The $25,000 Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award will go to a play which portrays a modern American family coping with death, illness, addiction, abandonment or the challenges of beginning anew in a new country, the American Theatre Critics Association announced Wednesday. ATCA will announce the winner and give two $7500 citations to plays from among six finalists on March 31, 2012 at Actors Theatre of Louisville during the Humana Festival of New American Plays.
The Steinberg/ATCA Award recognizes new American plays receiving their professional debut outside of New York City. At $40,000, it is the largest national new play award of its kind.
Water by the Spoonful, the middle story of Quiara Alegria Hudes’ Elliot trilogy, is among the six finalists. Hudes, best known for her book for the musical In the Heights, tells the story of how Elliot, freshly returned from Iraq, copes with the death of the woman who raised him while his biological mother, a recovering heroin addict, attempts to hold an internet group of recovering addicts together. Frank Rizzo of Variety called Water by the Spoonful a “funny, wise and touching play.”
Ken LaZebnik’s On The Spectrum is a play about a high-functioning young man who suffers from autism. On the brink of entering law school, he is resolved to help his family’s dire financial condition by finding work as a graphic computer designer. His first client is a young woman also suffering from autism, who needs his help in developing her fantasy website. Ed Huyck of Minneapolis’s Citypage praised “LaZebnik’s beautifully crafted script, which allows the characters to live, breathe, and grow while avoiding the clichés that can hamper dramas about disability.”
Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them, A. Rey Pamatat’s drama about two Filipino kids who raise themselves on their father’s farm while dad lives away from them with his girlfriend, had its debut at last year’s Humana Festival in Louisville. Burt Osborne of Access Atlanta characterizes it as “a generally thoughtful and telling new play by A. Rey Pamatmat that develops into a bittersweet coming-of-age story.”
In Yussef El Guindi’s Pilgrims Musa and Sheri in the New World, an Egyptian immigrant cab-driver who is trying to take on the challenges of a completely different life courts an American waitress with her own set of very familiar challenges while his roommate has gone to make pilgrimage to Mecca. Misha Berson of the Seattle Times called Pilgrims an “insightful, openhearted new comedy” with “humor, warmth and all-around compassion.”
Caitlin Montanye Parrish’s A Twist of Water is the story of a Caucasian schoolteacher who, with his partner, adopted an African-American child. His partner is now dead and the child is a teenager, bitter and resentful and resolved to find her own mother. The Chicago Tribune’s Chris Jones calls this play a “truly special new Chicago play” which has “more passion, wisdom and lyricism towards civic definition (and redefinition) than any Chicago work I’ve seen in a long, long time.”
Annapurna tells the story of an ex-poet and recovered alcoholic, dying of cancer in a trailer park with the Rockies as a backdrop. His long-estranged wife visits him unexpectedly, with a startling revelation about their son. The San Francisco Chronicle’s Robert Hurwitt called Sharr White’s Annapurna “a comic and gripping duet for ex-spouses.”
These six finalists were selected from 27 eligible scripts submitted by members of the American Theater Critic’s Association, which included two plays first produced in Washington, DC: Kathleen Akerley’s (Something Past in Front of the Light) and Marhall Pailet and A. D. Penedo’s musical Who’s Your Baghdaddy?.
They were evaluated by a committee of 12 theater critics, led by chairman Wm. F. Hirschman, FloridaTheaterOnStage.com. Other committee members are Misha Berson, Seattle Times; Bruce Burgun, Bloomington Herald Times and Back Stage; Michael Elkin, Jewish Exponent (Pa.); Pam Harbaugh, Florida Today (Melbourne, Fla.); Elizabeth Keill, Independent Press (Morristown, N.J.); Jerry Kraft, aislesay.com (Port Angeles, Wash.) ; Julius “Jay” Novick, freelancer and formerly chief critic for the Village Voice (New York City); Wendy Parker, The Village Mill (Midlothian, Va.); David Sheward, Back Stage (New York); Herb Simpson, totaltheater.com and capitalcriticscircle.com, and Tim Treanor, DC Theatre Scene (Washington, D.C.).