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Finalists Named For 2010 Blackburn Prize For Women Playwrights


The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize - the prestigious international award given each year to a woman who has written an outstanding new work for the English-speaking theatre - has announced the 10 finalists for the 32nd annual award. Chosen from a field of 90 plays nominated by a select list of professional theatres worldwide, the 2010 finalists are the following:

"The Aliens" by Annie Baker (U.S.)
"The Language Archive" by Julia Cho (U.S.)
"This" by Melissa James Gibson (U.S.)
"it felt empty when the heart went at first but it is alright now." by Lucy
Kirkwood (U.K.)
"The Shipment" by Young Jean Lee (U.S.)
"The Nature of Love" by Rebecca Lenkiewicz (U.K.)
"East of Berlin" by Hannah Moscovitch (Canada)
"The Swallowing Dark" by Lizzie Nunnery (U.K.)
"Enron" by Lucy Prebble (U.K.)
"Strandline" by Abbie Spallen (Ireland)

The 2010 Blackburn Prize will be marked with a ceremony in New York in early March, honoring all finalists. The winner will be awarded $20,000, and will also receive a signed and numbered print by renowned artist Willem De Kooning, created especially for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. A Special Commendation of $5,000 may be given at the discretion of the judges, and each of the other finalists receives $1,000.

The international panel of six judges for the 32nd annual Susan Smith Blackburn Prize includes three from the U.K. and three from the U.S.: celebrated American stage and film actress Hope Davis, Tony-award winning director Doug Hughes; Mark Lawson, BBC Radio host and critic; Todd London, artistic director of New Dramatists (New York); British stage director Indhu Rubasingham: and renowned star of British theatre, Fiona Shaw.

Established in 1978, The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize is the first international award created to recognize women playwrights, and remains the most important award of its kind. The Prize reflects the values and interests of Susan Smith Blackburn, noted American actress and writer who lived in London during the last 15 years of her life. She died in 1977 at the age of 42, and her sister, Emilie Kilgore, and husband, William Blackburn, established the award in her honor.

Over the past three decades, the Blackburn Prize has been awarded to such celebrated playwrights as Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, Caryl Churchill, Gina Gionfriddo, Beth Henley, Wendy Kesselman, Marlene Meyer, Ellen McLaughlin, Susan Miller, Chloe Moss, Dael Orlandersmith, Sarah Ruhl, Judith Thompson, Paula Vogel, Naomi Wallace, and Timberlake Wertenbaker.

The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize has anticipated later recognition. Since the inception of the Blackburn Prize, seven women have won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and in every case they have first been honored by the Blackburn.

Over 300 plays have been selected as finalists since the prize began; over 60 of those plays are regularly produced in the U.S. alone.

Ms. Norman recently referred to the Blackburn Prize and its importance to women playwrights and the entire Theatre World in her widely-discussed feature about the paucity or productions of plays by women in the November 2009 issue of American Theatre Magazine.

Each year artistic directors and prominent professionals in the theatre throughout the English-speaking world are invited to nominate 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. Each script is read by a minimum of three members of an international reading committee that then
selects 10 finalists. The finalists' plays are read and considered by all six judges in determining the winner.

A theatrical "Who's Who" of judges has adjudicated the Blackburn Prize through the years: Edward Albee, Dame Peggy Ashcroft, Simon Russell Beale, Michael Billington, Eileen Atkins, Blair Brown, Zoe Caldwell, Glenn Close, Harold Clurman, Colleen Dewhurst, Ralph Fiennes, John Guare, A.R. Gurney, Mel Gussow, Christopher Hampton, Tony Kushner, John Lahr, Joan Plowright, Corin Redgrave, Diana Rigg, Max Stafford-Clark, Tom Stoppard, Meryl Streep, Jessica Tandy, Paula Vogel, Sigourney Weaver, and August Wilson, among nearly 200 artists in the U.S., England and Ireland.

For further information about The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, visit

Finalist Playwright Bios:

Annie Baker is a member of the Ensemble Studio Theatre, MCC Playwrights Coalition and alumna of Ars Nova's Play Group. Honors include a Michener Fellowship in playwriting, a Sloan Foundation Grant for screenwriting, a 2008 Time Warner Storytelling Fellowship and a 2009 MacDowell Fellowship. Her play "Circle Mirror Transformation" was produced at Playwrights Horizons last fall. (Nominated by the Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre; U.S.)

Julia Cho is a resident playwright for New Dramatists, and has twice been a Finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for her plays "99 Histories" and "The Piano Teacher." Honors include the Barrie Stavis Award, the Claire Tow Award for Emerging Artists and the L. Arnold Weissberger Award.
(Nominated by Roundabout Theatre, South Coast Rep, Eugene O'Neill Theater Center; U.S.)

Melissa James Gibson's plays include [sic] (Obie, Kesselring Prize, Best Plays of 2001-02); "Suitcase, or Those That Resemble Flies from a Distance" TCG/NEA Theatre Residency Program, 2004 production at Soho Rep); "Brooklyn Bridge" with music by Barbara Brousal (The Children's Theater Company/New Dramatists Playground program commission); and GIVEN FISH. (Nominated by Playwrights Horizons; U.S.)

Lucy Kirkwood is an East London born playwright. She won the PMA award in 2006. She has been resident writer at Clean Break, where she wrote "it felt empty...,"( nomination for Evening Standard's Most Promising Playwright Award). Past productions: "Tinderbox" (Bush Theatre), "Hedda" (Gate Theatre), and short plays for Sticking Place, Bush Theatre, Latitude Festival and RSC. (Nominated by Clean Break; U.K.)

Korean-born Young Jean Lee has directed her plays at P.S. 122 ("Church," "Pullman, WA", HERE Arts Center ("Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven"), Soho Rep ("The Appeal"), and Ontological-Hysteric Theater ("Groundword of the Metaphysics of Morals"). She is artistic director of Young Jean Lee's Theater Company and received a 2007 Emerging Playwright Obie Award. (Nominated by
Soho Rep; U.S.)

Rebecca Lenkiewicz's "Her Naked Skin" was the first play by a living female playwright to be performed on the Olivier stage at the Royal National Theatre (2008). She won the Critics' Circle Theatre Award for Most Promising Playwright (2004) with "The Night Season," also a Finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Award (2005). (Nominated by Portobello Productions; U.K.)

Hannah Moscovitch's "East of Berlin" is her first full-length play, and is currently playing at the Tarragon Theatre in Toronto. Her shorter plays include "The Russian Play," "Essay," "Mexico City" and "USSR." (Nominated by Tarragon Theatre; Canada)

Lizzie Nunnery's play "Intemperance" was produced at Liverpool Everyman and awarded 5 stars by The Guardian. She was one of the writers of the critically acclaimed "Unprotected" and has previously worked with The National, The Royal Court and Paines Plough. Her debut short film, "Monkey Love" aired in, September on Channel 4. (Nominated by Everyman Playhouse; U.K.)

Lucy Prebble's debut play "The Sugar Syndrome" was a Finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Award (2004) and garnered the TMA Award for Best New Play (2004). "Enron" is currently running on the West End, and won "Best New Play" at the TMA Theatre Awards. It is slated for to open on Broadway in 2010. (Nominated by The Royal Court Theatre; U.K.)

Abbie Spallen is the author of the full-length plays "Abeyance" (Druid Theatre) and "Pumpgirl" (Traverse Theatre, 2006 Edinburgh Festival). "Pumpgirl" transferred to London and was a 2007 Finalist for the Blackburn Prize. Its American debut was at Manhattan Theatre Club in 2007 and its Irish premiere at Lyric Theatre in 2008 (Irish Times Theatre Award nomination for best new play). (Nominated by Fishamble Theatre, Ireland)

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