Qui Nguyen’s VIETGONE and Lynn Nottage’s SWEAT Among Finalists for 2017 Edward M. Kennedy Prize

Qui Nguyen’s Vietgone, produced by South Coast Repertory, and Lynn Nottage’s Sweat, produced by Oregon Shakespeare Festival, are among five finalists recently announced by Columbia University Libraries for the 2017 Edward M. Kennedy Prize.

Raymond Lee, Jon Hoche and Maureen Sebastian, in South Coast Repertory's 2015 world premiere of Vietgone by Qui Nguyen. Photo by Debora Robinson/SCR.
Raymond Lee, Jon Hoche and Maureen Sebastian, in South Coast Repertory’s 2015 world premiere of Vietgone by Qui Nguyen. Photo by Debora Robinson/SCR.

Innovative, fresh and visually appealing, Nguyen’s singular voice and vision is on display with Vietgone, a modern twist on the All-American love story, borrowing elements from the world of up-to-the-minute popular culture to recreate the playwright’s own parents’ meeting, ranging from hilarity to heart-wrenching drama. It’s the classic story of boy meets girl – except this boy and girl are refugees from the Vietnam War newly settled in a relocation camp inside Middle America. Manhattan Theatre Club recently presented the  New York premiere of Vietgone.

Hangin’ with VIETGONE Stars Raymond Lee, Paco Tolson, Samantha Quan, Jon Hoche and Jennifer Ikeda

Vietgone is a recipient of the Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award and the winner of the 2015 Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award recognizing playwrights for scripts that premiered professionally outside New York City during 2014.

Qui Nguyen’s “Vietgone” wins $25,000 Steinberg/ATCA Award for 2015 

Stephen Michael Spencer, Jack Willis, Tramell Tillman, and Carlo Albán as Jason, Stan, Chris, and Oscar in the 2015 OSF production of Sweat.
Stephen Michael Spencer, Jack Willis, Tramell Tillman, and Carlo Albán as Jason, Stan, Chris, and Oscar in the 2015 OSF production of Sweat.

With warm humor and tremendous heart, Lynn Nottage’s Sweat tells the story of a group of friends who have spent their lives sharing drinks, secrets and laughs while working together on the line of a factory floor. But when layoffs and picket lines begin to chip away at their trust, the friends find themselves pitted against each other in the hard fight to stay afloat.

Helmed by Kate Whoriskey, Sweat, recently enjoyed a sold out, critically acclaimed engagement at New York’s Public Theater, and will transfer to Broadway’s Studio 54 (254 West 54th Street). Broadway performances of Sweat, produced by Stuart Thompson and Louise Gund, will begin March 4 for a March 26, 2017 opening.

Tony Award Nominees John Earl Jelks and Johanna Day, Carlo Albán, James Colby, Khris Davis, Will Pullen, Lance Coadie Williams and Michelle Wilson Return for the Broadway Debut of Lynn Nottage’s SWEAT

Roe by Lisa Loomer, produced by Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Berkeley Rep, and Arena Stage; 24 Hour History of Popular Music by Taylor Mac, produced by Pomegranate Arts and Natures Darlings; and Indecent by Paula Vogel, produced by Yale Repertory Theatre, are in contention.

The Edward M. Kennedy Prize is given annually through Columbia University to a new play or musical that, in the words of the Prize’s mission statement, “…enlists theater’s power to explore the past of the United States, to participate meaningfully in the great issues of our day through the public conversation, grounded in historical understanding, that is essential to the functioning of a democracy.”

2017 marks the fifth anniversary of the Prize. Previous winners include: Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda (2016); Father Comes Home from the Wars, Parts 1, 2, & 3 by Suzan-Lori Parks (2015), Detroit ’67 by Dominique Morisseau (2014), All the Way by Robert Schenkkan and The Body of an American by Dan O’Brien (2013). The size of the award places the Kennedy Prize among the most generous given for dramatic writing, and indeed for writing in America, while the commitment to developing publicly accessible educational content makes the prize unique among dramatic and literary awards.

Suzan-Lori Parks’ FATHER COMES HOME FROM THE WARS, PARTS 1, 2 & 3 is the 2015 Winner of the Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History

The Prize Board of Governors includes Mandy Hackett, Associate Director, The Public Theater, New York, NY; Jean Howard, George Delacorte Professor in the Humanities and Chair, Department of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University; Alice Kessler-Harris, R. Gordon Hoxie Professor of American History in Honor of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Columbia University; Tony Kushner, Pulitzer Prize Winning Playwright; Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith, Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient; Amanda Smith, author.

Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith created the prize to honor the life and legacy of her late brother, Senator Ted Kennedy. Finalists were selected through nominations from a group of 20 theater professionals around the country. The jury will meet at Columbia in February 2017. The Prize will be announced on or after February 22, 2017, the anniversary of Senator Kennedy’s birth. The winning play will receive an award of $100,000, and will be honored in a ceremony at Columbia later this spring.

Columbia University Libraries is one of the top five academic research library systems in North America. The collections include over 13 million volumes, over 160,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, and graphic and audio-visual materials. The Libraries employs more than 400 professional and support staff and hosts over 4.7 million visitors each year. The website of the Libraries is the gateway to its services and resources: library.columbia.edu.

Click here for the Lia Chang archives and here for the Lia Chang Photography archives.

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