Erika Dickerson-Despenza wins 2021 Susan Smith Blackburn Award

Erika Dickerson-Despenza and her play “cullud wattah” have won the the 43rd Annual Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and $25,000 The play is about a family of Black women struggling to survive during the Flint, Michigan water crisis.

“I wrote this play specifically for Black women on the margins of the margins,” Dickerson-Despenza says in her acceptance speech, which is shown below in the (first-ever) video of the Blackburn Prize ceremony.

Dickerson-Despenza is also the playwright of two plays receiving current productions — “[hieroglyph]” at San Francisco Playhouse, and “Shadow/Land” coming to the New York Public Theater on Tuesday, April 13, two plays in her planned 10-play cycle revolving around Hurricane Katrina.

Watch the hour-long ceremony below honoring all ten women playwright finalists, each of whom receive $5,000. Each of them describes her own play.

The 2021 Finalists:

Glace Chase (Aus/US)Triple X

Erika Dickerson-Despenza (US) cullud wattah

Miranda Rose Hall (US) A Play for the Living in the Time of Extinction

Dawn King (UK) The Trials

Kimber Lee (US) The Water Palace

Janice Okoh (UK) The Gift

Ife Olujobi (US) Jordans

Frances Poet (UK) Maggie May

Jiehae Park (US) The Aves

Beth Steel (UK) The House of Shades

Annually since 1978, The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize is awarded to celebrate women+ who have written works of outstanding quality for the English-speaking theatre. Past winners have included Lynn Nottage‘s SweatAnnie Baker‘s The Flick, Caryl Churchill’s FenMarsha Norman’s ‘night,Mother, Paula Vogel‘s How I Learned to DriveNell Dunn‘s Steaming, Wendy Wasserstein‘s The Heidi ChroniclesJackie Sibblies Drury’s Fairview

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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