What if they gave an award — and nobody won? That's exactly what happened last year, three years after the Laurents/Hatcher Foundation Award was first presented to fund an unproduced, full-length play of social relevance by an emerging American playwright.
The award was created in honor of Tony Award-winning playwright and director Arthur Laurents (Gypsy, West Side Story) and his late partner of 52 years, Tom. The Laurents/Hatcher Foundation Award is also the first major award for playwrighting to be named in honor of a same-sex couple.
The foundation did, in fact, accept submissions in 2014, but we can only presume that nothing impressed it enough to whip out the checkbook. (That's Broadway for you!) But we can't blame them, especially with $150,000 at stake.
The award comes in the form of $50,000 in cash to the selected playwright plus a grant of $100,000 to help defray production costs of the play's premiere at a nonprofit theatre. Which brings us to today, three months or so into the new year, and guess what? We have a winner.
That'd be playwright Rajiv Joseph. Joseph, a Pulitzer Prize finalist for Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, scored the award for his new play, The Guards at the Taj, which examines the "life-shaking events in 1648 India as the sun rises on the just-completed Taj Mahal."
Joseph gets the $50,000 while the $100,000 production grant goes to Off Broadway’s Atlantic Theater Company, which will debut the play in May, with the award-winning actor Amy Morton directing.
But the foundation wasn't done just yet. It also announced a special "citation of excellence," its first, for playwright Lindsey Ferrentino and her new work Ugly Lies the Bone, which will be mounted later this year at the Roundabout Underground space in Manhattan. Ms. Ferrentino will receive $25,000 and Roundabout Theater Company will get $50,000 for production costs.
This award comes at a time when Broadway and off-off Broadway are flush with foundation and private donor dollars. And regardless of how many "offs" come before the word "Broadway," there's one common ingredient across all of these gifts: foundations' desire to nurture and fund new and compelling work by American playwrights.