Yale playwright snags $200K prize

The Yale School of Drama’s very own Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Lynn Nottage DRA ’89, is the recipient of the 2010 Steinberg Award for Playwriting, the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Trust announced Monday. The award comes with a $200,000 prize, making it by far the most lucrative award in American theater.

The Steinberg Award, established in 2008, is awarded every other year to playwrights who have made a considerable impression in the theater world. The first Steinberg Award was given to Tony Kushner, best known for “Angels in America” and “Caroline, or Change.” David Emmes, who advised the trust in its pick, noted Nottage’s “unique ability to balance lyricism and unflinching honesty.”

Nottage, 45, has created an extraordinary body of work for a young artist; her best known plays include “Crumbs From the Table of Joy,” “Intimate Apparel” and “Ruined,” for which she won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in the drama category.

In her plays, Nottage explores race, gender, violence and class issues both in American culture and abroad. While “Intimate Apparel,” set in turn-of-the-century Brooklyn, focuses explicitly on conflicts deeply ingrained in American history, “Ruined” is a play about the struggles of women in the Democratic Republic of Congo during the violent civil war.

In an interview with the News, Nottage said she will maintain her commitment to producing provoking works — which she called “a survivor skill” for playwrights — despite the overwhelming excitement of such an honor.

She added that this “element of danger” within the collaborative nature of the theater inspires her to write for the stage.

“Theater is so multilayered: costume, lighting, directing and finally the conversation with the audience,” Nottage said. “You never know how people will respond.”

Though the award is a validation of the playwright’s reputation, it is ultimately the audience that determines the effectiveness of a play, she said.

In response to what the Steinberg Award signifies for her future career as a playwright, Nottage said, “One never knows.”

School of Drama Dean James Bundy DRA ’95 said in an e-mail that the award is an affirmation of the school’s commitment to bringing successful professional artists into the classroom.

“It is a hallmark of the school that our faculty are practicing artists and managers, so when the field recognizes one member of the faculty, we’re all thrilled for her, because we have known and valued her work for decades,” he said, adding that this is a significant milestone in Nottage’s career.

“The Steinberg award represents unique recognition from the field, in both its magnitude and in the distinction of the panel making the selection.”

Nottage’s most recent work, “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark,” will premier at the Second Stage Theater in New York City in the spring.

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