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Annie Baker Awarded 2013 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize


The 2013 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize has been awarded to U.S. playwright Annie Baker for her play The Flick. On March 17, Houston's Alley Theatre hosted a special presentation and ceremony honoring the Winner and Finalists of the Prize and celebrating the 35th Anniversary of the international prize, which is based in Houston.

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. Award-winning star of stage and screen and one of this year's Blackburn Prize Judges, Cynthia Nixon, presented Annie Baker with an award of $25,000 and a signed and numbered print by artist Willem De Kooning.

It has also been announced today that Ms. Baker will be the next writer-in-residence with the Horton Foote Legacy Project, a newly established venture where emerging and established playwrights receive a month-long writing residency in Horton Foote's historic home in Wharton, TX.

The list of 2013 Finalists for The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, chosen from over 100 plays, includes Karen Ardiff (Ireland), The Goddess Of Liberty; Jean Betts (New Zealand); Genesis Falls; Deborah Bruce (U.K.),The Distance; Katherine Chandler (U.K.),Before It Rains; Amy Herzog (U.S.), Belleville; Dawn King (U.K.), Foxfinder; Laura Marks (U.S.), Bethany; Jenny Schwartz(U.S.), Somewhere Fun; and Francine Volpe (U.S.)The Good Mother.
Each Finalist receives an award of $2500.

Also attending the Award Presentation in Houston were U.K. playwrights Deborah Bruce and Dawn King, as well as U.S. playwrights Laura Marks and Francine Volpe. Houston's professional theatre community presented readings from their plays as part of the 35th Anniversary celebration. Theatres presenting work included the Alley Theatre, Ensemble Theatre, Main Street Theater, Stages Repertory Theatre and Stark Naked Theatre.

In addition to Ms. Nixon, the international panel of judges for the 2013 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize included Mandy Greenfield, Artistic Producer of the Manhattan Theatre Club; and award-winning Broadway and Regional stage director, Michael Wilson. Judges from the U.K. were Laura Collier, Head of The National Theatre Studio; Matt Wolf, London editor of, and London theatre critic of the International Herald Tribune; and BAFTA Award-winning actor and writer, Susan Wooldridge.

The Flick is currently receiving its premiere production at Playwrights Horizons, having opened last week. Playwrights Horizons nominated The Flick for The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. The Flick is the result of a Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust Commission awarded by Playwrights Horizons.

Playwrights Horizons describes The Flick as "a hilarious and heart-rending cry for authenticity in a fast-changing world. In a run-down movie theatre in central Massachusetts, three underpaid employees mop the floors and attend to one of the last 35-millimeter film projectors in the state. Their tiny battles, and not-so-tiny heartbreaks, more gripping than the lackluster, second-run movies on screen, play out in the empty aisles."

American playwright Jennifer Haley received the 2011-2012 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for her play The Nether. Center Theatre Group (Los Angeles) nominated the play, and is producing its world premiere, set to open March 19.

To celebrate the Prize's 35th Anniversary, theatres around the world have been producing works by playwrights honored by the Prize. Over 75 productions by Winners and Finalists have been produced by theatres on both sides of the Atlantic during the 35th Anniversary Year. In Houston alone, (where Susan grew up and first became involved in Theatre), The Alley Theatre, Stages Repertory Theatre, Main Street Theater, Stark Naked Theatre, The Ensemble Theatre, Musiqa, Theatre Southwest, The University of Houston and Sam Houston State University are all producing plays for this global initiative.

The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, co-founded by Susan's sister and husband, Emilie S. Kilgore, and William Blackburn, honors an outstanding new English-language play by a woman each year. 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 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 asked 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. Plays are eligible whether or not they have been produced, but any premiere production must have occurred within the preceding year. Each script receives multiple readings by members of an international reading committee that selects ten Finalists. All six judges read each finalist's play.
Over 100 plays were submitted for consideration this year. The submitting theatres for the 2013 Finalists are Clubbed Thumb (U.S.); Fortune Theatre (New Zealand); Guna Nua Theatre Co. (Ireland); The National Theatre (U.K.); The New Group (U.S.); New York Theatre Workshop (U.S.); Sherman Cymru (U.K.); West Yorkshire Playhouse (U.K.) ; The Women's Project (U.S.); and Yale Repertory Theatre (U.S.).

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