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'Singing Forest' Wins ATCA/Steinberg Award

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The American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) has honored Craig Lucas' play "Singing Forest," first produced last July at Seattle's Intiman Theatre, with its 2004 ATCA/Steinberg New Play Award. The award includes one of the largest cash prizes given to an American play: $15,000.

The presentation ceremony took place on Sat., April 2, at the Actors Theatre of Louisville during the 2005 Humana Festival of New American Plays.

Two other plays were recognized with $5,000 awards: Sarah Ruhl's "The Clean House," which also captured the 2004 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, and Gina Gionfriddo's "After Ashley," which premiered last year at Actors Theatre of Louisville and just finished an Off-Broadway run at the Vineyard Theatre.

"Singing Forest" is an audacious, epic tale of three generations of a European-American family attempting to come to terms with Freud, Hitler, celebrity, and redemption. It is the kind of work that audiences have come to expect from the author of "The Light in the Piazza," the acclaimed musical currently making its New York premiere at Lincoln Center Theater, and plays such as "Small Tragedy," "The Dying Gaul," "God's Heart," "Prelude to a Kiss," "Blue Window," and "Reckless." Lucas is also an accomplished screenwriter: His "The Secret Lives of Dentists" won the 2003 New York Film Critics Circle Award for best screenplay and his "Longtime Companion" received the Sundance Film Festival's Audience Award in 1989.

Ruhl's play is about Matilde, a Brazilian woman who works as a live-in maid for a busy, middle-aged doctor couple, Lane and Charles, but who secretly aspires to be a comedienne. Gionfriddo's play is a sardonic look at America's continuing infatuation with victims and true-crime stories on television.

Three additional plays were named as finalists: Donald Margulies' "Brooklyn Boy," Steven Dietz's "Last of the Boys," and J.T. Rogers' "Madagascar." The latter play also received the ATCA's 2005 M. Elizabeth Osborn Award, which carries a $1,000 cash grant.

Previous winners of the Steinberg New Play Award include Arthur Miller, Lanford Wilson, Marsha Norman, August Wilson, Mac Wellman, Adrienne Kennedy, and Lee Blessing. Last year's winner was Lynn Nottage for her play "Intimate Apparel."

This year's finalists were selected from 26 eligible scripts submitted by ATCA members. All are plays that premiered outside New York City during the previous calendar year. A play-reading committee of 12, headed by Elizabeth Maupin of the Orlando Sentinel, evaluated the scripts.

The awards are supported by an annual grant of $25,000 from the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust. All the winners will be included in the 2004-05 edition of the annual "Best Plays" anthology.

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