Sundance Institute today announced that it has established a first-of-its-kind Tennessee Williams Award to honor emerging playwrights who have participated in its Theatre Program Labs. Permission was given by The University of the South, the beneficiary of the Williams' estate.
The first Tennessee Williams Award will be presented at a benefit for the Institute's Theatre Program, April 8, 2013 in New York. The event will feature a private musical performance at a downtown venue, followed by dinner, live performances and the award presentation. The Theatre Program's first New York benefit, in 2012, featured a private performance of An Iliad, a solo piece written by Denis O'Hare and Lisa Peterson, followed by dinner on the terrace of The Bowery Hotel and performances by Theatre Program alumni Christine Ebersole and Scott Frankel (collaborators on Grey Gardens), as well as Jeanine Tesori and Georgi James (collaborators on Fun Home).
Keri Putnam, Executive Director of Sundance Institute, said, "Over the past three decades, our Theatre Program has inspired, encouraged and supported many of the leading theatre artists and storytellers. This event unites our community to celebrate that work and raise funds to support future projects."
Philip Himberg, Artistic Director of the Theatre Program, said, "As an independent artist with a singular point of view, Tennessee Williams inhabits much of what Sundance Institute holds dear. The body of his work is timeless and diverse, and his legacy indelible. He was a risk-taker, true to his own creative impulse. In that spirit, we will present the Tennessee Williams Award to an emerging playwright each year with similar ambition, artistic sense and potential."
Tennessee Williams was an American writer who worked principally as a playwright in the American theater. From the mid-1930s until his death in 1983, Williams created many plays that are regarded as classics of the American stage and adapted much of his best known work for the cinema, including A Streetcar Named Desire (1948) and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955). He is acknowledged as one of the most accomplished playwrights in the history of English-speaking theater. Himberg had the distinction of knowing and working with Williams in 1978 at Playwrights Horizons.
The Theatre Program has been a core component of Sundance Institute since its founding by Robert Redford in 1981. The Theatre Program identifies and assists emerging theatre artists, contributes to the creative growth of established artists, and encourages and supports the development of new work for the stage. Under the supervision of Himberg and Producing Director Christopher Hibma, the Theatre Program has emerged as the leading play development program in the United States. Titles such as Spring Awakening, An Iliad, I Am My Own Wife, The Good Negro, Circle Mirror Transformation, Passing Strange, Grey Gardens, Crowns and Marie Antoinette have gone from Theatre Program Labs to production from coast to coast and internationally, garnering multiple Pulitzers, Tonys, Obies and other recognition. The Theatre Program hosts a range of creative Labs throughout the year and around the world, including the Theatre Lab at the Sundance Resort, Fall Lab for musicals and ensemble-generated projects and Playwrights Retreat at Ucross. The Theatre Program's East Africa initiative is the only professional program of its type on the continent, offering Labs, cross-cultural exchange, mentorship and exposure to artists in six African countries. Past activities have also included Theatre Labs at White Oak and Governors Island in New York.