The American Playwriting Foundation and Building for the Arts have announced the inaugural winner of the Relentless Musical Award: Shayok Misha Chowdhury and Laura Grill Jaye, also known as Grill and Chowder.
The duo won for their unproduced musical How the White Girl Got Her Spots and Other 90s Trivia, which follows a white girl's idyllic life in suburbia whose world is shaken by an unexpected scar on her shoulder through a series of Kipling-esque creation myths. The honor includes a $65,000 cash prize and opportunities to have the musical developed. Among those development opportunities will be a series of staged readings at Theatre Row.
The Relentless Award recognizes new work through a submission process that evaluates works while keeping the writers' identities, gender, and race anonymous. This year's award is the first honoring a musical piece. The honor has previously recognized Aleshea Harris, Clare Barron, Harrison David Rivers, and Sarah DeLappe.
Three finalists are also being recognized: Hills on Fire, a musical ghost story about the opiod crisis in Appalachia by Joe Stevens and Keaton Wooden; Shoot for the Moon, a story about a forbidden gay love affair between an up-and-coming Black prizefighter and a celebrated Spanish poet by Joe Stevens and Keaton Wooden; and XY, Oliver Houser's musical drama about an intersex man navigating a lifetime full of "firsts."
This year's winners and finalists were selected by a team of judges comprising Rachel Bloom (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), James Iha (Smashing Pumpkins), Lynn Nottage (Clyde’s), Thomas Bradshaw (When They See Us), David Javerbaum (The Daily Show with Jon Stewart), Sam Hollander (Ordinary Joe), Brontez Purnell (100 Boyfriends), and Stephin Merrit (The Magnetic Fields).
The Relentless Award was created in honor of Philip Seymour Hoffman, and is being presented to a musical submission in memory of late Academy and Tony-nominated songwriter Adam Schlesinger, who served as an artistic advisor during the award's creation in 2015.
"The Relentless Award’s purpose is not just to honor Phil’s and Adam’s legacies, but to extend them through the launching of new works selected through the lens of their artistic sensibilities," says Selection Committee Leader David Bar Katz. "Our judges ... come together through this award to uplift artists whose work embodies Adam’s and Phil’s fearlessness, passion, humor and relentless commitment to truth in art."