Lucy Kirkwood's CHIMERICA Wins 2014 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize
The 2013 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize has been awarded to U.K. playwright Lucy Kirkwood for her play Chimerica. In addition, a Special Commendation has been awarded to Phoebe Waller-Bridge for her debut play, Fleabag.
At a private reception in London on February 25, the transatlantic theatre community gathered to honor Ms. Kirkwood, Ms. Waller-Bridge and eight finalists for the annually awarded prize.
Award-winning theatre and film director and one of this year's Blackburn Prize Judges, Phyllida Lloyd, presented Phoebe Waller Bridge with a Special Commendation award of $5,000, and Winner Lucy Kirkwood with an award of $25,000 and a signed and numbered print by artist Willem de Kooning. Also attending the Award Presentation in London were U.K. playwrights and Prize finalists Beth Steel and Caroline Bird. International theatre critic and Susan Smith Blackburn Prize board member, Matt Wolf, also spoke, addressing the importance of the Prize in the advancement of women playwrights.
The prestigious Susan Smith Blackburn Prize is awarded annually to recognize women from around the world who have written works of outstanding quality for the English-speaking theatre. Many of the Winners have gone on to receive other honors, including Olivier, Lilly, and Tony Awards for Best Play. Seven Blackburn Finalist plays have subsequently won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama. These plays also benefit from the interest the Prize generates, often leading to productions at theatre companies throughout the U.S., Canada and the U.K.
The list of 2013 Finalists for The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, chosen from over 100 plays, includes Caroline Bird (UK), Sheila Callaghan (US), Alexandra Collier (Australia), Lauren Gunderson (US), Joanna Murray-Smith (Australia), Lucy Prebble (UK), Theresa Rebeck (US), and Beth Steel (UK). Each Finalist receives an award of $2500.
In addition to Phyllida Lloyd, the international panel of judges for the 2014 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize included in the U.S., Wendy Goldberg, Artistic Director of the National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center; Broadway star, and television and film actor Jessica Hecht; and Emmy and Golden Globe- winning stage and screen actor, Jim Parsons. U.K. judges were, Olivier Award-winning playwright Simon Stephens and Tony and Olivier-nominated stage, television and film actor Lia Williams.
The Houston-based Susan Smith Blackburn Prize received the 2010 Theatre Communications Group's National Funder Award. The annual honor goes to a company, foundation or other entity for "leadership and sustained national support of theater in America."
Each year artistic directors and prominent professionals in the theatre throughout the English-speaking world are invited to submit plays. In addition to the U.S., the U.K. and Ireland, new plays have been submitted from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India.
Over 100 plays were submitted for consideration this year. The submitting theatres for the 2014 Finalists are Almeida Theatre, Hampstead Theatre, Headlong, Lyric Hammersmith, the National New Play Network, The New Group, Playful Productions, Sidney Theatre Company, the stageFarm, and Yale Repertory Theatre.
ABOUT CHIMERICA (WINNER): A gripping political examination and engaging personal drama, Chimerica tells the story of an American photojournalist who witnessed the events of Tiananmen Square in 1989, and who twenty-three years later sets out to find the subject of his most famous photograph - the mysterious Tank Man. Critic Michael Billington has pointed out that in addition to the personal story behind Chimerica, "it is also about the similarities and differences between China and America and their mutual misunderstanding of each other. Those are big issues for any one play... In Kirkwood's view, China is a country still suffering the social consequences of a speeded-up economic revolution: it is also a place that "values the supremacy of its culture above all else". America, meanwhile, is economically dependent on China while buying into the myth that it is simply a vast market awaiting exploitation. Neither country, Kirkwood suggests, understands the other, and never will until there is a real exchange of ideas and information."
Chimerica was developed by Headlong over a six-year period. First premiering at the Almeida Theatre in May 2013, in a co-production with Headlong, Chimerica garnered rave reviews, including five-star write-ups from the Guardian, Telegraph, Evening Standard and Time Out. It later transferred to the Harold Pinter Theatre in the West End for a limited run. Chimerica has been garnering multiple awards, including "Best Play" for 2013 in the 59th Annual Evening Standard Awards and the Critics Circle Award for "Best New Play". All of Lucy Kirkwood's plays are published by Nick Hern Books.
About Lucy Kirkwood. In 2008 Lucy's play, Tinderbox, was produced by the Bush Theatre. In the same year Hedda, her adaptation of Ibsen's Hedda Gabler was produced by the Gate Theatre, London to wide critical acclaim. In 2009 Lucy's play it felt empty when the heart went at first but it is alright now was produced by Clean Break at the Arcola Theatre. The play was a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, nominated for an Evening Standard Award Best Newcomer award, and made Lucy joint winner of the John Whiting Award 2010. Her stage adaptation of Beauty and the Beast co-devised with Katie Mitchell was performed at the National Theatre in 2010/11 and nominated for an Olivier Award, and Small Hours, co-written with Ed Hime, opened at the Hampstead Theatre in January 2011, directed by Katie Mitchell. Other works include NSFW (Royal Court), and Hansel and Gretel (National Theatre). Lucy is developing an original TV series for Kudos, to be shown in February 2014, entitled The Smoke, and she is also working on a screenplay for Film4 / Ruby Films.
ABOUT FLEABAG (SPECIAL COMMENDATION): A one-woman show about a sex-obsessed young woman, Fleabag played to critical and audience acclaim at the 2013 Edinburgh Festival, winning the Scotsman's Fringe First Award before transferring to London's Soho Theatre. Phoebe Waller-Bridge also starred in her debut play. What's On Stage describes the play as "an often funny but deeply disturbing tale of a sex-addicted young woman struggling to control the natural urges which mask deeper psychological traumas." Ms. Waller-Bridge recently won the 2014 Critic's Circle "Most Promising New Playwright" award.
About Phoebe Waller-Bridge: As a writer, Phoebe has a number of television projects and a feature film in development. She is also Co-Artistic Director of DryWrite where she and her Co-Artistic Director, Vicky Jones, have produced their own and other playwright's original work for theatres including the Roundhouse, York Theatre Royal, Hampstead Theatre, Trafalgar Studios, Latitude Festival and were Company in Residence for a year with the Bush Theatre. Fleabag is her debut play. Ms. Waller-Bridge is also an actor, and performed in Fleabag.
For more about the prize, visit www.blackburnprize.org.