Columbia University Libraries, on behalf of the board of the Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History, has announced the five finalist works for the 2018 award:
Junk by Ayad Akhtar, produced by La Jolla Playhouse
Bella: An American Tall Tale by Kirsten Childs, produced by Playwright Horizons
Roe by Lisa Loomer, produced by Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Berkeley Rep, and Arena Stage
Skeleton Crew by Dominique Morisseau, produced by Atlantic Theatre Company
King of the Yees by Lauren Yee, produced by Goodman Theatre
The Edward M. Kennedy Prize is given annually through Columbia University to a new musical or play that, in the words of the Prize’s mission statement, “…enlists theater’s power to explore the past of the United States, to participate meaningfully in the great issues of our day through the public conversation, grounded in historical understanding, that is essential to the functioning of a democracy.”
Previous winners of the Prize include: A 24-Decade History of Popular Music by Taylor Mac (2017); Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda (2016); Father Comes Home from the Wars, Parts 1, 2, & 3 by Suzan-Lori Parks (2015); Detroit ’67 by Dominique Morisseau (2014); and All the Way by Robert Schenkkan and The Body of an American by Dan O’Brien (2013). The size of the award places the Kennedy Prize among the most generous given for dramatic writing, and indeed for writing in America, while the commitment to developing publicly accessible educational content makes the prize unique among dramatic and literary awards.
The Prize Board of Governors includes Mandy Hackett, Associate Director, The Public Theater, New York, N.Y.; Jean Howard, George Delacorte Professor in the Humanities and Chair, Department of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University; Alice Kessler-Harris, R. Gordon Hoxie Professor of American History in Honor of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Columbia University; Tony Kushner, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright; Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith, Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient; and Amanda Smith, author.
Ambassador Kennedy Smith created the prize to commemorate the life and legacy of her late brother, Senator Ted Kennedy. Finalists were selected through nominations from a group of theater professionals from across the country. The jury will meet at Columbia in February 2018. The winning work will be announced on or after February 22, 2018, the anniversary of Senator Kennedy’s birth. The selected play will receive an award of $100,000 and will be honored in a ceremony at Columbia later this spring.