US playwright bags Susan Smith Blackburn Prize

Published: 11 April 2021
Reporter: Sandra Giorgetti

Erika Dickerson-Despenza Credit: Joey Stocks

This year's Susan Smith Blackburn Prize has been taken home by Erika Dickerson-Despenza for cullad wattah, a play about the Flint, Michigan water crisis which also speaks to the contemporary black female experience in America.

The black, queer feminist poet-playwright and cultural memory worker receives $25,000 and a signed and numbered print by artist Willem de Kooning.

The judges have also awarded two special commendations to Kimber Lee for The Water Palace and Ife Olujobi for Jordans. They each receive $10,000.

The Anglo-American judging panel included stage and film star Paapa Essiedu, theatre, opera and film director Natalie Abrahami, multi-Olivier-winning designer Bunny Christie, Lincoln Center resident director Lileana Blain-Cruz, theatre and television star Jason Butler Harner and theatre director Seema Sueko.

They selected Glace Chase's Triple X, Miranda Rose Hall's A Play for Living in the Time of Extinction, Dawn King's The Trials, Janice Okoh's The Gift, Frances Poet's Maggie May, Jihae Park's The Aves and Beth Steel's The House of Shades to be finalists, who each receive $5,000.

The three winning pieces and finalists were chosen from over 150 plays, nominated by theatre professionals from the English-speaking world.