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Joshua Harmon and Nicole Cox Win Inaugural Prizes for Jewish Plays, Presented by Theater J

Joshua Harmon wins the Theater J Trish Vradenburg Jewish Play Prize and Nicole Cox wins the Theater J Patty Abramson Jewish Play Prize.

Joshua Harmon and Nicole Cox Win Inaugural Prizes for Jewish Plays, Presented by Theater J

Theater J Artistic Director Adam Immerwahr and Managing Director Jojo Ruf have announced the winners of two new play prizes: Joshua Harmon wins the Theater J Trish Vradenburg Jewish Play Prize for Prayer for the French Republic and Nicole Cox wins the Theater J Patty Abramson Jewish Play Prize for Abomination. This is the inaugural year for the two prizes, each of which recognizes a new play that celebrates, explores, and/or struggles with the complexities and nuances of the Jewish experience.

The Vradenburg Prize awards $15,000 to an established playwright and is dedicated to the memory of philanthropist, playwright, and Alzheimer's research advocate Trish Vradenburg, who served on Theater J's Council for 13 years. Commissioned by Manhattan Theatre Club, Harmon's new play is a moving and powerful reflection of the history of trauma and prejudice embedded within five generations of one extraordinary Jewish family. An excerpt from Prayer for the French Republic will be performed as part of Theater J's virtual Benefit on November 18, directed by David Cromer, Tony Award-winning director of The Band's Visit and 2010 MacArthur Foundation Fellow, and featuring Tony Shalhoub, Tony Award-winning actor of The Band's Visit and TV star (Monk, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel).

"As the Artistic Director of a Jewish theater company, it is rare for me to read a play that transforms my understanding of what it is to be Jewish in America today," says Immerwahr. "Set in France, Prayer for the French Republic is about being Jewish, being American, and being part of a tribe. It's moving, powerful, and one of the most exquisite new plays I've read in many years. A writer of stage and screen, Trish Vradenburg was one of the funniest people I have ever met-I know she would have seen in Harmon a kindred spirit, seeking to illuminate the shadows of our world with humor and joy."

"Trish was a playwright herself," adds her widower George Vradenburg, "and she loved the collaborative process of creating something brand new that engaged the audience with its story, humor, and wit. It is incredibly meaningful that the inaugural winner is Joshua Harmon, who creates the kinds of plays that reach audiences of all kinds so effectively. Trish loved Theater J and would be so excited that the J is attracting such great American writers as Joshua."

"I am honored and humbled to be the first recipient of the Vradenburg Prize," says Joshua Harmon. "When I first began working on this play more than five years ago, my curiosity about the rising tide of antisemitism in Europe led me to want to write a play about what was happening over there; I could not have anticipated, when I first set out, the extent to which we would soon be grappling with those same, wrenching questions over here. I am grateful to Theater J and the committee which chose my play to receive this honor, and eagerly anticipate the moment when we can once again gather, in person, to experience a story together in a theatre."

47 plays were submitted to the Vradenburg Prize and adjudicated by Theater J staff. Two finalists were also selected: A Model City by Brooke Berman and Picture of a House in Shaker Heights by David Grimm.

The Patty Abramson Jewish Play Prize awards $3,000 and a stage reading to a promising emerging woman, trans, or non-binary playwright in recognition of a new play. The Prize is dedicated to the memory of philanthropist and venture capitalist Patty Abramson. Based on a true story, Abomination is a captivating look at identity, faith, and belonging as a small group of queer yeshiva graduates take to the courts to hold a conversion therapy organization accountable for decades of abuse. Abomination will receive a workshop in December of 2020.

"It is a testament to the enduring power of Jewish storytelling and Jewish stories that the Patty Abramson Jewish Play Prize received over eighty submissions in its inaugural year," says Immerwahr. "It took an army of forty volunteer readers to evaluate the submitted plays. Cox's loving and engaging story of young, gay, Orthodox Jews is a marvelous and captivating story that readers adored. I look forward to seeing productions of this play around the country, at Jewish and non-Jewish theaters alike. We are all so grateful to the Abramson/Silverman family for honoring and celebrating Patty Abramson's longtime commitment to nurturing women in their careers with this one-of-a-kind prize."

"Patty would be pleased to know that the prize named for her honors women playwrights, since the passion of her professional career was supporting young women," adds her widower Les Silverman. "I look forward to the Theater J community being introduced to Nicole's voice."

"What an honor to win the inaugural Patty Abramson prize." says Cox. "It's thrilling to be included in her huge circle of influence, and I'm deeply grateful to Theater J for recognizing and supporting my play."

85 plays were submitted to the Abramson prize and read by over 40 members of the Theater J community, from artists to Council members to staff. A committee made up of philanthropist Michele Berman, director Johanna Gruenhut, Theater J Managing Director Jojo Ruf, and director and Abramson's stepdaughter Leigh Silverman selected the winner and two finalists: Belfast Kind by Margot Connolly and Grains of Wheat by Abigail Weaver.

Joshua Harmon's plays include Bad Jews (Roundabout Underground; Roundabout/Laura Pels; West End), Significant Other (Roundabout; Broadway/Booth Theatre), Admissions (Lincoln Center Theater; West End), and Skintight (Roundabout). His plays have been produced across the country including at The Magic, Geffen Playhouse, Studio Theatre, Theater Wit, Speakeasy, and Actor's Express, and internationally in Australia, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, and throughout the U.K. He is a two-time MacDowell Colony Fellow and under commission at Manhattan Theatre Club and Roundabout, where he is an Associate Artist. Education: Juilliard.

Nicole Cox is a writer in DC. Her play, Office of the Speaker, won Best Drama at Capital Fringe 2019, and her poem, "I Want Lou Reed" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She's had productions and readings at the 1-Minute Play Festival, Kennedy Center's Page-to-Stage, and Citizens Play Festival. Paula Vogel and Dan O'Brien invited Nicole to workshop her play, All Other Nights, at the Sewanee Writers' Conference. Her work is published in literary magazines including American Book Review, Tablet Magazine, Split Lip, Electric Literature, Briar Cliff Review, and Hanging Loose. Nicole earned her MFA from Emerson College.

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