The American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) has named six finalists in its annual playwriting competition, supported by generous funding from the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust, which recognizes plays that premiered outside New York City.
The top honoree in the Steinberg /ATCA New Play Awards will receive $25,000 — the largest prize for a national playwriting award. Two additional playwrights will receive $7,500 each.
The winners will be announced at a March 29, 2008 ceremony at the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Ky.
The six finalists:
The Crowd You’re in With, by Rebecca Gilman, debuted at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco in November. The play examines three couples at a backyard barbecue who reveal vastly different attitudes toward having children in the 21st century.
Dead Man’s Cell Phone, by Sarah Ruhl, bowed at Washington D.C.’s Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in June. The quirky comedy examines the fallout when a lonely woman takes the cell phone from the body of dead man she discovers sitting next to her in a café and begins answering his calls.
End Days, by Deborah Zoe Laufer, premiered in October at Florida Stage in Manalapan. Sometimes comic, sometimes moving, the play studies the challenge of maintaining faith in a world dominated by science and fear. A Jewish family copes with the aftermath of 9/11 as the mother, now a born-again Christian, tries to convert the family before the rapture arrives — on Wednesday.
The English Channel, by Robert Brustein, debuted in September at Suffolk University and then the Vineyard Playhouse on Martha’s Vineyard. The noted critic and founder of the American Repertory Theatre penned a droll comedy centering on creativity, inspiration and plagiarism, in which the young Shakespeare, the ghost of Marlowe and the Dark Lady of the Sonnets collide in a tavern.
Strike-Slip, by Naomi Iizuka, opened last spring at the Humana Festival. The playwright presents a cinematic look at the interconnected nature of seemingly disconnected lives in the diverse, multi-cultural Los Angeles basin. One judge praised it as a 21st Century O. Henry story.
33 Variations, by Moises Kaufman, debuted in September at Washington’s Arena Stage. Kaufman offers a fictional imagining of Beethoven’s creation of 33 brilliant variations on a prosaic waltz. His obsessive pursuit of perfection parallels a modern tale of a terminally-ill musicologist struggling with her own obsession to unearth the source of Beethoven’s.
These finalists were selected from 28 eligible scripts submitted by ATCA
members. As the competition requires, none had productions in New York City in
2007. They were evaluated by a committee of 12 theater critics from around the
U.S. headed by chairman Wm. F. Hirschman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and vice-chair George Hatza of the Reading Eagle.
“The amazing range of work — dramas, fantasies, musicals, farces, melodramas —
was uplifting confirmation that theater remains a vital and evolving art form
that can speak to every generation,” Hirschman said.
Since the inception of ATCA’s New Play Award in 1977, honorees have included
Lanford Wilson, Marsha Norman, August Wilson, Jane Martin, Arthur Miller, Mac
Wellman, Adrienne Kennedy, Donald Margulies, Lee Blessing, Lynn Nottage, Horton
Foote and Craig Lucas. Last year’s winner was San Francisco’s own Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s Hunter Gatherers.
The awards are supported by an annual grant of $40,000 from the Harold and Mimi
Steinberg Charitable Trust, created in 1986 by Harold Steinberg on behalf of
himself and his late wife. The primary mission of the Steinberg Charitable Trust
to support the American theater. The trust has provided grants totaling millions
of dollars to support new productions of American plays and educational programs
for those who may not ordinarily experience live theater.