Thursday, April 14, 2016

Qui Nguyen Wins Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award for VIETGONE

Image for The Oregon Shakespeare Festival production of Qui Nguyen's Vietgone
This year's top Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award has been awarded to Qui Nguyen's Vietgone, called "an all-American love story about two very new Americans" in South Coast Rep's description of the play's premiere production last year. The quote continues: "It’s 1975, and Saigon has fallen. He lost his wife. She lost her fiancé. But now in a new land, they just might find each other. Using his uniquely infectious style The New York Times calls 'culturally savvy comedy'—and skipping back and forth from the dramatic evacuation of Saigon to the here and now—playwright Qui Nguyen gets up close and personal to tell the story that led to the creation of…Qui Nguyen."

Qui Nguyen
Vietgone is currently playing at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival; it will play Off-Broadway this fall, with previews beginning October 4 at New York City Center's Stage I, presented by Manhattan Theatre Club.

The Steinberg/ATCA New Play Awards recognize playwrights for outstanding work that premiered professionally outside New York City during the previous year. The prize comes with a $25,000 top award, this year given to Nguyen, along with two $7500 citations, which were awarded to Steven Dietz, for his play Bloomsday, and Jen Silverman, for her play The Dangerous House of Pretty Mbane. With a combined cash prize of $40,000, the Steinberg/ATCA Award is the largest national new play award program of its kind. 

Dietz's Bloomsday received its world premiere at ACT Theatre in Seattle. ATCA panelists who read the play during judging described it as "Tender, beautiful, and heartbreaking." The play involves two characters, one a Dublin guide who takes people to see locations from James Joyce's Ulysses and the other an American who isn't at all familiar with the book. Their brief meeting is "complicated and enhanced by visits from their 35-years-later selves.

The Dangerous House of Pretty Mbane is set in a safe house for women in South Africa, with Silverman using the story of a soccer star who returns to her native land in search of a missing lover who also happens to be a political activist to explore issues of violence toward women, media and politics, and what it means to go home again. Silverman's play was first produced at Philadelphia's Interact Theatre Company.

The other three finalists for the award were Samuel D. Hunter for Clarkston, Lynn Nottage for Sweat, and Jonathan Norton for Mississippi Goddamn. Norton took home the 2016 ATCA M. Elizabeth Osborn New Play Award, which was also awarded April 9, during the final weekend of the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville. The American Theatre Critics Association gives the Osborn New Play Award to an emerging playwright who has not yet received national attention.

Lou Harry, arts and entertainment editor for the Indianapolis Business Journal and chairs ATCA's New Plays Committee, which selects honorees for both the Steinberg/ATCA Awards and the Osborn Award.

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