Seattle plays are winner, finalist of prestigious prizes

A drama by a Seattle playwright Keri Healey has won a prestigious national critics’ prize, and a work by noted Seattle author Robert Schenkkan is in the running for another major award.

“Torso,” Healey’s moody, inventive psychological mystery, has been selected as winner of the 2013 M. Elizabeth Osborn award by the American Theatre Critics Association. Funded by the Foundation of the American Theatre Critics Association, the annual $1,000 award goes to playwrights who have not yet achieved national recognition, selected by a jury of 15 ATCA member critics from around the U.S. (including, this year, Misha Berson of The Seattle Times and Port Angeles freelance reviewer Jerry Kraft).

Schenkkan’s “All the Way,” the first play in a two-part work about the complex character of President Johnson and his successful drive to pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act, is one of six finalists for the Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award, which recognizes the best scripts that premiered professionally outside New York City during 2012. “All the Way” debuted at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, and recently was named the inaugural co-winner of the new Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama.

The other finalists for the top Steinberg prize of $25,000 and two citation awards of $7,500 each are: “Gidion’s Knot,” by Johnna Adams; “The Invisible Hand,” by Ayad Akhtar; “Death Tax,” by Lucas Hnath; “Impenetrable,” by Mia McCullough; and “The Wind Farmer” by Dan O’Neil.

Healey has written numerous plays that have premiered in Seattle theaters. “Torso,” produced by Printer’s Devil Theatre at Theatre Off Jackson last year, entwines the story of a woman grieving the untimely death of her sister with a shocking murder conspiracy within a Minnesota family. It was praised by ATCA jurors for its “gripping” storytelling, and “balancing act of serpentine plotting.”

Healey says “Torso” is loosely based on events in the news “and in my own life. It was definitely inspired by my sister’s death, and my unresolved emotions about that.”

The Seattle premiere of “Torso” was well-received locally, with a Seattle Times Footlight Award, a 2012 best new play designation by Seattle Magazine, and nominations for local Gregory and Gypsy Rose Lee awards. A second production was staged in 2012 by the Actors Theater of Orcas Island.

The Osborn Award will be bestowed, and the Steinberg/ATCA awards revealed, on April 6 at the Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville, Ky.