Marin Theatre Company named Audrey Cefaly, at left, and Antoinette Nwandu as its Play Prize winners. Courtesy images.
Marin Theatre Company has named Antoinette Nwandu and Audrey Cefaly as its 2017 winners of its two annual playwriting prizes, continuing an 11-year-old tradition to “celebrate the work of the American playwright and encourage the creation of bold, powerful new voices and plays for the American stage,” according to the Miller Avenue company.

MTC officials named New York-based playwright Antoinette Nwandu as the 2017 Sky Cooper New American Play Prize winner for her play Pass Over, which combines the Book of Exodus and Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” in the setting of an urban street corner, where Moses and Kitch, a pair of African American men talk trash, pass the time and hope that maybe today will be different as they dream of their promised land. A stranger “wanders into their space with his own agenda and derails those plans” in a play that “crafts everyday profanities into poetic and humorous riffs, exposing the unquestionable human spirit of young men stuck in a cycle just looking for a way out.”

After a stirring World Premiere at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre in 2017, the provocative, politically charged play was recently adapted for film by Spike Lee. MTC’s 2017 Sky Cooper New American Play Prize, established by Norton J. “Sky” Cooper in 2007, is awarded annually to either an established or emerging playwright for an outstanding new work. Nwandu’s Pass Over receives a $10,000 award and a developmental workshop as part of MTC’s annual New Play Reading Series. Pass Over will also be considered under option for a full production on MTC’s main stage.

“The prize money alone is a blessing,” Nwandu says. “But the recognition of my work and introduction to this theatre community feels like a gift that’s going to keep on giving.”

Audrey Cefaly’s Alabaster! garnered the 2017 David Calicchio Emerging American Playwright Prize, given each year to a playwright who has yet to have a a play professionally produced but who “shows outstanding promise and a distinctive new voice” for U.S. theatre. Alabaster! tells the story of photographer Alice, who arrives at the home of undiscovered folk singer June to take photos of her for an upcoming series called “Scars.” The chemistry between them is electric and immediate, and a three-day spiritual convergence on June’s family farm near Alabaster, Alabama follows. Cefaly’s work “is an intimate portrait, exploring the meaning and purpose of art and the struggle of the lost and tortured souls that seek to create it,” according to Marin Theatre Company.

Cefaly will receive $2,500 and her play will have two public staged readings at MTC as part of the company’s annual New Play Reading Series. In addition to the cash prize, the award covers Cefaly’s travel and accommodations for the show’s rehearsal period at MTC. 

“It’s a wonderful affirmation of the ongoing work I’ve been doing to bring Alabama voices to the stage,” Cefaly says. “I’m really looking forward to meeting the creative team at MTC to see how we can develop the work further.”

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