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."

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