AMERICAN THEATER | Benedict Lombe’s ‘Lava’ wins 2022 Blackburn Prize

NEW YORK CITY: British playwright Benedict Lombe received the 2022 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for his first play, Wash. Awarded annually since 1978, the award is the oldest and largest prize honoring female, transgender and non-binary playwrights who have written outstanding works for English-language theatre.

This is the first time that the prize has been awarded to a debut piece. Presented to Lombe by the judges of Shakespeare’s Globe in London, the prize includes $25,000 and a signed limited edition by artist Willem de Kooning, created especially for the Blackburn Prize. The other nine finalists each received $5,000.

Wash tells the story of a British Congolese woman who receives an unexpected letter from the British passport office and must unravel the mystery involving the name on her South African passport, in an intriguing journey that moves from Mobutu’s Congo to Africa of the post-apartheid South, Ireland and England.

Lombe is a Kinshasa-born, London-based British Congolese writer and director. It won a Black British Theater Award and was shortlisted for the Alfred Fagon Award for Best New Play of the Year. Lombe is attached to the National Theater Studio, has been selected to join the BBC Drama Room and is working on new theater commissions. She has also completed internships with the Bush Theater and Theater503. She is currently working with production companies to develop original film and television projects.

The other 2022 Blackburn Award finalists are Chiara Atik (USA) for Poor ClareDaniella De Jesús (USA) for Get your pink hands off me sucka and give me backSarah Hanly (Ireland) for Purple Snowflakes and Titty WanksZora Howard (USA) for BUMPSonya Kelly (Ireland) for The last returnJoanna Murray-Smith (Australia) for BerlinKae Tempest (UK) for HeavenAmanda Wilkin (UK) for Get rid of skinand Lauren Whitehead (USA) for The piece which raises the question of what happened in low-income black communities between 1974 and 2004 and why mass incarceration may be a man-made disease and highlights the general lack of government empathy for poor people of color and dispels the notion that our condition is our fault and helps make visible why we riot when we cry and also tells the story of Anita Freeman and her children.

The 2022 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize judges were Adjoa Andoh (UK), Luis Alfaro (USA), Justin Audibert (UK), Paule Constable (UK), Saidah Arrika Ekulona (USA) and Whitney White (USA).

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