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Inaugural James Stevenson Prize For Comedic Short Plays

by BWW News Desk Oct. 16, 2018  


Playing On Air announced today the three winners of the inaugural James Stevenson Prize for comedic short plays. First Prize ($7,500, plus a Playing On Air recording for radio and podcast distribution) has been awarded to Hate Baby by Gracie Gardner. (Gardner is also the winner of the 2017 Relentless Award and author of the New York Times Critic's Pick Athena.) Second Prize ($2,000) has been awarded to Hedgehog Years by Lily Akerman. Third Prize ($1,000) has been awarded to Horse Latitudes (Who Wants to be an Equine Extra?) by Elizabeth Logun.

The James Stevenson Prize was created to bring the finest American comedic writing to a nationwide audience, for free. In his cartoons for The New Yorker, Mr. Stevenson told stories about the human comedy with energy and economy. This prize in Stevenson's name, sponsored by his wife Josie Merck, recognizes his love of theater, as well as his extraordinary ability to pack a comedic punch with very few lines.

"We received an overwhelming number of contest submissions from playwrights across the country, and those plays, read collectively, provided a unique window into the hopes - and especially fears - that are gripping writers at this moment," said Bonnie Antosh, Playing on Air's Literary Manager. "Gracie, Lily, and Elizabeth's plays all include characters who are stuck between the expectation of who they should be and the reality of who they are. These scripts are remarkable in how they confront the unexpected with wit, candor, and inventiveness."

The winning plays were selected from nearly 600 entries. Playwrights Willy Holtzman, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, and Paul Rudnick served as guest judges for the final round of the competition, along with Merck, Antosh, and Claudia Catania (Playing on Air's Founder and Producing Artistic Director).

Mr. Jacobs-Jenkins said, "It was a joy to encounter so many funny writers."

Mr. Rudnick, added "This was a tough choice, because the submissions were terrific: funny and touching and highly original. What a joy to honor James Stevenson with the work of such gifted and wildly entertaining writers."

"Jim was an irreverent soul who revered the truth in humor. He would be pleased to know that the three Stevenson Prize winners are so truthful - and funny as hell," said Mr. Holtzman.

Playing on Air is a new way to experience electric performances and artist interviews on podcast and public radio. By producing short, contemporary audio plays, Playing on Air promotes the work of acclaimed and rising-star playwrights, all while encouraging the next generation of theater-makers. Recorded in New York, episodes are broadcast by partner stations across 21 states and downloaded around the world.

Recent podcasts include John Patrick Shanley's Last Night in the Garden I Saw You with Michelle Williams & Rupert Friend, Cassandra Medley's Cell with Tonya Pinkins, Condola Rashad, and Melanie Nicholls-King, and David Lindsay-Abiare's Crazy Eights with Rosie Perez, John Leguizamo, and Bobby Cannavale.

To hear current episodes of Playing on Air, subscribe on iTunes (, search Playing on Air in your favorite podcasting app, or listen online at

Playwrights represented on Playing On Air thus far include David Ives, Lynn Nottage, David Auburn, Beth Henley, Christopher Durang, Jesse Eisenberg, Julia Cho, Doug Wright, Alexandra Gersten-Vassilaros, John Patrick Shanley, Arlene Hutton, Donald Margulies, Cusi Cram, Amelia Roper, Paul Rudnick, Cary Gitter, Jacquelyn Reingold, John Guare, Sheri Wilner, Lanford Wilson, Rachel Bonds, Willy Holtzman, Leland Frankel, Cori Thomas, Daniel Reitz, and David Lindsay-Abaire.

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