“THE HARVARD VARIATIONS”
Ladies and gents,
Though I like telling people Yale was my safety school, I didn’t actually get an Ivy League education. In fact, I was deferred by my real safety school, which I won’t mention by name, though I can assure you it’s no great bastion of higher learning. (Go Bears!) No, my diploma doesn’t hang proudly on my wall, but rather fits nicely in a box of memorabilia under my queen bed. So perhaps the fact that I can never turn down an event with the name of an Ivy engraved on the invitation is simply my educational inferiority complex at play. Well, it should come as no surprise that I’ve already laid out my outfit for next week’s Yale Drama Prize ceremony at Lincoln Center Theater’s Claire Tow Theater.
Of course, the annual fete holds a great deal of personal appeal beyond its namesake institution. What I love about this particular prize is that each year an established playwright chooses a play by an emerging playwright. The prize itself? Ten large, courtesy of the David Charles Horn Foundation! Plus a staged reading at Lincoln Center on the night of the ceremony, and the play gets published by Yale University Press. Not too shabby!
This year, Pulitzer prize winner Ayad Akhtar selected the winner, God Said This by Leah Nanako Winkler (no relation), which bested the 1,600 other submissions from 50 countries.
Full disclosure: part of my enthusiasm for the prize is that my dear friend, Francine Horn, presides over it as president of the David Charles Horn Foundation. If you don’t know Francine, you’re missing out. She’s fabulously eccentric, wildly generous, and one of the great liberals of our day. We speak almost daily, and she is in great despair over the state of our national politics. She spends part of the year at her home in the south of France, and when I visited her there this past summer, I said to her, “Francine, if I were you, I’d forget about D.C. and just move here! Look around? What more can you ask for?” She said to me, “Scoopy, we can never leave and we can never forget. We must stay and we must fight!” Well, being able to focus her energy into supporting our next slate of great playwrights is not just a welcome distraction from the onslaught of news — it’s also her way of shaping the future. It’s her firm belief that theater is one of our most potent mediums for spreading ideas, and what better way to participate in that dialogue than by nurturing big, bold, fresh voices?
Here’s an idea of how we can spread these ideas even further: why doesn’t Audible or Google team up with the Yale Prize to record the staged readings they do, and then sell the recordings? After all, not everyone is lucky enough to be invited each year. As Marie Antoinette might have said, “Let them download the recording!”
Tidbits from around town:
Witnessed Joel Eggerton introducing Joel Grey to Lucas Hedges, after a Trevor Project-hosted screening of Boy Erased at the Whitby Hotel, saying, “My parents named me after this man!”
Spotted Fran Lebowitz dining with a friend at Bar Pitti, just a few tables away from Heather Hitchens and Charlotte St. Martin.
Overheard producer and marketing mogul Len Gill at the Toronto Soho House regaling his dining companions with a wild story about a Porsche, a southern police officer, and a speeding ticket.
As always, a toast of something sparkling to you and yours!