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 Sweat, Annie Baker‘s The Flick, Caryl Churchill’s Fen, Marsha Norman’s ‘night,Mother, Paula Vogel‘s How I Learned to Drive, Nell Dunn‘s Steaming, Wendy Wasserstein‘s The Heidi Chronicles, Jackie Sibblies Drury’s Fairview