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George C. Wolfe Earns PEN America Literary Award

The writer/director has been chosen for the The PEN/Mike Nichols Writing for Performance Award.

George C. Wolfe Earns PEN America Literary Award

The PEN America Literary Awards Program has just announced the 2021 career achievement award winners. This year's honorees are Anne Carson, Kwame Dawes, Daniel Alexander Jones, Pierre Joris, and Tony-winning playwright/director George C. Wolfe with the PEN/Mike Nichols Writing for Performance Award.

The 2021 career achievement awards will be celebrated at the 2021 Literary Awards Ceremony, held virtually and open to a global audience on April 8 at 7pm ET. Registration is free and tickets can be reserved here.

The PEN/Mike Nichols Writing for Performance Award honors a writer whose transformative work enlightens and inspires audiences in the tradition of venerated comedian and filmmaker Mike Nichols. The winner will continuously break into new thematic or artistic ground with each subsequent work. The winner is selected by an internal, anonymous judging panel.

From the judges' citation: "George C. Wolfe is a director, playwright, and producer whose career across stage and screen has continually transformed and pushed the boundaries of American culture. Wolfe endows his work with a deep historiography, investigating past legacies while urging us to imagine more inclusive futures. From his stagings of the theatrical canon to contemporary masterworks, Wolfe is meticulous in revealing authentic humanity.

"In all his works, Wolfe tells stories that insist upon a cathartic confrontation with the darkest aspects of history. From his vast and nuanced body of work exploring Black and African American identity, to his poignant stagings of The Normal Heart and Angels in America chronicling the heartbreak of the AIDS epidemic, Wolfe has played a key role in expanding the stories told and heard within American culture. Across his career, Wolfe has articulated his understanding of the universal language of music and the musical dialects which have grown through history as fundamental facets of the American experience. Through Jelly's Last Jam; Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk; Caroline, or Change; Shuffle Along, or, The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed; and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Wolfe acts as a maestro, telling stories with and of jazz, funk, rap, blues, and gospel. With each new work, Wolfe continues to expand the possibilities of all his mediums, fostering a broad ability to communicate the complexities of the human experience.

"Wolfe has transformed the American theatrical landscape, continually inspiring and innovating through his vast body of work both independently and as artistic director of institutions, including The Public Theater. PEN America is proud to honor the work of the visionary George C. Wolfe with the 2021 PEN/Mike Nichols Writing for Performance Award, offering particular recognition for Wolfe's masterful direction of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, a timely and deeply moving film offering an examination of Black life and rich portrayal of Black artists asserting their agency in a deeply racist society. Wolfe's innovative writing and captivating storytelling make him a true visionary and one of the most important contributors to the American cultural landscape at work today."

Wolfe won Tony Awards for his Broadway productions of Angels in America: Millennium Approaches and Bring in 'da Noise/Bring in 'da Funk.

His theatre directing credits include The Iceman Cometh, Shuffle Along, or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed (NY Drama Critics' Circle Award and Drama Desk Award for Best Musical); Lucky Guy; The Normal Heart (Drama Desk); Jelly's Last Jam (Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award); Angels in America: Millennium Approaches (Tony Award and Drama Desk) and Perestroika (Drama Desk); Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk (Tony and Drama League Award); Topdog/Underdog (Obie Award); Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 (Drama Desk); Elaine Stritch at Liberty (Tony for Special Theatrical Event); The Tempest; Caroline, or Change (Olivier Award Best Musical); and A Free Man of Color.

From 1993-2005 Wolfe was the Producer of The Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival. He is the writer of the award-winning The Colored Museum and Shuffle Along..., and he directed/adapted Spunk (Obie) and Harlem Song.

Photo Credit: Walter McBride / WM Photos

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