Houston Theatre Companies Salute 30th Ann. Susan Smith Blackburn Prize

Date 2008/3/4 7:30:00 | Topic: Local News

FIVE Houston Theatre Companies
Salute 30th Anniversary Susan Smith Blackburn Prize


The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, which celebrates its 30th Anniversary this year, will mark the milestone with a special project saluting the accomplishments of female playwrights in Houston - WOMEN IN THEATRE: HOUSTON VOICES. Five short works by local playwrights will be presented as dramatic readings by Houston’s professional acting community at the Alley Theatre’s Neuhaus Stage on Sunday, March 9th at 3:00 p.m. Excerpts from previous Susan Smith Blackburn Prize honorees will also be read. A reception with the playwrights and artists will follow and is free and open to the public...

WOMEN IN THEATRE: HOUSTON VOICES is produced by a city-wide creative coalition of 5 Houston theatres: Alley Theatre, The Ensemble Theatre, Theater LaB Houston, Main Street Theater and Stages Repertory Theatre.

The short plays and scenes to be performed in commemoration of the 30th Anniversary of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize were selected from a regional competition juried by the five producing theatres. Playwrights of the chosen works will receive an honorarium - Sink Hole by Mary Ellen Whitworth, Sassafras Girls by Celeste Bedford Walker, The Potato Feast by C. Denby Swanson, Nearing Velocity by Elizabeth Gilbert and Militia Slumber Party, or Embracing the New World Order by Crystal Jackson.

WOMEN IN THEATRE: HOUSTON VOICES is made possible by funding from The Brown Foundation, Cullen Trust for the Performing Arts, Houston Endowment Inc. and the Bob and Vivian Smith Foundation.


ELIZABETH GILBERT’s plays include Door Wolves, Effects of Thunder, Transmigration of Existence, Tolstoy is Dead!, The Children of Other Mothers, Release Yearning and Picturing Family Stories. She is the Artistic Director of Women's Works, dedicated to developing the voices of women in Houston using the medium of theater. Elizabeth has been a recipient of three grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and a Fulbright - Hayes Fellowship in Istanbul, Turkey through the University of Texas at Austin. She has also received playwrighting grants from the Cultural Arts Council of Houston/Harris County and an Artist Performance Residency at Diverse Works in Houston

CRYSTAL JACKSON, playwright and native Houstonian, is the founder of theatre cooperative Six of One Productions. She earned her creative writing degree at University of Houston, where she studied with Edward Albee and Lanford Wilson. Produced in theatres from Billings, Montana to New York City, her work has been reviewed as "politically ferocious" with "substantial laughs." Crystal's one-act play Please Remove This Stuffed Animal from My Head recently won People's Choice and Best Production awards at Venture Theatre and was produced in the EstroGenius festival in New York.

Native Houstonian, C. DENBY SWANSON is a graduate of Smith College, the National Theatre Institute, and the University of Texas Michener Center for Writers. She has been a William Inge Playwright in Residence, a Jerome Fellow and a McKnight Advancement Grant recipient. Her work has been commissioned by the Guthrie Theater and developed through the Culture Project’s IMPACT Festival, the Southern Playwrights Festival, Icicle Creek Theater Festival, the Women Playwrights Project, the Estro-Genius Festival, the Lark Theater’s Playwrights Week, PlayLabs, and New York Stage & Film (through P73). She is a Core member of The Playwrights Center in Minneapolis, the NEA/TCG Playwright in Residence at Zachary Scott Theatre Center.

CELESTE BEDFORD WALKER is an award-winning playwright whose works have been performed in major venues across the country. She is the recipient of several honors and awards, including being selected as a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize (1999-200) for Distant Voices, the NAACP Image Award for positive portrayal of African-Americans in the media; New York's Audelco Award, as well as being honored in the Ensemble Theatre's Salute to Texas Playwrights. Recently she was commissioned by the Alley Theatre to write a touring play about Barbara Jordan. Her military drama Camp Logan will be featured in the February premiere of the Bauhaus Media documentary The Camp Logan Mutiny.

MARY ELLEN WHITWORTH is an environmental engineer who writes plays. She has won five short playwriting contests. She studied with Edward Albee. She is the Executive Director of the Bayou Preservation Association, a member of the Dramatist Guild and currently serves as the Program Chair of Scriptwriters/Houston.

About the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize:
The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize awards, established in 1978, are given annually to recognize women from around the world who have written works of outstanding quality for the English-speaking theatre. As a direct result of being finalists, many playwrights have received productions, grants and public recognition. The Prize has motivated women to write for the theatre, and has also fostered the interchange of plays between the United States and Britain, Ireland and other English-speaking countries. It has anticipated later recognition; six finalists have subsequently won the Pulitzer Prize for drama – the only women to have won that prize since the Blackburn was established. The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize is now firmly established as a highly regarded international competition.

The ten finalists for the 2008 The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, chosen from 92 submitted plays this year, include Linda Brogan - Black Crows (England), Lydia Diamond - Stick Fly (U.S.), Bryony Lavery - Stockholm (England), Lisa McGee - Girls and Dolls (Northern Ireland), Linda McLean - Strangers, Babies (Scotland), Julie Marie Myatt - Boats on a River (U.S.), Jenny Schwartz - God’s Ear (U.S.), Polly Stenham -That Face (England), Victoria Stewart – Hardball (U.S.) and Judith Thompson - Palace of the End (Canada).

The to be announced winner will be awarded $20,000 at a ceremony on Monday, March 10th at the Alley Theatre, and will also receive a signed and numbered print by renowned artist Willem de Kooning, created especially for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. Special Commendations of $5,000 may be given at the discretion of the judges, and each of the additional finalists receives $1,000.

The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize reflects the values and interests of Susan Smith Blackburn, noted American actress and writer who lived in London during the last 15 years of her life. She died in 1977 at the age of 42.

The international panel of judges for the 30th Annual Susan Smith Blackburn Prize awards includes Long Wharf Theatre artistic director Gordon Edelstein, Golden Globe® and Emmy Award® winning actress Edie Falco, Tony Award® winning producer Thelma Holt (A Doll’s House), British stage director and television producer Francis Matthews, Olivier® and Tony Award® winning actress Janet McTeer (A Doll’s House) and playwright Sarah Ruhl (Pulitzer prize finalist for The Clean House).

Past recipients of The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize include Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti's Behzti (Dishonour), Sarah Ruhl's The Clean House, Dael Orlandersmith's Yellowman, Susan Miller's A Map of Doubt and Rescue, Gina Gionfriddo's U.S. Drag, Bridget Carpenter's Fall, Charlotte Jones' Humble Boy, Naomi Wallace’s One Flea Spare, Jessica Goldberg's Refuge, Paula Vogel's How I Learned to Drive, Moira Buffini's Silence and Caryl Churchill’s Serious Money.

Former judges of The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize over the past thirty years are a Who’s Who of the English-speaking theatre and include Edward Albee, Eileen Atkins, Blair Brown, Zoe Caldwell, Jill Clayburgh, Glenn Close, Harold Clurman, Colleen Dewhurst, John Guare, A.R. Gurney, Tony Kushner, John Lahr, Marsha Norman, Joan Plowright, Marian Seldes, Fiona Shaw, Tom Stoppard, Meryl Streep, Jessica Tandy, Paula Vogel, Wendy Wasserstein, August Wilson and Joanne Woodward among nearly 200 artists in the United States, England and Ireland.

Each year artistic directors and prominent professionals in the theatre throughout the English-speaking world are asked to submit plays. In addition to the U.S., U.K. and Ireland, new plays have been submitted from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India. Plays are eligible whether or not they have been produced, but any premiere production must have occurred within the preceding year. Each script is read by a minimum of three members of an international reading committee that then selects ten to twelve finalists. Finalist’s plays are read by all six judges.

Click Here to Visit Susan Smith Blackburn Prize's Website!

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