Benjamin Benne Wins Arizona Theatre Company's National Latinx Playwriting Award
Benjamin Benne, a previous finalist for Arizona Theatre Company's (ATC) (Sean Daniels, Artistic Director; Billy Russo, Managing Director) National Latinx Playwriting Award (NLPA), formerly the National Latino Playwriting Award, took top honors this year for Alma, which mines the tension between a mother and her daughter who stands on the precipice of adulthood in today's politically-charged environment.
Benne, a Masters in Fine Arts Playwriting candidate at the Yale School of Drama, will receive $1,000 and a workshop of his play at Arizona Theatre Company.
"In this poetic Latinx play, an immigrant mother and her Americanized daughter find their simple lives usurped by a grander political backdrop that threatens to pull them apart," said ATC Playwright-in-Residence Elaine Romero. "Our NLPA judges fell in love with the poetically distilled language of Alma. There's so much more this mother would instill in her child if only there was enough time.
"This intergenerational play possesses an undercurrent of urgency that pushes through the background into the foreground," Romero added. "It's a covertly socially-relevant play that asks us to look at the impact of the swing of the political pendulum on the lives of everyday people who have come to this country to dream."
The winning play follows Alma who, nearly 18 years ago and pregnant, crossed the border between Mexico and the United States with a child and great dreams for the life ahead of them. Now, Dec. 2, 2016, Alma has been studying for her citizenship test while her daughter, Angel, studies for her SATs.
But, on the eve of Angel's test, Alma comes home early to discover her daughter isn't at home studying. Almais a real-time, two-hander about an undocumented parent and U.S. citizen child's differing visions of "The American Dream."
ATC Artistic Director Sean Daniels said that "it is truly our honor to support Benjamin, who I have no doubt will be a force in the American Theatre in no time. As we grow this award, and center it in the work we're doing at Arizona Theatre Company, we're thrilled not only to grant him the award, but to have him in residence for a workshop so our entire community can get to know this work better. I'm sure this won't be the last time our audience - or audiences anywhere - will hear that Benjamin Benne is being produced in their hometown."
Other finalists for the 2019 ATC award were Mauricio Miranda for Occupants and Mónica Sánchez for Los Dreamers.
Benne was a finalist in 2017 for his previous work, q u e r e n c i a: an imagined autobiography about forbidden fruits. His plays, including at the very bottom of a body of water, q u e r e n c i a: an imagined autobiography about forbidden fruits and Alma have been developed by the O'Neill Theater Center's National Playwrights Conference, the Lark's Playwrights' Week, Playwrights' Realm's Scratchpad Series, Roundabout, The Old Globe, Two River Theater, Seattle Repertory, Boston Court Pasadena, the Playwrights' Center, and SPACE on Ryder Farm, among many others.
He is the winner of the 2019 Blue Ink Playwriting Award, 2019 Kennedy Center/KCACTF Latinx Playwriting Award and the 2017 Robert Chesley/Victor Bumbalo Award, and he is a 2016-17 Playwrights' Center Many Voices Fellow and 2017-18 McKnight Fellow in Playwriting.
The National Latinx Playwriting Award is nationally recognized award that reflects ATC's long-supported recognition of Latinx writers. In addition to ATC artistic staff, NLPA Interns read these Latinx works and participate the handling of the scripts, notification of writers and even judging submissions in conversation with senior artistic staff and ATC Artistic Director Sean Daniels.
This aspect of ATC's literary internship program requires a deep understanding of the work of writers of color and the unique role of Latinx work in our border community. NLPA winners have gone onto higher profile careers as Latinx playwrights, an aspect of the program that is vital to not only the health of ATC but to Latinx work on the national and international levels.
Submissions for the 2020 National Latinx Playwriting Award are now open. Latinx playwrights residing in the United States, its territories or Mexico are encouraged to submit scripts for the award. Each script will be read and evaluated by a culturally diverse panel of theatre artists; finalists will be judged by ATC artistic staff.