Playwrights Vying for Annual Award

By: - Apr 02, 2024

Six playwrights are vying for a top national award presented annually by a group of theater critics.

The American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) has announced six finalists for the 2024 Harold and Mimi Steinberg/ATCA New play Award. Specifically, the honor recognizes playwrights who produced the best scripts that premiered professionally outside of New York City in 2023.

The top award, which carries a $25,000 honorarium, and two citations valued at $7,500 each, will be presented on May 4 at South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, Calif. as part of the annual Pacific Playwrights Festival.

At $40,000, Steinberg/ATCA is the largest national new play award program of its kind.

“Regional theaters remain a vital incubator for the development of new works,” said Cameron Kelsall, co-chair of the Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award committee. “Past winners of this award have gone on to major productions on Broadway and around the world and have been adapted into successful film and television projects. This year’s six finalists represent the best that the American theater has to offer.”

“Now that theaters across the country are really back in business after the long pandemic hiatus, we are especially pleased to present these important awards that honor plays by veteran and emerging writers,” added co-chair Misha Berson. “Each finalist script has something fresh and thought-provoking to say, as only live theater can say it.”

The 2024 finalists, listed alphabetically by title, are:

Eternal Life, Part 1, by Nathan Alan Davis. A trippy and transcendent comedy that explores ecology, environmentalism, and the quest to live forever. One family experience on the forefront of a mission to create a “Super Earth” unfolds with humor, relatability, and a healthy dose of whimsy, including a talking goose. The play premiered at the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia.

The Heart Sellers, by Lloyd Suh. A seriocomic encounter between two immigrant women from different cultures, this play is a spirited and poignant ode to the challenges and rewards many experience as newcomers to American society. As the women bond over food, dancing, Thanksgiving turkey, and homesickness, they forge a new and valuable friendship to face the future. The play premiered at Milwaukee Repertory Theatre in Milwaukee, Wis.

K-I-S-S-I-N-G, by Lenelle Moise. Two Black teenagers build a fragile relationship as they bridge class, familial, and sexual differences in this whip-smart and tender play, which avoids the cliches associated with many adolescent rom-coms. The play premiered at Huntington Theatre Company in Boston.

I Carry You With Me, by Jennifer Blackmer. Inspired by her mother’s stint as a young stenographer at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Blackmer’s one-actor, multi-character play explores a middle-aged woman’s conflicted memories of her top-secret post capturing the experiences of soldiers during the Vietnam War, and her involvement with one troubled veteran. The play premiered at Third Avenue Playworks in Sturgeon Bay, Wis.

Motherhouse, by Tuckie White. This portrait of a quartet of sisters (and one niece) gathering for their mother’s funeral is zany and devastating as it plumbs the dynamics of an emotionally scarred clan. As they drink and reminisce, clash and comfort, the reunion pulsates with vitality as it unearths secrets and lies. The play premiered at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble in Chicago.

Predictor, by Jennifer Blackmer. Based on the true story of a woman fighting sexist colleagues to invent the first widely available home pregnancy test,  this play tells the story of Margaret Crane’s successful battle within a pharmaceutical firm for female reproductive autonomy with verve, wit, and bite. The play premiered at Capital Stage in Sacramento, Calif.

Committee members selected these six finalists from eligible scripts recommended by ATCA members from around the country. Committee co-chairs are: Misha Berson (Seattle, WA) and Cameron Kelsall (Philadelphia, PA). Participating committee members include Nancy Bishop (Chicago, IL), Lindsay Christians (Madison, WI), Evans Donnell (Nashville, TN), Amanda Finn (Chicago, IL), Mike Fischer (Milwaukee, WI), Melissa Hall (Indianapolis, IN), Lou Harry (Indianapolis, IN), Susan Haubenstock (Richmond, VA), Ed Huyck (Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN), Elizabeth Kramer (Louisville, KY), Martha Wade Steketee (New York, NY), Doug Strassler (New York, NY), and Bob Verini (Boston, MA).

Past recipients of ATCA’s New Play Award include August Wilson, Lynn Nottage, Lanford Wilson, Lee Blessing, Michael Cristofer, Marsha Norman, Lauren Yee, Moises Kaufman and Qui Nguyen. Last year’s honoree was the ripple, the wave that carried me home by Christina Anderson.

In 1977, ATCA began to honor new plays produced at regional theaters as a way of balancing the existing awards landscape, which often focuses on works produced in New York. No play is eligible if it has gone on to a New York production within the award year.

Since 2000, the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust has funded the award.