The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize has announced 10 Finalists for its prestigious playwriting award, the oldest and largest prize awarded to women playwrights writing in the English language. Chosen from over 150 nominated plays, the Finalists are:

Alice Birch (U.K.) – Anatomy of a Suicide

Elinor Cook (U.K.) – Out of Love

Fiona Doyle (Ireland) –The Strange Death of John Doe

Aleshea Harris (U.S.) – Is God Is

Colleen Murphy (Canada)– The Breathing Hole

Antoinette Nwandu (U.S.) – Pass Over

Nina Raine (U.K.) – Consent

Anusree Roy (Canada) – Trident Moon

Tori Sampson (U.S.) – If Pretty Hurts Ugly Must be a Muhfucka

Lauren Yee (U.S.) – The Great Leap

The Winner of the 2017-2018 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize will be named in early March. 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, co-founded by Emilie S. Kilgore and William Blackburn, honors outstanding new English-language plays by women. Many of the Winners have gone on to receive other honors, including Olivier, Lilly, Evening Standard and Tony Awards for Best Play. Ten Blackburn Finalist plays have subsequently won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

The Houston-based Susan Smith Blackburn Prize reflects the values and interests of Susan Smith Blackburn, noted American actress and writer who grew up in Houston and lived in London during the last 15 years of her life.  She died in 1977 at the age of 42. Over 350 plays have been honored as Finalists since the Prize was instituted in 1977. Last year’s Winner of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, Dance Nation by Clare Barron, will premiere in April at Playwrights Horizons. It also won the 2015 Relentless Award from the American Playwriting Foundation. The 2016 Winner of the Blackburn Prize, Sweat by Lynn Nottage, played on Broadway in 2017 and won the Pulitzer Prize for DramaSubsequent to winning the 2012-2013 Prize for The Flick, Annie Baker was honored with the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, a Steinberg Playwright Award, a MacArthur Fellowship and a Horton Foote Legacy Project award.

Other recipients of the Prize include Caryl Churchill’s Serious Money, Katori Hall’s Hurt Village, Paula Vogel’s How I Learned to Drive, Chloe Moss’s This Wide Night, Judith Thompson’s Palace of the End, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s Behzti (Dishonour), Sarah Ruhl’s The Clean House, Rona Munro’s Bold Girls, Dael Orlandersmith’s Yellowman, Julia Cho’s The Language Archive, Gina Gionfriddo’s U.S. Drag, Bridget Carpenter’s Fall, Charlotte Jones’ Humble Boy, Naomi Wallace’s One Flea Spare, and Moira Buffini’s Silence.

The international panel of Judges for the 2017-18 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize are: Annie Baker (U.S.), Carrie Cracknell (U.K.), Denise Gough (U.K.), Rajiv Joseph (U.S.), Justine Mitchell (U.K.) and Phylicia Rashad (U.S.).

Former judges of The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize over the past forty years are a Who’s Who of the English-speaking theatre and include Edward Albee, Eileen Atkins, Blair Brown, Zoe Caldwell, Jill Clayburgh, Glenn Close, Harold Clurman, Colleen Dewhurst, Edie Falco, Ralph Fiennes, Greta Gerwig, Sam Gold, John Guare, A.R. Gurney, Mel Gussow, David Hare, Judith Ivey, Brandon Jacob-Jenkins, Tony Kushner, Phyllida Lloyd, Francis McDormand, Cynthia Nixon, Janet McTeer, Marsha Norman, Jim Parsons, Joan Plowright, Diana Rigg, Marian Seldes, Fiona Shaw, Tom Stoppard, Meryl Streep, Jessica Tandy, Liesl Tommy, Paula Vogel, Sigourney Weaver, Wendy Wasserstein, August Wilson and George C. Wolfe among more than 200 artists in the United States, the United Kingdom and Ireland.

“The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize has done more than any other single force to get plays by women collected and celebrated, but more importantly, produced.”              

ABOUT THE FINALISTS

Alice Birch (U.K.)- Anatomy of a Suicide

Submitted by the Royal Court

Anatomy of a Suicide premiered at the Royal Court in 2017.  Alice Birch is the winner of the Arts Foundation Award for Playwriting 2014, the co-winner of the George Devine Award for Most Promising Playwright 2014 and was shortlisted for the Susan Smith Blackburn Award in 2012 and 2015.

Other theatre includes: [Blank] (NT Connections / Clean Break), Revolt. She said. Revolt again. (RSC / Soho Rep NYC), Ophelias Zimmer (Royal Court / Schaubuhne Theater Berlin), We Want You to Watch (National Theatre / RashDash), Little Light (Orange Tree), Little on the inside (Almeida / Clean Break) and Many Moons (Theatre 503). Film includes Lady Macbeth (BBC / BFI / Creative England) which was the winner of the International Critic’s Prize (FIPRESCI Prize) at San Sebastian Film Festival 2016, the Best First Feature at Zurich Film Festival 2016, Best Screenplay at Turin Film Festival 2016 and the BIFA Award for Best Screenplay 2017. Current commissions include the Royal Court, the National, the Almeida and Soho Rep. Film and TV commissions include projects for Film Four, Symbolic Exchange, House Productions and HBO.

Elinor Cook (U.K.)- Out of Love

Submitted by Paines Plough, The Orange Tree and Theatre Clwyd

Elinor Cook is the winner of the George Devine Award for Most Promising Playwright 2013. Her plays include Out of Love (Paines Plough / Theatr Clwyd / Orange Tree Theatre), The Lady From The Sea (Donmar Warehouse), Pilgrims (HighTide / The Yard), The Rehearsal (LAMDA), Ten Weeks (Paines Plough / RWCMD), The Boy Preference (NT Connections), Image of an Unknown Young Woman (The Gate) and The Girl’s Guide to Saving The World (HighTide). She also wrote an episode of The Secrets for BBC One, directed by Dominic Savage.

Fiona Doyle (Ireland)-The Strange Death of John Doe

Submitted by Hampstead Theatre

Fiona Doyle’s work in theatre includes Coolatully (winner of the 2014 Papatango New Writing Prize) at the Finborough Theatre in London and for Mead Theatre Lab in Washington DC; Deluge (winner of the 2014 Eamon Keane Full-Length Play Award) at Hampstead Theatre Downstairs; and Ms Y (short) as part of the Young Vic’s Five Plays. Fiona has been the recipient of the Irish Theatre Institute’s Phelim Donlon Playwright’s Bursary and Residency Award in association with the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, a Cill Rialaig Artist residency, a Peggy Ramsay Foundation grant, and has recently been awarded a Fellowship from the MacDowell Colony for their 2018 Winter/Spring season. She completed the John Burgess Playwriting Course in 2012. She has been on attachment at the National Theatre Studio and is currently under commission to Hampstead Theatre and NT Connections 2018. Her plays are published by Nick Hern Books.

Aleshea Harris (U.S.)– Is God Is

Submitted by Soho Rep

Is God Is was published by 3 Hole Press in the spring of 2017 and will premiere Off-Broadway at Soho Rep. in February, 2018. Aleshea Harris is a playwright and performer who received an MFA in Writing for Performance from California Institute of the Arts. Her work has been presented a number of places including the Costume Shop at American Conservatory Theater, Playfest at Orlando Shakespeare Theater, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, La Comédie de Saint-Étienne, the Skirball Center, and REDCAT. Harris has enjoyed residencies at MacDowell Colony, Hedgebrook, Djerassi and SPACE on Ryder Farm. She is the winner of the 2016 Relentless Award from the American Playwriting Foundation for Is God Is.

Colleen Murphy (Canada)– The Breathing Hole

Submitted by The Stratford Festival/English Theatre, National Arts Centre

The Breathing Hole premiered at the Stratford Festival in the fall of 2017. Colleen Murphy is a two-time Governor General Literary Award Winner for Drama.  In 2016 she won for her play Pig Girl, and in 2007 she won for The December Man (L’homme de décembre).  Twice she has won the Carol Bolt Award for Best Play.  Other world premieres in Canada in 2017 include Oksana G. at Tapestry Opera in Toronto (composer, Aaron Gervais), and The Society For The Destitute Presents Titus Bouffonius at Rumble Theatre in Vancouver.  Other plays include I Hope My Heart Burns First, Armstrong’s War, The Goodnight Bird, Beating Heart Cadaver and The Piper. Libretti include My Mouth On Your Heart (composer, August Murphy-King). She is also an award-winning filmmaker. Colleen has been Playwright-in-Residence at Finborough Theatre in London, U.K., Necessary Angel Theatre and Factory Theatre in Toronto.  She has been Writer in Residence at the University of Regina, McMaster University, the University of Guelph, Wilfrid Laurier University, the Lee Playwright in Residence at the University of Alberta, and is currently Writer in Residence at the University of New Brunswick.

Antoinette Nwandu (U.S.)- Pass Over

Submitted by Steppenwolf Theatre

Antoinette Nwandu is a New York-based playwright. Her play Breach: a manifesto on race in america through the eyes of a black girl recovering from self-hate will have its World Premiere at Victory Gardens in February 2018.

And her play Pass Over will have its New York debut at LCT3 in June 2018. A filmed version of the Jeff-award winning, Steppenwolf production of Pass Over—directed by Spike Lee—will have its world premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and will stream on Amazon Prime beginning in April 2018. Antoinette’s work has been supported by the Sundance Theater Lab, Space on Ryder Farm, Ignition Fest, the Cherry Lane Mentor Project, the Kennedy Center, Page73, PlayPenn, Southern Rep, The Flea, Naked Angels, Fire This Time, and The Movement Theater Company. Honors include the Paula Vogel Playwriting Award, the Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award, the Negro Ensemble Company’s Douglas Turner Ward Prize, a Literary Fellowship at the Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference, and spots on the 2016 and 2017 Kilroys lists. Antoinette is a MacDowell Fellow, a Dramatists Guild Fellow, and an Ars Nova Play Group alum. She is currently under commission from Echo Theater Company, Colt Coeur, Audible, and Ars Nova.

Nina Raine (U.K.)- Consent

Submitted by Out of Joint

Consent premiered in April, 2017 at the National Theatre in a co-production with Out of Joint. Nina Raine began her career as a trainee director at the Royal Court under the Regional Young Theatre Director Scheme. Other theatre writing credits include: Tribes (Drama Desk Award, Olivier Award Best New Play nomination), Tiger Country, The Drunks (Adaptation) and Rabbit (Evening Standard and Critic’s Circle Awards for most promising playwright).

Theatre directing credits include: Donkey Heart (Old Red Lion/Trafalgar Studios) Longing (Hampstead Theatre); Jumpy (Royal Court/Duke of York’s Theatre); Tiger Country (Hampstead Theatre); Shades (Royal Court Theatre Upstairs – Critic’s Circle and Evening Standard Awards for Most Promising Newcomer); Rabbit (Old Red Lion/Trafalgar Studios/Brits off Broadway Festival); Unprotected (Liverpool Everyman/Traverse Theatre – Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award and TMA Best Director Award); Vermillion Dream (Salisbury Playhouse); Eskimo Sisters (Southwark Playhouse).Television credits include: Mistresses (The Finale). Radio Credits include: Alan Howard Reads

Anusree Roy (Canada)- Trident Moon

Submitted by Finborough Theatre

Anusree Roy is a Governor General’s Award nominated writer and actor whose work has toured nationally. Other plays include: Little Pretty and the Exceptional, Sultans of the Street, Brothel # 9, Roshni, Letters to my Grandma and Pyaasa. She holds a Master’s from the University of Toronto and has been published by the Playwright’s Canada Press. Her plays and performances have won her four Dora Mavor Moore Awards along with multiple nominations. She is the recipient of the K.M.Hunter Award, RBC Emerging Artist Award, The Carol Bolt Award and The Siminovitch Protégé Prize. Anusree’s playwright-in-residence include: Nightwood Theatre, Factory Theatre, The Blyth Festival,Theatre, Passe Muraille and Canadian Stage Company.

Tori Sampson (U.S.)- If Pretty Hurts Ugly Must be a Muhfucka

Submitted by Yale Repertory Theatre

Tori is a Boston playwright living in Minneapolis. Her plays include If Pretty Hurts Ugly Must be a Muhfucka, This Land Was Made (Vineyard Theater 2018) Cadillac Crew and Where Butterflies go in the Winter. Her plays have been developed at Great Plains National Theater Conference, Berkeley Repertory Theater’s The Ground Floor residency program, Victory Garden’s IGNITION festival and UBUNTU theater. Tori is a 2017-18 Playwright’s Center Jerome Fellow. Two of her plays appeared on the 2017 Kilroys List and she holds an Honorable Mention from the 2016 Relentless Award.  She is the Kennedy Center’s 2016 Paula Vogel Playwright and second-place Lorraine Hansberry recipient. She is a 2017 finalist for the Alliance Theater’s Kendeda Prize. Tori is currently working on commissions from Berkeley Repertory Theater Yale Repertory Theater and Atlantic Theater Company. She holds a B.S. in sociology from Ball State University and an MFA in playwriting from Yale School of Drama.

Lauren Yee (U.S.) The Great Leap

Submitted by Denver Center Theatre Company

The Great Leap is slated for productions this year at Denver Center, Seattle Rep, and Atlantic Theatre Company.  Lauren Yee’s play King of the Yees premiered this past season at The Goodman Theatre and Center Theatre Group, followed by productions at ACT Theatre and Canada’s National Arts Centre. Other upcoming productions: Cambodian Rock Band at South Coast Rep; King of the Yees at SF Playhouse and Baltimore Center Stage; and The Song of Summer at Trinity Rep. Other plays include Ching Chong Chinaman (Pan Asian, Mu Performing Arts), The Hatmaker’s Wife (Playwrights Realm, Moxie, PlayPenn), Hookman (Encore, Company One), In A Word (SF Playhouse, Cleveland Public, Strawdog), and Samsara (Victory Gardens, Chance). Her work is published by Samuel French. Recent honors: Kesselring Prize, Francesca Primus Prize, an upcoming Hodder Fellowship at Princeton University, and the #1 and #2 plays on the 2017 Kilroys List (Cambodian Rock Band and The Great Leap). Finalist for the ATCA/Steinberg Award and Edward M. Kennedy Prize. Member of the Ma-Yi Writers’ Lab and alumni playwright of Playwrights Realm. Current commissions: Geffen Playhouse, La Jolla Playhouse, Lincoln Center/LCT3, Mixed Blood, Portland Center Stage, and Trinity Rep. BA: Yale. MFA: UCSD.

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