You have to hand it to the Laurents/Hatcher Foundation. They sure keep things interesting.
Established in 2010, the New Brunswick, New Jersey-based Laurents/Hatcher Foundation Award is an annual prize given to an unproduced, full-length play "of social relevance" by an emerging American playwright. In addition to being one of the country’s largest grants for new work, the award is the first major award for playwriting to be named in honor of a same-sex couple: Tony Award winning playwright and director Arthur Laurents and his partner of 52 years, Tom Hatcher. (Laurents' credits include the stage musicals West Side Story and Gypsy and the film The Way We Were.)
Two years ago, something strange happened. The foundation didn't issue the award. We're still not sure why, but as we previously noted, one can assume the foundation simply wasn't impressed with the roster of eligible productions.
Last year, however, things returned to form. Rajiv 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." He receieved $50,000 in cash plus a grant of $100,000 to help defray production costs of the play's premiere at a nonprofit theater.
Which brings us to 2016. This year, the foundation presented the award to two playwrights—Christopher Demos-Brown's American Son and Sarah Burgess' Dry Powder. It's a good, old-fashioned tie. The former production examines our nation's racial divide as seen through the eyes of an estranged, biracial couple, while the latter is a "gripping, razor-sharp new play about the people molding and messing with the American economy."
The respective producing theaters will each receive $50,000 towards the production expenses of the premiere works. Burgess and Demos-Brown will each receive an award of $25,000.
In a refreshing contrast to the Year in Which Nobody Won, David Saint, President of The Laurents/Hatcher Foundation, noted, "The quality of work was so high this year, it's the first time there has been a tie for the award. These are two wonderful plays about highly relevant topics—race relations and the world of high finance."
Who will win (or not win) next year? Stay tuned!