What's So Special About the American Playwriting Foundation's Restless Award?

Is it us, or do theater nonprofits have the most intriguing creation stories?

Take the Roy Cockrum Foundation. Its namesake, a middle-aged former actor, stage manager, and Episcopal monk, started his foundation after winning a $153 million Powerball jackpot. Since its inception, the foundation has funded some truly adventurous work, including a five-hour adaptation of Roberto Bolaño’s 900-page novel 2666.

Then there's the American Playwriting Foundation. It sounds innocuous enough, until you learn the back story. After the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, the National Enquirer—that honorable pillar of journalistic rectitude—published a false story about Mr. Hoffman and his friend, the playwright and actor David Bar KatzKatz sued, won, and used the settlement money to create the American Playwriting Foundation in honor of Hoffman.

The settlement also funded the foundation's Restless Award, which honors unproduced works of theater by American writers. At a whopping $45,000, the Restless Award represents the largest annual cash prize in American theater awarded to a playwright in recognition of a new play. 

The original plan was to confer the award on one playwright—it's called the Restless Award, after all—but it seems as if the judges were torn, and a bit restless, so after reviewing over 2,000 submissions, they split the award between two works—Clare Barron's "Dance Nation," and Sarah DeLappe's "The Wolves."

Barron and DeLappe will reap a bunch of other perks beyond the cash payout, including the option of having the play published by the Dramatist Play Service, participating in a week-long residency at SPACE on Ryder Farm, and enjoying a national rollout via the Ed Vassallo Relentless Reading Series, which presents readings at theaters across the U.S. 

The deadline for this year's awards was July 10, 2015, and while the foundation has yet to announce a call for applicants in 2016, intrigued playwrights should bookmark this page and check back early and often.

Ruminating on the nature of the prize, Katz recalled his chats with Hoffman at Keens, one of their favorite New York City chophouses. The two men "had so many discussions over the years of how tough it is on playwrights, and how difficult to survive... Phil said it would be nice if a playwright could afford a steak, and make a living."

Well, given the scope of the Restless Award, playwrights everywhere should rejoice. Barron and DeLappe will each receive $22,500 in prize money. At $51 per T-Bone, that comes to 441 steaks a piece. Not bad.