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Dan O’Brien and Suzan-lori Parks Named 2014 Recipients of the Horton Foote Prize

Rick Miramontez / Andy Snyder / Michael Jorgensen
rick@oandmco.com / andy@oandmco.com / michael@oandmco.com






New York, NY (September 3, 2014) – Mari Marchbanks (Founder and Executive Director) announced today the 2014 recipients of the Horton Foote Prize, named in honor of the legendary writer, to award excellence in American Theater.  Presented biennially, the 2014 Prize for the 2012-13/2013-14 seasons’ Outstanding New American Play is awarded to The Body of an American by Dan O’Brien. The 2014 Prize for Promising New American Play is awarded to Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2, & 3) by Suzan-Lori Parks. 

Mr. O’Brien and Ms. Parks will be honored at a private reception on Monday, October 6th at The Lotos Club in New York City.  To celebrate their exceptional contributions to American Theater, each playwright will be presented with $15,000 and a limited edition of Keith Carter’s iconic photograph of Horton Foote which is found in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.

Mr. O’Brien and Ms. Parks were nominated by Portland Center Stage and The Public Theater, respectively. Fifty-eight resident theaters throughout the country, all with a strong history for producing new work, were invited to submit a produced or unproduced play for consideration. With produced works, its premiere production must have occurred after July 1, 2012 and no later than June 30, 2014. Nominated playwrights must be the author of a minimum of four original full-length plays which have been fully produced by professional theaters.

After a national reading committee narrowed the field, ensuring that each script received multiple blind readings, a selection committee including Chair Christopher Baker, Asst. Professor, Dramaturgy, University of Massachusetts-Amherst; Stuart Carden, Award-winning Chicag0-based stage director; Tanya Palmer, Director of New Play Development, Goodman Theatre; and Lisa Portes, Head of MFA Directing, DePaul University and the Artistic Director of Chicago Playworks; selected the top finalists to be presented to the judges. 

The four judges of 2014 The Horton Foote Prize are Chair Andrew Leynse, Artistic Director, Primary Stages; Lynn Nottage, Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright and inaugural Horton Foote Prize recipient; Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Tony Award-winning actor, director, and playwright; and Lucie Tiberghien, New York-based stage director.

On behalf of the judges, Chair Andrew Leynse said, “The 2014 Prize Committee was very excited to see the wide variety and diversity of the plays that were nominated this year. The Committee closely examined every play and came to a unanimous decision on both finalists. We are thrilled to be championing Suzan-Lori Parks’ Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2, &3) and Dan O’Brien The Body of an American.”

Leynse continued, “Dan O’Brien’s The Body of an American explores the world of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Paul Watson.  In a bold stroke of meta-theatricality, Dan O’Brien has woven himself into the play. We are transported to places all over the world where we find the same two men grappling with art and identity.”

The Body of an American had its world premiere with Portland Center Stage in October 2012, and will be presented at the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia beginning January 7, 2015. In the play, we are taken to Mogadishu in 1993. Paul Watson is a Canadian photojournalist who is about to take a picture that will win him the Pulitzer Prize. At Princeton in 2013, American writer Dan O’Brien is struggling to finish his play about ghosts. Both men live worlds apart but a chance encounter over the airwaves sparks an extraordinary friendship that sees them journey from one of the most dangerous places on earth to the depths of the human soul.  Flying from Kabul to the Canadian High Arctic, The Body Of An American is an exhilarating new form of documentary drama that splices the dialogue with actual recordings and photographs by Paul Watson, placing these two men’s battles – both public and private – against a backdrop of some of the world’s most iconic images of war.

“Suzan-Lori Parks’ Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3) is a tremendously ambitious and transformative piece of theater,” commented Leynse. “Set in three parts, the play examines the cost of war, slavery and the heartbreak of love.”

The world premiere of Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2, & 3) at The Public Theater is presented in association with American Repertory Theater, and will begin previews October 14, 2014 with Opening Night set for October 28 at The Public Theater’s Anspacher Theater before moving to the American Repertory Theater’s Loeb Drama Center with performances beginning January 23, 2015 and an Opening Night set for January 28. Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2, & 3) is a devastatingly beautiful, dramatic work set over the course of the Civil War and comprised of three plays presented in a single performance. In Part 1, Hero, a slave who is accustomed to his master’s lies, must decide whether to join him on the Confederate battlefield in exchange for a promise of freedom. Part 2 follows Hero and the Colonel as they lead a captured Union solider toward the Confederate lines as the cannons approach. Finally, in Part 3, the loved ones Hero left behind question whether to escape or wait for his return – only to discover that for Hero, freedom may have come at a great spiritual cost.

“I believe Horton Foote would be very proud of Suzan-Lori Parks and Dan O’Brien,” concluded Leynse, “and we are pleased to bestow The Horton Foote Prize to both of them.”

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his play The Young Man From Atlanta and two Academy Awards for his screenplays for the films To Kill A Mockingbird and Tender MerciesHorton Foote had his work produced on Broadway, off-Broadway as well as in theaters throughout the United States. His many honors, in addition to the Pulitzer and Academy Awards®, include Drama Desk, Obie, Outer Critics Circle and Lortel Awards, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal for Drama and the 2000 National Medal of Arts Award from President Bill Clinton. He is also a member of The Theatre Hall of Fame.  In 2008, his play Dividing the Estate won the Obie and Outer Critics Circle Best Play Awards for its Off-Broadway premiere by Primary Stages.  In 2008, the play transferred to Broadway under the auspices of Lincoln Center Theater, earning Foote his second Best Play Tony nomination.  The Orphans’ Home Cycle, Mr. Foote’s nine-play epic was produced in New York by the Signature Theatre Company in spring 2010 and won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play, 2010; the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play, 2010; the Outer Critics’ Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play, 2010; and a special citation from the Drama Desk Awards for Theatrical Event of the Season.  Recently, his play The Trip to Bountiful was revived on Broadway (winning a Best Actress Tony Award for Cecily Tyson) and premiered in 2014 as a new Lifetime film, earning two Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Movie.

The Horton Foote Prize is funded by the Greg and Mari Marchbanks Family Foundation of Austin, Texas.




Dan O’Brien is a playwright and poet living in Los Angeles. His play, The Body of an American, received its European premiere in January 2014 in an extended run at the Gate Theatre in London, in co-production with Royal & Derngate Theatre in Northampton, England, directed by James Dacre. The Body of an American premiered at Portland Center Stage, directed by Bill Rauch, and received the inaugural Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama (shared with Robert Schenkkan’s All the Way), the PEN Center USA Award for Drama, and the L. Arnold Weissberger Award. The Body of an American will open at the Wilma Theatre in Philadelphia in 2015. Previous plays by Dan O’Brien have premiered at Second Stage Theatre, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Actors’ Theatre of Louisville, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Geva Theatre Center, and elsewhere. O’Brien’s debut poetry collection, War Reporter, won the UK’s prestigious 2013 Fenton Aldeburgh Prize, and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. O’Brien is currently writing a play-with-music for Center Theatre Group about Chicano anarchist Roberto Flores and the history of the California economy, with music by Flores’s Grammy-winning son, Quetzal Flores, as well as a co-commission between Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s American Revolutions and the Public Theater in NYC on the history of guns in America. Please visit www.danobrien.org.

Suzan-Lori Parks is a playwright, novelist, essayist, performer and songwriter. She wrote Topdog/Underdog for which she won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, becoming the first African-American woman to do so. Named one of Time magazine’s “100 Innovators for the Next New Wave,” Ms. Parks’ plays include The Book of Grace, In the Blood (2000 Pulitzer Prize finalist), Venus (1996 OBIE Award), The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire WorldFucking A, and Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom (1990 OBIE Award for Best New American Play). Parks also performs Watch Me Work, her experimental performance piece/writing workshop, in theatres throughout United States and abroad. In 2003 she wrote a play a day and in 2007, her project 365 Days/365 Plays was produced in over 700 theaters worldwide, creating one of the largest grassroots collaborations in theater history. Parks is a MacArthur “Genius” Award recipient and has been honored with grants and awards from many other institutions. She’s written screenplays for Brad Pitt, Denzel Washington and Jodi Foster, among others. She wrote the screenplay Girl 6, which was directed by Spike Lee, and adapted Zora Neale Hurston’s classic novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, which starred Halle Berry and premiered on ABC’s “Oprah Winfrey Presents.” Parks’ first novel, Getting Mother’s Body, is published by Random House. A former writing student of James Baldwin, with whom she credits the launch of her interest in playwrighting, Parks is an alumna of Mount Holyoke College and New Dramatists. Her work is the subject of the PBS film “The Topdog Diaries.” Recently Suzan-Lori wrote the adaptation of the libretto of The Gershwins’ classic Porgy and Bess which received the Tony Award. Suzan-Lori teaches at NYU and is in residence at the Public Theater, where she serves as their Master Writer Chair. Please visit Suzanloriparks.com.


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