Theatre News

Susan Smith Blackburn Prize 2020 finalists announced including Lucy Prebble and Stef Smith

The prize celebrates excellence in writing by a female playwright

Anne Washburn, Lucy Prebble and Kimber Lee
Anne Washburn, Lucy Prebble and Kimber Lee
© Left and centre: Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage, right: The Gersh Agency

Lucy Prebble, Stef Smith and Anne Washburn are among the finalists for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize 2020, it was announced yesterday.

Ten finalists are shortlisted for the award, which is the oldest and largest given to women playwrights for a play written for English-speaking theatre. The winner will be announced in a ceremony on 2 March and will receive a $25,000 cash prize, in addition to a commissioned and signed print by Willem de Kooning.

Prebble's A Very Expensive Poison played at The Old Vic and is currently nominated for a WhatsOnStage Award for Best Video Design. Smith's Nora: A Doll's House will run at the Young Vic from 6 February to 21 March. Shipwreck was Washburn's third show at the Almeida following The Twilight Zone – which transferred to the West End last year – and Mr Burns.

Also featured in the shortlist are Kimber Lee's untitled f*ck m*ss s**gon play – which won the 2019 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting's newly introduced International Award – Zoe Cooper's Out of Water – which played at the Orange Tree Theatre in spring 2019 – and Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig's The King of Hell's Palace, which played at the Hampstead Theatre in autumn.

Last year's winner was Pulitzer Prize-winner Jackie Sibblies Drury for her play Fairview. Alice Birch won for her play Anatomy of a Suicide in 2018, Clare Barron's Dance Nation was the 2017 winner and Lynn Nottage's Sweat won in 2016.

In 2014, the prize was won by Lucy Kirkwood for her play Chimerica and Phoebe Waller-Bridge received a special commendation for Fleabag. Kirkwood's latest work, The Welkin, is currently playing at the National Theatre. Other winners of the award include Dael Orlandersmith (Yellowman), Caryl Churchill (Serious Money), Paula Vogel (How I Learned to Drive), Katori Hall (Hurt Village), Chloe Moss (This Wide Night), Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti (Behzti (Dishonour)), Jennifer Haley (The Nether), Charlotte Jones (Humble Boy) and Moira Buffini (Silence).

Founded in 1977 by Blackburn's sister, Emilie Kilgore, and Blackburn's husband, William Blackburn, the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize is named for the American actor and writer who lived in London during the last 15 years of her life.

This year's full shortlist is listed below:

The King of Hell's Palace by Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig

What to Send Up When It Goes Down by Aleshea Harris

untitled f*ck m*ss s**gon play by Kimber Lee

Confederates by Dominique Morisseau

Endlings by Celine Song

Shipwreck by Anne Washburn

Golden Shield by Anchuli Felicia King

Out of Water by Zoe Cooper

A Very Expensive Poison by Lucy Prebble

Nora: A Doll's House by Stef Smith