Supporting creative work by women
It was recently announced that Katori Hall was given the prestigious Susan Smith Blackburn Prize in a private ceremony on February 28th in New York City. The prize is accompanied by $20,000 and a signed Willem de Kooning print.
Ms. Hall hails from my hometown Memphis, Tennessee and won the prize for The Hurt Village, a play inspired by a notorious area of the city. In the 1950s, Memphis Housing Authority constructed Hurt Village as an all-white housing project. Elvis Presley lived in the area from 1949 to 1953. By 2000, Hurt Village was a largely African American housing complex marked by poverty, crime, homelessness and some of the worst housing conditions in the city. It has since been torn down.
According to the prize’s press release:
Based on a real-life housing project, Hurt Village explores in vivid and brutal detail the lives of poor and invisible Americans. The piece focuses on a young African-American man who returns from fighting in Iraq to find that his home is being demolished. The play examines a long-lasting legacy of drug abuse, child abuse, crime, and self-hatred within a poor, working-class, multi-generational Black family.
Ms. Hall joins a very select group of revered women playwrights, including Julia Cho, Caryl Churchill, Gina Gionfriddo, Beth Henley, Ellen McLaughlin, Marsha Norman, Chloe Moss, Dael Orlandersmith, Sarah Ruhl, Paula Vogel, Naomi Wallace and Timberlake Wertenbaker, to win the international prize, which is given to women who have written works of the highest caliber for the English-speaking theater.
Her play The Mountaintop about Reverend Martin Luther King is rumored to be heading to Broadway later this year after taking London’s West End by storm in 2010. She won the 2010 Olivier Award for Best New Play.
To learn more about Ms. Hall’s work, visit her web site.