While some would argue that female playwrights still have many strides left to reach parity with male writers, they have undeniably come a long way in the last 40 years—and the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize is an apt representation of just how far they have come. The Prize, co-founded by Smith’s husband William Blackburn and her sister Emilie S. Kilgore, annually recognizes women from around the world who have written outstanding works for the English-speaking theater. When it was first established in 1978, 6 six percent of the eligible new plays produced were written by women. That number, however, has now climbed to 20 percent.
To mark this shift and celebrate its 35th anniversary, the Prize recently announced a global celebration in which theaters across English-speaking countries will produce 75 plays by past winners and finalists. In Houston, Blackburn’s stomping grounds, a total of nine theater companies and organizations will produce plays as part of the anniversary.
The culmination of this global initiative is the 35th Awards Presentation Ceremony, to be held in Houston at the Alley Theatre in early 2013. Each year, the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize winner receives $20,000 as well as a signed and numbered print by Willem de Kooning. Each of the Prize’s finalists are given $1,000.