I have been remiss in catching up with news from last month's Humana Festival, including the awarding of the prestigious Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics New Play Awards, which annually recognize playwrights for notable scripts that premiered professionally outside New York City. The Steinberg/ATCA awards bestow $25,000 and a commemorative plaque to the overall winner, with two additional citations for $7500 each.
With total awards of $40,000, the Steinberg/ATCA Awards are the largest national new play awards in the United States which recognize regional theaters as an important growing ground for new plays.
Gunderson's I and You was first produced at the Marin Theatre Company in the San Francisco Bay area in October 2013. That production was part of a "rolling world premiere" program supported by the National New Play Network, an initiative that gives plays a chance to be presented at three theaters in quick succession, with different creative teams and different kinds of theater. Playwrights like Steven Dietz, Quiara Alegria Hudes and Theresa Rebeck have participated in this rolling world premiere program, which is intended to help plays and playwrights "attain the momentum needed to join the repertoire of frequently-produced new American works."
I and You features two characters -- Caroline, a high school student who needs a liver transplant, and a fellow student named Anthony, a basketball player who loves poetry and playing the saxophone. Because of her health issues, Caroline hasn't been at school in some time, and the play begins when Anthony arrives at Caroline's house intent on completing a school project on Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. She's prickly and even obnoxious; he's affable and outgoing. She may be dying; he is brimming with life. As they continue their discussion of poetry "with verve," the two teenagers venture into issues of mortality, humanity and connection shaped by Whitman's words. And by the end... As ATCA materials tell us, "With in humor and sharp insights, the play grows quietly toward a surprising, overwhelmingly moving conclusion."
Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, Gunderson is a playwright in residence at the Playwrights Foundation, and a member of Just Theatre’s New Play Lab. She was profiled last year in American Theatre magazine at just about the time I and You began.
Check these links to see more information on the Steinberg/ATCA Awards and the other new plays nominated and cited this year.