Sarah Mantell has been awarded the 2023 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for their play “In the Amazon Warehouse Parking Lot.”
The prestigious honor has been awarded annually since 1978, and is the largest and oldest international award recognizing women+ who have written works of outstanding quality for the English-speaking theatre. Women+ includes trans and nonbinary playwrights.
The theatre and playwriting community gathered at Playwrights Horizons in New York City to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the prize and to honor Mantell and nine other finalists. Mantell, the first out, nonbinary playwright to win the prize, received a cash award of $25,000, and a signed limited-edition print by renowned artist Willem de Kooning, which was created especially for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.
The play is set on the precipice of the end of a world wracked by climate change. It follows oa group of itinerant friends traveling together between warehouses, working night shifts and checking the address labels of the packages searching for people they’ve lost. The cast of seven consists of women, trans and nonbinary actors, all over the age of 50.
“When I wrote this play, my wildest dream was that it would become something my generation of actors could age towards,” Mantell said “There are so few roles for women, trans, and nonbinary actors in the secondhalf of their careers when many of them are just hitting the peak of their ability. Of all the gifts that The Susan Smith Blackburn has given me, perhaps the biggest one is that it suddenly seems like that wild dream is possible.”
Mantell’s other plays include “Everything That Never Happened,” “The Good Guys” and “Tiny.”
The judges for the 2023 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize praised Mantell’s play for “its creation of a compelling dystopian and highly theatricalized world inhabited by complex and vivid characters who rarely have stage time. The political critique and elements of the play deftly intertwine to ignite and propel the action and the imagination.”
The prize reflects the values and passions of its namesake, Susan Smith Blackburn, who was an American feminist, actress and writer. She died in 1977 at the age of 42. The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize was founded in 1978 by Susan’s sister, Emilie “Mimi” Kilgore, and Susan’s husband, William “Bill”Blackburn.
The other finalists include:
Anupama Chandrasekhar (India) “ The Father and the Assassin ”
Maryam Hamidi (UK) “ Moonset “
Karen Hartman (US) New Golden Age
Katie Holly (Ireland) “ Her Hand on the Trellis “
Kimber Lee (US) “ saturday “
a.k. payne (US) “ Amani “
Francisca Da Silveira (US) “ Pay No Worship “
Zadie Smith (UK) “ The Wife of Willesden “
Ruby Thomas (UK) “ Linck & Mülhahn “
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