At the 59th Annual PEN Literary Awards, playwright Erika Dickerson-Despenza and short story writer, novelist, essayist, and poet Vinod Kumar Shukla will be honored for their achievements. The ceremony is set to take place at 8 PM March 2 at The Town Hall, with Kal Penn hosting the evening.
Dickerson-Despenza (cullud wattah, [hieroglpyh]) and Shukla (A Window Lived in the Wall, A Silent Place) join the previously announced Tina Fey in receiving career achievement awards. Dickerson-Despenza will be honored with the 2023 PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award while Shukla will receive the 2023 PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature.
Dickerson-Despenza's shadow/land will make its world premiere at Off-Broadway's The Public Theater this April. Luis Alfaro and Saheem Ali (Fat Ham) selected Dickerson-Despenza for the award, which honors mid-career playwrights with outstanding voices. Her newest work launches her 10-play Katrina Cycle investigating the intersection of American injustices with the environmental crisis. Previous winners of the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award include Larissa FastHorse, Tanya Barfield, Daniel Alexander Jones, and Jackie Sibblies Drury.
Bobby Conte, Liisi LaFontaine, and Solea Pfieffer will all perform at the event, with musical direction by Ulysses Owens, Jr. Presenting these awards and others will be Jad Abumrad, Mahogany L. Browne, Rachel Dratch (POTUS), Robert Jones, Jr., Ari Melber, Adesola Osakalumi (Skeleton Crew), Molly Ringwald, Geena Rocero, and more.
The Literary Awards celebrates writers and translators in an awards ceremony that is open to the public.