Annie Baker Wins 2013 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize
By Michael Gioia
American playwright Annie Baker was honored with the 2013 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, honoring female playwrights, on March 17. She was chosen from over 100 nominated plays, for her play The Flick, which is currently playing an extended Off-Broadway engagement at Playwrights Horizons.
The winner is awarded $25,000 as well as a signed and numbered print by artist Willem de Kooning, created especially for the Prize. Each of the finalists receives $2,500.
Blackburn Prize judge Cynthia Nixon (Wit) presented Baker with the Prize — currently celebrating its 35th anniversary — at the Awards Presentation March 17 at the Alley Theatre in Houston. The Prize is awarded annually to recognize women from around the world who have written works of outstanding quality for the English-speaking theatre.
Baker will also be the next writer-in-residence with the Horton Foote Legacy Project, a newly established venture where emerging and established playwrights receive a month-long writing residency in Horton Foote's home in Wharton, TX.
Baker's full-length plays include Circle Mirror Transformation (Playwrights Horizons, Obie Award for Best New American Play, Drama Desk nomination for Best Play), The Aliens (Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, Obie Award for Best New American Play, Finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize), Body Awareness (Atlantic Theater Company, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nominations for Best Play/Emerging Playwright), and an adaptation of Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, for which she also designed the costumes (Soho Rep).
Playwrights Horizons describes The Flick as "a hilarious and heart-rending cry for authenticity in a fast-changing world. In a run-down movie theatre in central Massachusetts, three underpaid employees mop the floors and attend to one of the last 35-millimeter film projectors in the state. Their tiny battles, and not-so-tiny heartbreaks, more gripping than the lackluster, second-run movies on screen, play out in the empty aisles."
The Flick was nominated by Playwrights Horizons, where it premiered March 12, following previews from Feb. 15. The Flick is the result of a Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust Commission awarded by Playwrights Horizons.
American playwright Jennifer Haley received the 2011-12 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for her play The Nether, which was nominated by Center Theatre Group (Los Angeles), the company that is producing its world premiere, which will open March 19. Other recipients of the Prize include Katori Hall's Hurt Village, Chloe Moss' This Wide Night, Judith Thompson's Palace of the End, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti's Behzti (Dishonour), Sarah Ruhl's The Clean House, Dael Orlandersmith's Yellowman, Cheryl West's Before It Hits Home, Susan Miller's A Map of Doubt and Rescue, Gina Gionfriddo's U.S. Drag, Bridget Carpenter's Fall, Charlotte Jones' Humble Boy, Naomi Wallace's One Flea Spare, Wendy Kesselman's My Sister in this House, Jessica Goldberg's Refuge, Paula Vogel's How I Learned to Drive, Moira Buffini's Silence and Caryl Churchill's Serious Money.
This year's finalists include Karen Ardiff (Ireland), The Goddess Of Liberty; Jean Betts (New Zealand), Genesis Falls; Deborah Bruce (U.K.), The Distance; Katherine Chandler (U.K.), Before It Rains; Amy Herzog (U.S.), Belleville; Dawn King (U.K.), Foxfinder; Laura Marks (U.S.), Bethany; Jenny Schwartz (U.S.), Somewhere Fun; and Francine Volpe (U.S.), The Good Mother.
The international panel of judges for the 35th annual Susan Smith Blackburn Prize included included Mandy Greenfield, artistic producer of the Manhattan Theatre Club; and award-winning Broadway and regional stage director, Michael Wilson. Judges from the U.K. were Laura Collier, head of the National Theatre Studio; Matt Wolf, London editor of Broadway.com, and London theatre critic of the International Herald Tribune; and BAFTA Award-winning actor and writer, Susan Wooldridge.
As previously reported, to celebrate the Prize's 35th anniversary, theatres around the world have been producing works by playwrights honored by the Prize. Over 75 productions by winners and finalists have been produced by theatres on both sides of the Atlantic during the 35th anniversary year.
The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize was co-founded by Emilie S. Kilgore and William Blackburn. Many winners have gone on to receive other honors, including Tony Awards and The Pulitzer Prize.
For more information, visit BlackburnPrize.org.
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