Dan O'Brien & Suzan-Lori Parks to Receive 2014 The Horton Foote Prize
Mari Marchbanks announced today the 2014 recipients of the Horton Foote Prize, named in honor of the legendary writer, to award excellence in American Theater. Presented biennially, the 2014 Prize for the 2012-13/2013-14 seasons' Outstanding New American Play is awarded to The Body of an American by Dan O'Brien. The 2014 Prize for Promising New American Play is awarded to Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2, & 3) by Suzan-Lori Parks.
Mr. O'Brien and Ms. Parks will be honored at a private reception on Monday, October 6th at The Lotos Club in New York City. To celebrate their exceptional contributions to American Theater, each playwright will be presented with $15,000 and a limited edition of Keith Carter's iconic photograph of Horton Foote which is found in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.
Mr. O'Brien and Ms. Parks were nominated by Portland Center Stage and The Public Theater, respectively. Fifty-eight resident theaters throughout the country, all with a strong history for producing new work, were invited to submit a produced or unproduced play for consideration. With produced works, its premiere production must have occurred after July 1, 2012 and no later than June 30, 2014. Nominated playwrights must be the author of a minimum of four original full-length plays which have been fully produced by professional theaters.
After a national reading committee narrowed the field, ensuring that each script received multiple blind readings, a selection committee including Chair Christopher Baker, Asst. Professor, Dramaturgy, University of Massachusetts-Amherst; Stuart Carden, Award-winning Chicag0-based stage director; Tanya Palmer, Director of New Play Development, Goodman Theatre; and Lisa Portes, Head of MFA Directing, DePaul University and the Artistic Director of Chicago Playworks; selected the top finalists to be presented to the judges.
The four judges of 2014 The Horton Foote Prize are Chair Andrew Leynse, Artistic Director, Primary Stages; Lynn Nottage, Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright and inaugural Horton Foote Prize recipient; Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Tony Award-winning actor, director, and playwright; and Lucie Tiberghien, New York-based stage director.
On behalf of the judges, Chair Andrew Leynse said, "The 2014 Prize Committee was very excited to see the wide variety and diversity of the plays that were nominated this year. The Committee closely examined every play and came to a unanimous decision on both finalists. We are thrilled to be championing Suzan-Lori Parks' Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2, &3) and Dan O'Brien The Body of an American."
Leynse continued, "Dan O'Brien's The Body of an American explores the world of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Paul Watson. In a bold stroke of meta-theatricality, Dan O'Brien has woven himself into the play. We are transported to places all over the world where we find the same two men grappling with art and identity."
The Body of an American had its world premiere with Portland Center Stage in October 2012, and will be presented at the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia beginning January 7, 2015. In the play, we are taken to Mogadishu in 1993. Paul Watson is a Canadian photojournalist who is about to take a picture that will win him the Pulitzer Prize. At Princeton in 2013, American writer Dan O'Brien is struggling to finish his play about ghosts. Both men live worlds apart but a chance encounter over the airwaves sparks an extraordinary friendship that sees them journey from one of the most dangerous places on earth to the depths of the human soul. Flying from Kabul to the Canadian High Arctic, The Body Of An American is an exhilarating new form of documentary drama that splices the dialogue with actual recordings and photographs by Paul Watson, placing these two men's battles - both public and private - against a backdrop of some of the world's most iconic images of war.
"Suzan-Lori Parks' Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3) is a tremendously ambitious and transformative piece of theater," commented Leynse. "Set in three parts, the play examines the cost of war, slavery and the heartbreak of love."
The world premiere of Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2, & 3) at The Public Theater is presented in association with American Repertory Theater, and will begin previews October 14, 2014 with Opening Night set for October 28 at The Public Theater's Anspacher Theater before moving to the American Repertory Theater's Loeb Drama Center with performances beginning January 23, 2015 and an Opening Night set for January 28. Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2, & 3) is a devastatingly beautiful, dramatic work set over the course of the Civil War and comprised of three plays presented in a single performance. In Part 1, Hero, a slave who is accustomed to his master's lies, must decide whether to join him on the Confederate battlefield in exchange for a promise of freedom. Part 2 follows Hero and the Colonel as they lead a captured Union solider toward the Confederate lines as the cannons approach. Finally, in Part 3, the loved ones Hero left behind question whether to escape or wait for his return - only to discover that for Hero, freedom may have come at a great spiritual cost.
"I believe Horton Foote would be very proud of Suzan-Lori Parks and Dan O'Brien," concluded Leynse, "and we are pleased to bestow The Horton Foote Prize to both of them."
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his play The Young Man From Atlanta and two Academy Awards for his screenplays for the films To Kill A Mockingbird and Tender Mercies, Horton Foote had his work produced on Broadway, off-Broadway as well as in theaters throughout the United States. His many honors, in addition to the Pulitzer and Academy Awards, include Drama Desk, Obie, Outer Critics Circle and Lortel Awards, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal for Drama and the 2000 National Medal of Arts Award from President Bill Clinton. He is also a member of The Theatre Hall of Fame. In 2008, his play Dividing the Estate won the Obie and Outer Critics Circle Best Play Awards for its Off-Broadway premiere by Primary Stages. In 2008, the play transferred to Broadway under the auspices of Lincoln Center Theater, earning Foote his second Best Play Tony nomination. The Orphans' Home Cycle, Mr. Foote's nine-play epic was produced in New York by the Signature Theatre Company in spring 2010 and won the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Play, 2010; the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play, 2010; the Outer Critics' Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play, 2010; and a special citation from the Drama Desk Awards for Theatrical Event of the Season. Recently, his play The Trip to Bountiful was revived on Broadway (winning a Best Actress Tony Award for Cecily Tyson) and premiered in 2014 as a new Lifetime film, earning two Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Movie.