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Sunday, January 21, 2018

Gracie Gardner wins prize for play with unprintable title

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Gracie Gardner is the 2017 winner of The American Playwriting Foundation's Relentless Award.  On Tuesday the American Playwriting Foundation announced that Gracie Gardner is the winner of the 2017 Relentless Award for her new play "P____ Sludge," which tells the story of a woman who menstruates crude oil.

"People nowadays are so timid, and you could imagine so many people telling this person, 'If you want to be produced, you're going to have to change that title.' But the title is exactly appropriate to the spirit of the play," said David Bar Katz, the foundation's executive director, by phone.

For the prize, established in honor of the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman after his death in 2014, Ms. Gardner will receive $45,000, and her play will be produced in a reading series across the United States and in Britain. "You read so many plays that are versions of things you've read before. This play is unique and fearless. And the undeniability of that struck all the judges," Mr. Katz said.

The prize seeks to promote new American plays, and "P____ Sludge" was chosen from over 1,000 submissions and judged blindly by a group of playwrights and theater professionals. According to the foundation's announcement, the piece is "a tender exploration of questioning authority, suspending shame through intimacy, and very bad advice."

All eight of this year's finalist plays were written by women, and the three previous winners of the award were penned by female writers. These include Sarah DeLappe's "The Wolves," about a soccer team of teenage girls, a co-winner of the prize in 2015.

In 2016, Ms. DeLappe's play was produced in at the Duke on 42nd Street by the Playwrights Realm in association with New York Stage & Film and Vassar College's Powerhouse Theater season. Ben Brantley called it an "incandescent portrait" of female adolescence and an "uncannily assured first play." In November, the play transferred to Lincoln Center's Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater.

Mr. Katz emphasized the importance of the results. "There's been four winners, and they've all been women. That's huge in terms of blowing up this lie of male dominance in playwriting," he said, adding, "This is a pretty amazing moment, a sea change in American theater."

The Ed Vassallo Relentless Reading Series is intended to help the Relentless Prize winner develop relationships in the theater community. In addition to the cash prize and reading series, Ms. Gardner will also have a week long residency at Space on Ryder Farm, in Brewster, N.Y., where she will be able to work with a cast and director.

The writer is a Jounalist for New York Times

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