The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize 2023-24, the prestigious international award for women+ playwrights announces finalists

London/New York (6 February 2024) The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize today announces ten finalists for the prestigious playwriting award – the largest and oldest playwriting award recognizing women+ writers for plays of outstanding quality written for the English-speaking theatre.

The ten finalists, chosen from over 200 submitted plays, are:

Roxy Cook (UK-Russia) A Woman Walks into a Bank

April De Angelis (UK) The Divine Mrs S

Justice Hehir (US) The Dowagers

Rhianna Ilube (UK) Samuel Takes a Break…,In Male Dungeon No.5 After a Long But Generally Successful Day of Tours

Jasmine Naziha Jones (UK) Baghdaddy

Alex Lin (US) Chinese Republicans

Lenelle Moïse (US) K-I-S-S-I-N-G

Hannah Moscovitch (CAN) Red Like Fruit

a.k. payne (US) Love I Awethu Further

Ava Pickett (UK) 1536

The 2024 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize will announce the winner at a celebration attended by writers, supporters, and artistic leaders in London at the Royal Court Theatre on 11 March. The winner will be awarded $25,000 and also receive a signed and numbered print by renowned artist Willem de Kooning, created especially for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. A Special Commendation of $10,000 may be given at the discretion of the judges, and each Finalist will receive $5,000.

Prize Executive Director, Leslie Swackhamer said today, “We are thrilled to present the Prize at the Royal Court, a theatre with an incredible history of developing and producing brilliant new plays by women. This year’s finalists include three debut plays, and six playwrights who are new to our family of playwrights. Two playwrights were honored as finalists early in their careers, and have gone on to have brilliant careers.  This is a vigorous and vital cohort, and we can’t wait to celebrate and honor their work.”

The judges for the 2024 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize are:

Inua Ellams – UK award-winning poet, playwright and curator

Sarah Mantell-US playwright, winner of the 2023 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for In the Amazon Warehouse Parking Lot

April Matthis– US Obie-Award winning actor

Clare Perkins– UK star of stage and screen

Eric Ting– US Obie-Award winning director

Lyndsey Turner– UK Olivier-Winning director of stage and film

The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize honors the late American actor, feminist and writer Susan Smith Blackburn who lived in London during the last 15 years of her life.  Founded in 1978, the Prize is awarded annually to celebrate women+ who have written works of outstanding quality for the English-speaking theatre.  Over 500 plays have been honored as Finalists of the Prize and many have gone on to receive other top honors, including Olivier, Lilly, Evening Standard and Tony Awards for Best Play. Eleven Susan Smith Blackburn Finalist playwrights have subsequently won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama. The Prize results in more productions of plays by women+ writers and fosters the interchange of plays between the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and other English-speaking countries.

Winners of the Prize include Annie Baker, Julia Cho, Caryl Churchill, Jackie Sibblies Drury, Katori Hall, Lucy Kirkwood, Marsha Norman, Lynn Nottage, Dael Orlandersmith, Lucy Prebble, Wendy Wasserstein, Timberlake Wertenbaker and Cheryl West.

The Process: Each year artistic directors and prominent professionals in the theatre throughout the English-speaking world are asked to submit plays.  Over 400 theatres from North America, Africa, India, Australia, New Zealand and the UK serve as Source Theatres for the Prize. Plays are eligible regardless of whether they have been produced, but any premiere production must have occurred within the preceding year.  Prior Winners are not eligible.  Each script receives multiple readings by members of an international reading committee that then selects ten finalists. A panel of six judges then selects the winning play.

Past Judges of The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize constitute a Who’s Who of the English-speaking theatre and include Edward Albee, Eileen Atkins, Zoe Caldwell, Glenn Close, Harold Clurman, Colleen Dewhurst, Marianne Elliot, Ralph Fiennes, Greta Gerwig, John Guare,  David Hare, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Tony Kushner,  Marsha Norman, Joan Plowright, Indhu Rubasingham, Fiona Shaw, Tom Stoppard, Meryl Streep, Jessica Tandy, Paula Vogel, Wendy Wasserstein, and August Wilson among over 250 artists in the United States, England and Ireland.

Written by Theatrefullstop