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Ava Pickett awarded Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for ‘1536’

The annual award acknowledges women playwrights.

Ava Pickett (Credit: Courtesy of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize)

U.K. playwright Ava Pickett is the recipient of the 2024 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for her play “1536.” The recognition was announced March 11 at London’s Royal Court Theatre. First awarded in 1978 and named for the late playwright Susan Smith, the award recognizes women-written works of outstanding quality for the English-speaking theater.

Pickett’s award includes a $25,000 cash prize and a custom Willem de Kooning print designed specifically for the Blackburn Prize.

Nine additional finalists were acknowledged. American playwright Justice Hehir was awarded a Special Commendation Award, which includes a $10,000 prize, for the play “The Dowagers.”

The eight other finalists, who received $5,000 apiece, are, Roxy Cook for “A Woman Walks Into a Bank,” April De Angelis for “The Divine Mrs S,” Rhianna Ilube for “Samuel Takes a Break…in Male Dungeon No.5 After a Long but Generally Successful Day of Tours,” Jasmine Naziha Jones for “Baghdaddy,” Alex Lin for “Chinese Republicans,” Lenelle Moïse for “K-I-S-S-I-N-G,” Hannah Moscovitch for “Red Like Fruit” and a.k. payne “Love I Awethu Further.”

Previous Blackburn winners include many playwrights whose works later appeared on Broadway. Caryl Churchill won twice, first in 1983-1984 for “Fen,” and then again in 1987-1988 for “Serious Money,” which arrived on Broadway in February 1988. Wendy Wasserstein won in 1988-1989 for “The Heidi Chronicles,” whose Broadway run garnered her a Best Play Tony Award. Paula Vogel won in 1997-1998 for “How I Learned to Drive”; Vogel was Tony-nominated for the 2022 Broadway mounting. Marsha Norman won in 1982-1983 for “’Night, Mother,” a play which also earned her a Best Play Tony nomination (she later won a Best Book of a Musical Tony for 1991’s “The Secret Garden”). Lynn Nottage won in 2015-2016 for “Sweat,” a play which earned her the first of three Tony nominations.

Other past winners, who were represented by different works on Broadway, include: Nell Dunn, who won in 1982 for “Steaming,” which opened on Broadway later that year. Wendy Kesselman, who wrote a new adaptation for the 1997 revival of “The Diary of Anne Frank,” won in 1980-1981 for “My Sister in This House.” Sarah Ruhl, a Tony nominee for 2009’s “In the Next Room,” won in 2004-2005 for “The Clean House.” Lucy Kirkwood, a Tony nominee for 2017’s “The Children,” won in 2013-2014 for “Chimerica.” Katori Hall, a Tony nominee for 2019’s “Tina,” won the Blackburn Prize in 2010-2011 for “Hurt Village.”