The American Theatre Critics Association Names Finalists for 2020 Francesca Primus Prize

By: Jul. 08, 2020
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The American Theatre Critics Association Names Finalists for 2020 Francesca Primus Prize

The American Theatre Critics Association has selected three finalists for the 2019 Francesca Primus Prize, which recognizes an emerging woman playwright. The prize, administered through ATCA, is named in honor of Francesca Primus, a playwright, dramaturg, theater critic, and ATCA member who died of cancer in 1992.

The Primus Prize has been adjudicated by ATCA since 2002. The award includes a $10,000 honorarium given through the generosity of the Primus Foundation. The winner, selected from this year's three finalists, will be announced by early August.

This year's finalists are: Jennifer Barclay for Ripe Frenzy, which had its rolling world premiere through the National New Play Network at Boston's New Repertory Theatre, Atlanta's Synchronicity Theatre, and Greenway Court Theatre in Los Angeles; Ifa Bayeza for Benevolence, which premiered with Penumbra Theatre in St. Paul; and Stephanie Alison Walker for The Madres, which also had a rolling world premiere with the National New Play Network with Chicago's Teatro Vista, Skylight Theatre Company in Los Angeles, MOXIE Theatre in San Diego, and Shrewd Productions in Austin, Texas.

Barclay's Ripe Frenzy, set in a small town whose high school is famous for doing more productions of Our Town than any school ever, reimagines Wilder's play as the framework and background for a school shooting, told from the viewpoint of the mothers of the town. Bayeza's Benevolence, which is the second in a trilogy about the 1955 lynching of Emmett Till (the first was 2008's The Ballad of Emmett Till) looks at the broader events surrounding Till's murder, including the white couple responsible for his death and a Black couple who wrestle with coming forward as witnesses. In The Madres, Walker goes back to 1978 and Argentina's "dirty war," echoing the stories of the "Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo" whose protests against Argentina's repressive and murderous military dictatorship raised the consciousness of the world about those activists "disappeared" by the government.

The Primus committee, chaired by Kerry Reid (theater and dance editor of the Chicago Reader) included ATCA members Marianne Evett, Eva Heinemann, Michael Howley, Wendy Rosenfield, Nicole Serratore, and Catey Sullivan.

The American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) was founded in 1974 and works to raise standards and public awareness of the functions and responsibilities of theater critics. It is the only national association of professional theater critics, with over two hundred members working in print, broadcast, and online media. ATCA is a chapter of the International Association of Theatre Critics / Association internationale des critiques de théâtre (IATC-AICT), a UNESCO-affiliated organization that sponsors seminars and congresses worldwide.

ATCA also presents the M. Elizabeth Osborn Award, honoring emerging playwrights and administers the Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award which grants $40,000.00 annually to recognize the best plays that premiered professionally outside New York City. Additionally, ATCA members recommend an annual candidate for the Tony Award for Regional Theatre presented by the American TheatreWing/Broadway League, and vote on the yearly inductions into the Theater Hall of Fame.