Zacarías’ Legacy of Light is runner-up
Equivocation, a play which imagines that William Shakespeare was commissioned by the government to write a play about the Guy Fawkes Gunpowder plot, has won the $25,000 Steinberg Award as the best play receiving a regional theater debut in 2009. Karen Zacarías’ Legacy of Light, which debuted at Arena Stage last year, won a $7500 runner-up prize along with Donald Margulies’ Time Stands Still.
Playwright Bill Cain’s prize-winning play has British Prime Minister Sir Robert Cecil requiring an extremely reluctant Shakespeare and his troupe, the King’s Men, to create and produce a play which memorializes the government’s official position that Catholics tunneled under the Parliament building with the intention of blowing it up. As Shakespeare interviews the surviving “plotters” and learns facts which undermine Cecil’s version of events, moral quandaries that he handled glibly in his writing become tangible and complex for him.
Critic Misha Berson of The Seattle Times called it, “compelling fiction in its rich marbling of literary lore and a timely, astute portrayal of religious bigotry, political exploitation of terrorism and other burning matters. An erudite historical drama demanding three hours of your time, and many of your brain cells, is a rare property in the American theater. And in this case, a welcome one.”
Legacy of Light, in which the story of a brilliant astronomer and her husband’s effort to have a child through a surrogate is told in counterpoise with that of the mathematician Emile du Chatelet, pregnant and desperately trying to finish her translation of Newton’s “Principia Mathemeticia”, received a thunderous reception when it opened at Arena last May. DC Theatre Scene review Rosalind Lacy called it “an intellectual joyride from start to finish”. (See her review here.)
Time Stands Still portrays married journalists trying to recover from the emotional and physical damage wreaked during their coverage of the war-torn Middle East. They must weigh their socially important role against the seemingly irreconcilable quest for a normal life back home.
The American Theater Critics’ Association selects the Steinberg Award winner from among plays which received their debuts in venues outside of New York City. Equivocation opened at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival on April 18, 2009. Margulies’ play debuted at the Geffen playhouse in Los Angeles in February of 2009. Both plays have gone on to have runs in New York.
The ATCA play selection committee is led by Wm. F. Hirschman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Other committee members were Misha Berson, Seattle Times; Bruce Burgun, Bloomington Herald Times and Back Stage; Michael Elkin, Jewish Exponent (Pa.); Jay Handelman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune; Pam Harbaugh, Florida Today (Melbourne, FL); Leonard Jacobs, New York Press, Back Stage, and Editor, The Clyde Fitch Report; Elizabeth Keill, Independent Press (Morristown, N.J.); Elizabeth Maupin, Orlando Sentinel; Wendy Parker, The Village Mill (Midlothian, Va.); Michael Sander, Back Stage (Minn.); Herb Simpson, www.totaltheater.com (Rochester, N.Y.) and Tim Treanor, DC Theater Scene (Washington, D.C.).
“Once again, America’s regional theaters from Sarasota to Seattle proved themselves as important a source for vibrant and important new work as the five boroughs of New York City,” said Hirschman. “The nominated plays reflected an encouraging range of well-known names and newcomers, young voices and mature talents, the mainstream drama and the surreal. Themes of integrity and responsibility suggest that issues facing humanity one, two, even three centuries ago, still echo for the 21st Century with a deafening resonance.”
The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust was created in 1986 by Harold Steinberg on behalf of himself and his late wife. Pursuing its primary mission to support the American theater, it has provided grants totaling many millions of dollars to support new productions of American plays and educational programs for those who may not ordinarily experience live theater. Previous winners include Lanford Wilson, Marsha Norman, August Wilson, Jane Martin, Arthur Miller, Mac Wellman, Adrienne Kennedy, Lynn Nottage, Horton Foote, Moises Kaufman (for 33 Variations, which also debuted at Arena Stage) and Craig Lucas.