2020 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize Finalists Announced

2020 Susan Smith Blackburn Finalists include three Asian American playwrights

2020 Susan Smith Blackburn The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize has announced 10 Finalists for its prestigious playwriting award, the oldest and largest prize awarded to women playwrights.

Chosen from an international group of over 160 nominated plays, the Finalists are:

The other finalists include

Aleshea Harris (U.S.)- What to Send Up When It Goes Down
Anchuli Felicia King(Australia)- Golden Shield
Dominique Morisseau (U.S.)- Confederates
Lucy Prebble (U.K.)- A Very Expensive Poison
Stef Smith  (U.K.)- Nora:  A Doll’s House
Anne Washburn (U.S.)- Shipwreck
Zoe Cooper (U.K.)- Out of Water


The Winner of the 2020 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize will be announced at the annual Award Presentation, which honors all Finalists on March 2nd at Playwrights Horizons in New York City. The Winner will be awarded a cash prize of $25,000, and will also receive a signed print by renowned artist Willem de Kooning, created especially for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. Each of the additional Finalists will receive an award of $5,000.


The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize is awarded annually to celebrate women who have written works of outstanding quality for the English-speaking theatre. The Prize is named for noted American author and actor, Susan Smith Blackburn. who lived in London during the last 15 years of her life. She died in 1977 at the age of 42. Susan believed that society urgently needed more influence from talented women. The Prize honors excellence and promotes the high standards, creativity and vitality that were characteristic of Susan’s life.


Since the Prize’s founding in 1978, over 460 plays have been honored as Finalists of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. Many have gone on to receive other top honors, including Olivier, Lilly, Evening Standard and Tony Awards for Best Play. Ten Susan Smith Blackburn Finalist plays have subsequently won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama. The Prize has also fostered an interchange of plays between the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and other English-speaking countries. The 2019 Winner of the Prize, Fairview by Jackie Sibblies Drury, subsequently won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama and a 2019 Steinberg Playwright Award.  It has just completed a sold-out run at London’s Young Vic Theatre.


Winners of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize include Alice Birch’s Anatomy of a Suicide, Lynn Nottage’s Sweat, Dael Orlandersmith’s Yellowman, Annie Baker’s The Flick, Caryl Churchill’s Serious Money, Paula Vogel’s How I Learned to Drive, Nell Dunn’s Steaming, Wendy Wasserstein’s The Heidi Chronicles, Katori Hall’s Hurt Village, Chloe Moss’s This Wide Night, Sarah Ruhl’s The Clean House, Judith Thompson’s Palace of the End, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s Behzti (Dishonour), Julia Cho’s The Language Archive, Jennifer Haley’s The Nether, Charlotte Jones’ Humble Boy, Naomi Wallace’s One Flea Spare, and Moira Buffini’s Silence.


Former Judges of The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize over the past forty-two years are a Who’s Who of the English-speaking theatre and include Edward Albee, Eileen Atkins, Blair Brown, Zoe Caldwell, Glenn Close, Harold Clurman, Colleen Dewhurst, Marianne Elliott, Edie Falco, Ralph Fiennes, Greta Gerwig, Sam Gold, John Guare, A.R. Gurney, Mel Gussow, David Hare, Jeremy Herrin, Garry Hynes, Judith Ivey, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Tony Kushner, Phyllida Lloyd, Marsha Norman, Francis McDormand, Janet McTeer, Tanya Moodie, Cynthia Nixon, Joan Plowright, Diana Rigg, Marian Seldes, Fiona Shaw, Tom Stoppard, Meryl Streep, Daniel Sullivan, Jessica Tandy, Sigourney Weaver, August Wilson and George C. Wolfe among more than 200 artists and theatre professionals from the United States, the United Kingdom and Ireland.


Judges for the 2020 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize are:  OBIE Award-winning actor Quincy Tyler Bernstine (U.S.);  Nataki Garrett(U.S.) Artistic Director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival;  Jim Nicola (U.S.) Artistic Director of the New York Theatre Workshop; film, television and theatre producer Kate Pakenham(U.K); actor-director-writer Nathaniel Martello-White (U.K.) and Olivier and Golden Globe-winning stage, television and film actor, Ruth Wilson (U.K.).

Bios of the 2020 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize finalists include

FRANCES YA-CHU COWHIG (U.S.)- The King of Hell’s Palace

Submitted by Hampstead Theatre (London)

Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig is an internationally produced playwright who has spent the past decade completing a trilogy of theatrical works [The World of Extreme Happiness, Snow in Midsummer, The King of Hell’s Palace] that are set in contemporary China and explore global capitalism and intergenerational trauma. The King of Hell’s Palace premiered at Hampstead Theatre in London. Her plays have been staged in the United Kingdom at the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre, Hampstead Theatre, Trafalgar Studios 2 [West End] and the Unicorn Theatre.

In the United States her work has been staged at venues that include the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Manhattan Theater Club and the Goodman Theatre. Frances’ plays have been awarded the Wasserstein Prize, the Yale Drama Series Award (selected by David Hare), an Edinburgh Fringe First Award, the David A. Callichio Award and the Keene Prize for Literature. She has benefited from artist residencies at Yaddo, MacDowell, Hedgebrook, Ragdale, the Sundance Playwright Retreats at Ucross and Flying Point, and the Santa Fe Art Institute.

Her first full length musical, The New Planet, a collaboration with composer Michael Roth and director-choreographer Maija García, will receive a workshop production at the Guthrie Theatre this summer as part of the theatre maker training program A Guthrie Experience. She is currently developing the feature script for Gold Mountain, a Chinese immigrant drama set in 1850s San Francisco, for film and television director Alan Taylor and Starlight Entertainment. She received an MFA in Writing from the James A. Michener Center for Writers at UT Austin, a BA in Sociology from Brown University, and a certificate in Ensemble-Based Physical Theatre from the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre. She is a 2019 United States Artist Fellow.


KIMBER LEE (U.S.)- untitled f*ck m*ss s**gon play

Submitted by The O’Neill National Playwrights Conference

Kimber Lee won the 2019 Bruntwood Prize International Award for Playwriting with untitled f*ck m*ss s**gon play. The play was workshopped at the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference and is in development with the Royal Exchange Theatre (Manchester).  Lee’s other plays include: tokyo fish story (South Coast Rep, TheatreWorks/Silicon Valley, Old Globe Theater); brownsville song (b-side for tray)(Humana Festival, LCT3/Lincoln Center, Long Wharf Theatre, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Moxie Theatre, Shotgun Players), and different words for the same thing (Center Theatre Group/Kirk Douglas Theatre).

She has also developed work with Lark Play Development Center, The Ground Floor/Berkeley Rep, Page 73, Hedgebrook, Ojai Playwrights Conference, Seven Devils Playwrights Conference, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, Great Plains Theatre Conference, Manhattan Theatre Club, Southern Rep, ACT Theatre/Seattle, TheatreWorks/Silicon Valley, Premiere Stages, Bush Theatre/London, and Magic Theatre.

Other places include Lark Playwrights Workshop Fellow, Dramatists Guild Fellow, member of Ma-Yi Writers Lab, and recipient of the Ruby Prize, PoNY Fellowship, Hartford Stage New Voices Fellowship, BAU Institute Arts Residency Award, TheatreWorks/SV Leading Ladies Award, Kilroys List, Audelco Nominee, Theatre Bay Area Nominee, and inaugural PoNY/Bush Theatre Playwright Residency in London. MFA: UT Austin.


Submitted by American Repertory Theatre and New York Theatre Workshop

Endlings received its world premiere in 2019 at American Repertory Theater, and will have its New York premiere in February 2020 at New York Theatre Workshop. It was selected for the 2018 O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, and is on the 2017 Kilroys list. Her play Tom & Eliza was a semifinalist for the American Playwriting Foundation’s 2016 Relentless Award. Celine has been awarded residencies, fellowships, and commissions from MTC/Sloan, Sundance, the Millay Colony for the arts, the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and the Edward F. Albee Foundation.

Celine is a staff writer on Amazon’s The Wheel of Time, and she is developing a project for television with Diablo Cody and Beth Behrs. Celine is a member of the Public Theater’s 2016-2017 Emerging Writers Group, Ars Nova’s 2014-2015 Play Group, and The Orchard Project’s inaugural NYC Greenhouse 2018. She was a Playwrights Realm Writing Fellow from 2017-2018, a 2014 & 2016 Great Plains Theatre Conference Playwright, and she was a 2017 semifinalist for the P73 Playwriting Fellowship. She holds an M.F.A. from Columbia.

Contact: susansmithblackburn@gmail.com

Website: www.blackburnprize.org


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