National Black Theatre (NYC), Playwrights Horizons (NYC), The Citizens Theatre (Glasgow), and The Public Theater (NYC).

The winner, who will be named at the award presentation and 45th anniversary celebration on March 27 at Playwrights Horizons in New York City, will receive a cash prize of $25,000 as well as a limited edition signed print by renowned artist Willem de Kooning, created especially for the Prize. Each of the additional finalists will receive awards of $5,000.

Based in Chennai, India, Anupama Chandrasekhar was the first international playwright-in-residence at the National Theatre, London, and a Charles Wallace India Trust Writing Fellow at the University of Chichester. Her plays have been translated into several languages and staged at leading venues in India, Europe, and North America. The Father and the Assassin opened at the National Theatre’s Olivier Stage in London and was nominated for best play and best actor at the recent London Evening Standard Theatre Awards.

Maryam Hamidi is a writer for stage, screen and radio, following a long career as an actor. Born in Iran and raised in England, she has lived in Scotland for over 20 years. Maryam received the Playwright’s Studio Scotland New Playwright’s Award to develop Moonset, currently premiering in a production by the Citizens Theatre presented at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow, and Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh. Maryam likes to collide genres to un-crack the joy, pain and messiness of immigrant experience, matrilineal ties and power imbalances.

Karen Hartman’s work launched VOLT at 59e59 Theaters in 2022, in an unprecedented festival of three simultaneous Off-Broadway premieres by a single author: New Golden Age (Primary Stages); The Lucky Star (The Directors Company); and Goldie, Max & Milk (MBL Productions). Also in 2022, the musical Rattlesnake Kate, book by Hartman, score by Neyla Pekarek, won eight Henry Awards including Best New Play or Musical.

Katie Holly’s first three plays, Marion (2016), Sharon (2017), and Crowman (2018), premiered at Cork Midsummer Festival and toured regionally and nationally. Sharon was recorded and broadcast as a radio play on Ireland’s national broadcaster RTE Radio 1 and won a New York Festival Silver Award for ‘Best Digital Drama’ in 2019. She was commissioned by Cork County Council to write and produce Crossword (Bealtaine Festival 2019) and Pageant (Cork Culture Night 2020).

Kimber Lee’s plays include the water palace (2021 Susan Smith Blackburn Special Commendation), to the yellow house (La Jolla Playhouse), untitled f*ck m*ss s**gon play (2019 Bruntwood Prize International Award, Susan Smith Blackburn Prize Finalist, upcoming World Premiere at Royal Exchange Theatre and Young Vic, UK), saturday (Colorado New Play Summit), tokyo fish story (South Coast Rep, TheatreWorks/SV, Old Globe), brownsville song (b-side for tray)(Humana Festival, LCT3, Long Wharf Theatre, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Seattle Rep, Moxie Theatre, Shotgun Players), and different words for the same thing directed by Neel Keller (Center Theatre Group).

Sarah Mantell’s plays include Everything That Never HappenedThe Good GuysTinyIn the Amazon Warehouse Parking Lot, and Fight Call. They have been produced and developed at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Boston Court Pasadena, Playwrights Horizons, The Playwrights Realm, Artists Repertory Theatre, Juneteenth Theatre Justice Project, Seven Devils Playwrights Conference, The Yale Cabaret, and Seattle Repertory Theatre. Sarah is under commission with Playwrights Horizons and Geva Theatre Center and has been awarded residencies at MacDowell, Yaddo, Wildacres, Hedgebrook, Jentel, and SPACE on Ryder Farm, as well as a Playwrights Realm Writing Fellowship, Toulmin grant, Edgerton Foundation grant, and first runner-up for the Leah Ryan FEWW award.

A.k. payne is a playwright, artist-theorist, and theatermaker with roots in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Amani’s premiere is currently running through March 5 in a co-production by the National Black Theatre and Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. Payne’s work has been finalist for the L. Arnold Weissberger New Play Award, winner of the David Mark Cohen National Playwriting Award, and 3x semi-finalist for the O’Neill National Playwriting Conference.

Francisca Da Silveira is a Cape Verdean American playwright and Boston native whose plays have been developed with Theatre 503 (London), the Traverse Theatre, Company One Theatre (Boston), The Fire This Time Festival (New York), the Playwrights Realm (New York), the Public Theater, the New Group, Colt Coeur, and La Jolla Playhouse. Not-For-Profit (Or The Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Play) was featured in the Playwrights’ Realm’s INK’D Festival in 2021 and in La Jolla Playhouse’s DNA New Works Series in 2021. Pay No Worship will receive a world premiere production at Philadelphia’s InterAct Theatre Company in spring 2023.

Zadie Smith is a novelist and essayist born in North London to an English father and a Jamaican mother. Her books include White Teeth, The Autograph Man, On Beauty, NW and Swing Time. She has also published three collections of essays—Changing My Mind, Feel Free, and Intimations—and a collection of short stories, Grand Union. Her first play The Wife of Willesden, which debuted at London’s Kiln Theatre in 2021, is a reimagining of the Wife of Bath’s Tale from Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. The production will play in the U.S. at American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass., then at Brooklyn Academy of Music, beginning in March. 

Ruby Thomas is an actor and writer from London. Her plays Either (2019) and The Animal Kingdom (2022) were produced by Hampstead Theatre Downstairs and her short play Romy & Me was part of the Living Newspaper at the Royal Court (2020). She was chosen for the Channel 4 Playwrights’ Scheme (2020), received a Jerwood Commission from the Royal Court (2021) and was nominated for the George Devine Award (2022) for Linck & Mülhahn. The premiere production of Linck & Mülhahn is currently running through March 4 at Hampstead Theatre.

Founded in 1978, the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize is awarded annually to celebrate women+ who have written outstanding works for the English-speaking theatre. Women+ includes women, transgender, and non-binary playwrights. An international panel of six judges chooses the winning play from among the finalists.

The judges for the 45th Susan Smith Blackburn Prize are writer Julia Cho (U.S.) (previous winner of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for The Language Archive)stage director Rebecca Frecknall (U.K.), choreographer/director Raja Feather Kelly (U.S.), theatrical producer and president of the Society of London Theatre (SOLT) Eleanor Lloyd (U.K.),celebrated actor/director/writer Lucian Msamati (U.K.), and stage and screen actor Amy Ryan (U.S.).

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