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Announcing the 2021 Whiting Award Winners
A close-up shot of a black box theatre filled with audience members. In the center of the audience, a young, Black actor stands, mid-speech, They are wearing all yellow and gesturing with their open hands.
Where We Stand by Lavinia Grays. Photo by Joan Marcus.

The Whiting Foundation has announced the ten recipients of the 36th annual Whiting Awards, given to emerging writers of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama. This year’s Whiting Award winners in Drama include Dramatists Guild member DONNETTA LAVINIA GRAYS, Jordan E. Cooper, and Sylvia Khoury. Each $50,000 prize is designed to recognize excellence and promise in a spectrum of emerging talent, giving most winners their first chance to devote themselves full-time to their own writing or to take bold new risks in their work.

     With the Whiting Awards, the Whiting Foundation hopes to identify exceptional new writers who have yet to make their mark in the literary culture. Though the writers may not necessarily be young (talent may emerge at any age), the grant ideally offers recipients a first opportunity to devote themselves fully to their own writing, and the recognition has a significant impact. Whiting winners have gone on to win numerous prestigious awards and fellowships, including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Obie Award, and MacArthur, Guggenheim, and Lannan fellowships, and their work has shaped and advanced literature in this country over the past three-and-a-half decades.

     No submissions are accepted; the 100 nominators who suggest the candidates and the judges who select the winners are all invited by the Foundation, and all work anonymously. The pool of nominators changes annually and has included writers, professors, editors, agents, critics, booksellers, artistic directors of theaters, dramaturgs, and directors of literary festivals. Winners are chosen by a small group of recognized writers, literary scholars, and editors who meet four times during the course of a year to debate the work and select the final ten. 

     Donnetta Lavinia Grays is a Brooklyn-based playwright who proudly hails from Columbia, SC. Her plays include Where We StandWarriors Don’t CryLast Night and the Night BeforeLaid to RestThe Review or How to Eat Your OppositionThe New Normal, and The Cowboy Is Dying. Donnetta is a Lucille Lortel, Drama League, and AUDELCO Award Nominee. She is the recipient of the Helen Merrill Playwright Award, National Theater Conference Barrie and Bernice Stavis Playwright Award, Lilly Award, and Todd McNerney National Playwriting Award. She is the inaugural recipient of the Doric Wilson Independent Playwright Award. She is currently under commission from Steppenwolf, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, WP Theater, and True Love Productions.

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