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Jackie Sibblies Drury wins the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize 2019 for Fairview

Theatre news

THE Susan Smith Blackburn Prize 2019 has been awarded to Jackie Sibblies Drury for Fairview. Awarded annually since 1977, the prize is the oldest and largest prize awarded to women playwrights, and Jackie Sibblies Drury has received $25,000 and a signed print by renowned artist Willem de Kooning, created especially for the prize.

The awards took place at Shakespeare’s Globe on March 4, 2019, and judges for the 2019 prize were Michael Buffong, Maria Goyanes, Marianne Elliott, Jennifer Haley, Tamsin Greig, and Marin Ireland. Each of the additional finalists have received an award of $5,000.

Brooklyn-based playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury’s Fairview was submitted by Soho Rep and Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Having been co-commissioned by them, it premiered at both theatres in 2018. Following a ground-breaking, sell-out run in New York, the play will receive its UK premiere at the Young Vic from November 28, 2019 to January 18, 2020.

In Fairview, the Frasier family is gearing up for Grandma’s birthday, and Beverly needs this dinner to be perfect. Plus, the radio is on the fritz, her sister Jasmine is drinking, her husband Dayton isn’t helping, her brother Tyrone might not show up at all, and her daughter Keisha is being a typical teenager. As Beverly’s hostess-neurosis begins to get the better of her while her family acts like family, Keisha’s adolescent malaise starts to seem like maybe it could be something else.

Fairview has been universally praised for its innovative narrative strategy. “On its face, Fairview is about an extended black family preparing for an important dinner. The tone starts off light and the plot stays within the confines of a family comedy. But as the play progresses, the mood shifts and the assumptions it invites are turned on their heads…You begin watching by feeling mildly amused, then uneasy, then annoyed, then unsettled. And then abruptly you’re free-falling down a rabbit hole.” The New York Times.

Jackie Sibblies Drury’s other plays include Marys Seacole, Really and We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as South West Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, and Between the Years 1884-1915. Her plays have been presented by Soho Rep, Berkeley Rep, New York City Players and Abrons Arts Center, Victory Gardens, Trinity Rep, Woolly Mammoth, Undermain Theatre, InterAct Theatre, Company One, and The Bush Theatre in London, among others. She has received many awards, including a Windham-Campbell Literary Prize in Drama, a Helen Merrill Playwriting Award, and a United States Artists Gracie Fellowship.

The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize is awarded annually to celebrate women who have written works of outstanding quality for English-speaking theatre. Administered in Houston, New York and London, the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize is named after the American actor and writer who grew up in Houston and lived in London during the last 15 years of her life. Susan believed that society urgently needed more influence from talented women. The purpose of the Prize is to honour excellence and to perpetuate the high standards, creativity and vitality that were characteristic of Susan’s life.

Chosen from over 150 nominated plays, the 10 finalists are:

Hilary Bettis (U.S.) – 72 miles to go…
debbie tucker green (U.K.) – ear for eye
Ella Hickson (U.K.) – The Writer
Martyna Majok (U.S.) – Sanctuary City
Lily Padilla (U.S.) – How to Defend Yourself
Nina Raine (U.K.) – Stories
Ella Road (U.K.) – The Phlebotomist
Heidi Schreck (U.S.) – What the Constitution Means to Me
Lauren Yee (U.S.) – Cambodian Rock Band

Over 450 plays have received the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. Many of the winners have gone on to receive other top honours, including Olivier, Lilly, Evening Standard and Tony Awards for Best Play. Ten Susan Smith Blackburn finalist plays have subsequently won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama. The Prize has also fostered an interchange of plays between the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and other English-speaking countries.