American playwright Katori Hall has won the 2011 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for Hurt Village, her play about a young African-American man who returns from military service in Iraq to find that his home is being demolished. Set in a housing project that Hall based on a real-life model, the play depicts the urban crises of a working-class, multigenerational family.
Now in its 33nd year, the Houston-based Blackburn Prize is awarded annually to an outstanding new English-language play by a woman.
Tony-winning actress Judith Ivey, one of this year’s judges, presented the award to Hall Monday at a private ceremony in New York. Hall received the $20,000 cash prize and a signed and numbered print by Willem de Kooning, which the artist created for the Blackburn Prize.
The judges’ statements praised the play for its “emotional truth, complex characters, visceral language and excellent storytelling,” deeming Hall “a voice for the disenfranchised of America.”
Hall’s other plays include The Mountaintop, which won acclaim at London’s Theater 503, then transferred to a West End run, winning Hall a 2010 Olivier Award for best new play.
Born in Memphis, Tenn., Hall earned degrees from Columbia University in 2003 and Harvard in 2005. She is a recent graduate of Julliard School’s Lila Acheson Wallace playwriting program.
Many Blackburn winners have gone on to receive other honors, including Tony Awards and Pulitzer Prizes. The selection process generates interest among theater companies, leading to increased productions for both winners and finalists. More than 100 nominees for this year’s prize were submitted by theater companies throughout the U.S. and U.K.
Other 2011 finalists were: Detroit by Lisa D’Amour, U.S.; Not the Worst Place by Sam Burns, U.K.; Lidless by Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, U.S.; Fit and Proper People by Georgia Fitch, U.K.; In the Wake by Lisa Kron, U.S.; Really Old, Like 45 by Tamsin Oglesby, U.K.; Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play by Anne Washburn, U.S; The Golden Age by Joy Wilkinson, U.K.; and The Andes by Alexandra Wood, U.K.
Created to encourage women playwrights, the Blackburn Prize reflects the values of Houston-born actress and writer Susan Smith Blackburn, who died in 1977. The prize was founded by her sister, Emilie Kilgore of Houston, and her husband, William Blackburn of London.
Article By :Everette Evans
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