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NEW YORK – The American Theatre Critics Association has selected Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s “Hunter Gatherers” to receive the 2006 Harold and Mimi Steinberg /American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award.
The presentation occurred March 31 at Actors Theatre of Louisville during the Humana Festival of New American Plays. The award includes a cash prize of $25,000 – the largest monetary prize for a national playwriting award – and a commemorative plaque. Two others, Michael Hollinger and Jeff Daniels, will receive citations and $7,500 each. All are first-time recipients of these prizes.
“The long-standing partnership between the Harold & Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust and the American Theatre Critics Association has recognized some of today’s greatest writers, and helped identify the great playwrights of tomorrow,” said trustee Jim Steinberg. “We’re delighted to help support the unique telling of tales on the American stage.”
“Hunter Gatherers” is an inky dark comedy portraying two seemingly civilized couples descending into the chaos of primal urges. It was first produced in June 2006 at Killing My Lobster in San Francisco.
Reviewing the Killing My Lobster production in The Mercury News of San Jose, CA, ATCA member Karen D’Souza wrote, “Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s new uber-black comedy of bougie manners has been described as a Gen-X ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.’ But dudes, this Killing My Lobster world premiere actually makes Albee’s ‘The Goat’ feel quite subtle. Restrained even. This here is theater that squirts in your eye.”
Other plays by the San Francisco-based Nachtrieb include “Colorado,” “Meaningless,” “Multiplex,” “Self Help” and “The Amorphous Blob.”
Hollinger’s “Opus” premiered in January 2006 at the Arden Theatre Company in Philadelphia in association with City Theatre in Pittsburgh. The drama portrays the fractious members of a string quartet as they deal with the vicissitudes of creating art and maintaining human relationships.
Reviewing the Arden Theater Company production in the Reading (PA) Eagle, ATCA member George Hatza wrote, “Opus finds a solution to one of the play’s underlying motifs – the future of a string quartet struggling to find the right balance of skill and personality. Nevertheless, its fragile emotional strands and impending plot elements dangle tantalizingly in the distance, making for an evening that is at once entertaining, psychologically gripping and structurally bold.”
Hollinger is an Assistant Professor of Theatre at Villanova University. His plays include “Red Herring,” “Incorruptible,” “An Empty Plate in the Cafe Du Grand Boeuf,” “Tiny Island,” and “Tooth and Claw.”
Daniels’ “Guest Artist” was first produced in March 2006 at the Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea, MI. It explores the glory of theater, hero worship and the nature of artistic risk in a gentle and poignant comedy about a burned-out playwright who visits a small town theater company that has commissioned what may be his last play.
Reviewing the Purple Rose Theatre production in the Detroit Free Press, ATCA member Martin F. Kohn wrote, “Paramount is the idea that an artist best serves art and audience by serving himself…A play full of ideas can be deadly, and ‘Guest Artist’ is anything but. There’s a significant what’s-going-to-happen factor, and a few well-placed outcroppings of physical comedy.”
Daniels, well-known for his acting roles in such films as “Terms of Endearment,” “The Purple Rose of Cairo” and “The Squid and the Whale,” is the executive director and founder of the Purple Rose Theatre. He was a finalist for Steinberg/ATCA honors in 2002 for “Across the Way.” Other plays by Daniels include “Shoe Man,” “The Tropical Pickle,” “Thy Kingdom’s Coming,” “Norma & Wanda,” “The Vast Difference” and “Escanaba in da Moonlight.”
This year’s winners were among six finalists selected from 25 eligible scripts submitted by ATCA members. All are plays that premiered outside New York City in 2006. Chairman Bill Hirschman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and Vice-Chair George Hatza of the Reading (PA) Eagle headed a play-reading committee of 12 theater critics from around the U.S. that evaluated the scripts.
“The amazing range of work – dramas, fantasies, musicals, farces, melodramas – was uplifting confirmation that theater remains a vital and evolving art form that can speak to every generation,” Hirschman said.
Other finalists for this year’s Steinberg/ATCA New Play Awards included Catherine Bush for “Just a Kiss,” Theresa Rebeck for “The Scene” and Ken LaZebnik for “Vestibular Sense.”
Since the inception of ATCA’s New Play Award in 1977, the list of honorees has included August Wilson, Craig Lucas, Lanford Wilson, Marsha Norman, Jane Martin, Arthur Miller, Mac Wellman, Adrienne Kennedy, Donald Margulies, Lynn Nottage and Horton Foote. Last year’s winner was Lee Blessing for “A Body of Water” with citations to the late August Wilson for “Radio Golf” and Adam Rapp for “Red Light Winter.’
The awards are funded by a generous annual grant of $40,000 from the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust. Created in 1986 by Harold Steinberg on behalf of himself and his late wife, the primary mission of the Steinberg Charitable Trust is to support the American theater. The trust has provided numerous grants totaling millions of dollars to support new productions of American plays and educational programs for those who may not ordinarily get to experience live theater in this country.
The American Theatre Critics Association, founded in 1974, works to raise critical standards and public awareness of a critic’s duties and responsibilities. It is the only national association of professional theater critics and has several hundred members working for newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations across the United States. ATCA is a national section of the International Association of Theatre Critics, a UNESCO-affiliated organization that sponsors seminars and congresses worldwide. For more information, visit http://www.americantheatrecritics.org.