The Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award, 2010 was given to Pulitzer Prized winning playwright Lynn Nottage, who was honored at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theatre, where The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust hosted a lovely evening that began with a cocktail reception in the theatre’s lobby, followed by the awards ceremony, which featured performances from the playwright’s already rich body of work. The award of two hundred thousand dollars is the largest ever given to encourage and honor artistic achievement in the American Theatre. This amount is 5 times the average annual high earnings for a playwright and 9 times the annual low.
Lynn has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors, but after winning the Pulitzer Prize for Ruined along with just about every other award imaginable including a Drama Desk, an OBIE and a second NY Drama Critics Award to go along with her first NY Drama Critics Circle Award for Intimate Apparel. Nottage, who at a relatively young age has carved out a career career expressing the voices of African/American men and women, especially women and was overwhelmed by the honor and expressed as much saying “…distinguished playwright sounds like an old gentleman. I feel like I need to don a pipe and smoking jacket. She spoke eloquently about her artistic journey and her struggle to be heard, while always feeling like an outsider. Discouraged early on in her career she gave up writing for four years and took a regular job trying to make sense out of things. Lucky for us she came back with a fierce determination that is embodied in the people she writes about –“my characters are more bold than I,” the playwright said. Well, that remains to be seen, but I couldn’t think of a more worthy recipient and thrilled for her. Lynn’s new play By the Way Meet Vera Stark will premiere at Second Stage this Spring.
The support from the community for Lynn was tremendous as original cast members, two time Tony award winner Viola Davis and Russell Hornsby, performed a scene from Intimate Apparel, while original cast members, Quincy Tyler Bernstine and Condola Rashad, performed a scene from the playwright’s Pulitzer Prize winning Ruined. And we were treated to a preview from her upcoming Spring 2011 offering By the Way Meet Vera Stark.
A champagne reception followed in the theatre lobby. PC
Photography: Barry Gordin