Saturday, January 16, 2016

Playwright Sharyn Rothstein Wins 2015 Francesca Primus Prize for BY THE WATER

Playwright Sharyn Rothstein
The American Theatre Critics Association announced this week that playwright Sharyn Rothstein is the recipient of the 2015 Francesca Primus Prize for her play By the Water. The Primus Prize, which is awarded annually to an emerging woman playwright, comes with an award of $10,000.

By the Water takes place in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, in Staten Island, New York, as Marty and Mary Murphy must decide whether to try to rebuild their home and keep their devastated community afloat, or move away, as so many of their neighbors have done.

As Dramatists Play Service describes it, By the Water combines "fierce compassion and poignant humor." Its story begins with a natural disaster, but its issues are based more in the people around it.

"Hurricane Sandy has just ravaged the lifelong Staten Island home of Marty and Mary Murphy. But the storm has ripped apart more than just the walls: with their neighbors too devastated to stay, the couple’s beloved community is in danger of disappearing forever. Determined to rebuild, Marty wages a campaign to save his neighborhood and his home, but when the Murphys’ sons arrive to help their parents dig out, past betrayals come rushing to the surface."

The ATCA press release notes that "Rothstein tunes in so naturally to the rhythms of family life that it feels as if the audience is eavesdropping on real conversations, and critics compared By the Water to Arthur Miller’s quintessential American dramas."

The press release also quotes the playwright on her inspiration for the play, when she drove out to Staten Island after the storm to survey the areas earmarked for a buyout: “Leaving behind a community, a lifetime of memories, seemed like an enormous leap of faith and an incredibly difficult decision, but the destruction was gut wrenching. Yet, in front of one neat, clearly beloved house, a man who looked to be in his sixties was tending his lawn. With his whole neighborhood in ruins, with a majority of his neighbors already gone or figuring out how to leave, here was a man clearly standing firm. The image of him standing there amid so much loss was the genesis of my play.”

Click here to see an interview with Rothstein about her play.

Poster for By the Water at MTC Stage II
By the Water was commissioned as part of the The Writer’s Room, a two-year development program from Ars Nova and Manhattan Theatre Club that supports playwrights, enabling them to take risks with their work. The play received readings and a workshop before its premiere at Manhattan Theatre Club’s Stage II.

Sharyn Rothstein has a BA in sociology from Vassar, an MFA in dramatic writing from NYU and a master’s degree in public health from Hunter College, and she is an alum of the Ensemble Studio Theatre’s Youngblood collective and Primary Stages’ Dorothy Strelsin New American Writers Group. In addition to playwriting, Rothstein writes for the television legal drama Suits on the USA Network.

Rothstein and By the Water were selected from 39 applicants by a nationwide committee of critics. Recent winners of the Primus Prize include Jennifer Haley (The Nether, 2014), Stefanie Zadravec (The Electric Baby, 2013) and Tammy Ryan (Lost Boy Found in Whole Foods, 2012).

This year's finalists were Liz Duffy Adams (A Discourse on the Wonders of the Invisible World), Nambi Kelley (for her stage adaptation of Richard Wright’s Native Son), Tira Palmquist (Ten Mile Lake), Yasmine Rana (The War Zone Is My Bed) and Catherine Trieschmann (Hot Georgia Sunday).

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