The 2021 Yale Drama Series Prize has been awarded to DG member RACHEL LYNETT for her play Apologies to Lorraine Hansberry (You Too August Wilson). The 2021 award recipient was chosen by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright PAULA VOGEL.
Lynett’s play is set in the fictional world of a post-second Civil War, Bronx Bay, where an all-Black state (and neighborhood) is established in order to protect “Blackness.” As Jules’ new partner, Yael, moves into town, community members argue over if Yael, who is Dominican, can stay. Questions of safety and protection surround both Jules and Yael as the utopia of Bronx Bay confronts within itself where the line is when it comes to defining who is Black and who gets left out in the process.
This year the Yale Drama Series Prize once again saw a robust and talented group of applicants dedicated to writing for the theater, receiving over 2050 submissions from 60 countries.
In addition to the winner, Vogel selected three runners-up-the most finalists ever chosen by a judge-including Timothy X Atack for Babel’s Cupid, Molly Bicks for Miss Atomic Power, and FRANCISCO MENDOZA for Machine Learning.
Now celebrating its fourteenth year, the Yale Drama Series Prize is the preeminent playwriting award in cooperation with Yale University Press and is solely sponsored by the David Charles Horn Foundation. The Yale Drama Series Prize is awarded annually for a play by an emerging playwright, selected by a judging panel of one-a distinguished playwright of our time. The winner receives the David Charles Horn Prize of $10,000, as well as publication of the winning play by Yale University Press and a staged reading. Due to Covid, this year’s reading will take place virtually on a date to be announced. The Yale Drama Series is an annual international open submission competition for emerging playwrights who are invited to submit original, unpublished, full-length, English language plays for consideration. All entries are read blindly.
“This year’s submissions were incredibly gifted and aesthetically diverse, and in truth, at least ten plays could have been chosen as the recipient of the Yale Drama Series Prize,” said judge Paula Vogel. “The winning play, Apologies to Lorraine Hansberry (You Too August Wilson) by Rachel Lynett, is a taut examination of the impact of racism in a future African American state after the next Civil War in America. How do the community members of a fictional ‘Bronx Bay’ protect Blackness? Who gets to define Blackness in a gated Black community? And ultimately, in policing Blackness, what families and relationships are torn asunder in this new world? With a metatheatrical playfulness and a direct inclusion of actors and audience alike, Rachel Lynette’s play exposes the many layers to the notion of race in order to awaken us.”
Rachel Lynett said, “When I wrote Apologies to Lorraine Hansberry (You Too August Wilson), I wanted to break as many ‘rules’ as I could. As someone who is multiracial and multicultural, I often feel by existing, and I am sometimes breaking the rules and wanted to write a play that reflected that. I have also spent a lot of time thinking about how to get catharsis in plays about race and how I could find a way to give the actors of color on stage a way to reclaim that. It has been incredibly humbling to see that this play resonates with others when it feels like an argument within myself. Every year, I look to see who has won the Yale Drama Series Prize and immediately add those plays to my reading list as a guide to where I think conversations about theatre and playwriting are headed. It feels incredibly surreal to know this year my name is added to the list of so many artists who I’ve admired and respected for years.”
Lynett is a playwright, producer, and teaching artist. Her plays have been featured at Magic Theatre, Mirrorbox Theatre, Laboratory Theatre of Florida, Barrington Stage Company, Theatre Lab, Theatre Prometheus, Florida Studio Theatre, Laughing Pig Theatre Company, Capital Repertory Theatre, Teatro Espejo, the Kennedy Center Page to Stage festival, Theatresquared, Equity Library Theatre, Chicago, Talk Back Theatre, American Stage Theatre Company, and Orlando Shakespeare Theatre. Recently, Last Night and He Did It made the 2020 Kilroy’s List. Rachel Lynett is also a Visiting Assistant Professor at Alfred University, the Artistic Director of Rachel Lynett Theatre Company, and the Executive Director for Page by Page.