Lucy Caldwell, was presented with a Special Commendation Award at the 29th Susan Smith Blackburn Awards ceremony in New York earlier this month. Leaves, directed by Garry Hynes (a former Blackburn Prize judge), is the first full-length play by Belfast-born writer Lucy Caldwell (25), which premiered at Druid in Galway in March. The production transferred to the Royal Court Theatre in London where it enjoyed a very successful three week run. Lucy Caldwell is currently under commission to write for the main stage at the Royal Court Theatre.
The prestigious Susan Smith Blackburn Awards are given annually to women who deserve recognition for having written works of outstanding quality for the English-speaking theatre. The Prize reflects the values and interests of Susan Smith Blackburn, noted American actress and writer who lived in London the last 15 years of her life. She died in 1977, age 42.
For only the second time in the 29-year history of the Prize, the six judges, unable to reach a consensus on awarding a first prize, determined that none would be given. Furthermore, they reached the unprecedented decision to divide the top cash awards ($16,000.) among the four top Finalists. In this way, the judges wished to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity and range of the plays, and the wealth of promise shown by these writers, all of whom will remain eligible to win the first prize at a later date. The four Special Commendation Awards went to Lucy Caldwell (Northern Ireland) for Leaves, Sheila Callaghan (U.S.) for Dead City, Stella Feehily (Ireland) for O Go My Man, and Abbie Spallen (Ireland) for Pumpgirl.
Each year prominent professionals in the theatre industry throughout the English-speaking world are invited to submit plays. In addition to the U.S., the U.K. and Ireland, the Prize reaches out to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, and South Africa. This year’s Finalists were chosen from a field of approximately 90 submissions. All final nominations are read by all six Judges. To date there have been 332 Finalist plays – 205 from the U.S., 118 from the U.K. and Ireland, four from Canada, three from Australia, and one each from India and New Zealand.
Judges for the twenty-ninth annual awards were leading American actor Jill Clayburgh; New York playwright John Guare; Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director of the Public Theatre, N.Y.; Alastair Macauley, chief theatre critic, Financial Times, London; leading British actor Deborah Findlay and U.K. director Anna Mackmin.