Jackie Sibblies Drury Wins the Blackburn Prize for ‘Fairview’

The Brooklyn-based playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury won the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize on Monday for “Fairview,” her much-lauded play that deals with issues of race and family — and one particular family preparing for an important dinner.

The Blackburn Prize — which comes with $25,000, as well as a signed print by Willem de Kooning — is awarded every year to a woman who writes for the English-language theater.

[Read Ben Brantley’s review of “Fairview” here.]

Ms. Drury’s “Fairview” was co-commissioned by Berkeley Repertory Theatre and Soho Rep, and debuted to sold-out theaters at both places in 2018. Sarah Benson was the director. After its run at the Soho Rep was extended three times, “Fairview” will go to Theater for a New Audience in Brooklyn this June. It will also have its London premiere in November.

“It’s exciting and it’s surprising,” Ms. Drury, 37, said in an interview on Monday. “When we were working on the play, I think no one really had a sense of whether or not it would be received well. I was just excited to experiment, so to have it win a prize, and going to London is sort of surreal.”

“Fairview” was critically acclaimed and popular, but it is by no means a simple play. It starts as a family comedy, about an extended black family preparing for the grandmother’s birthday dinner. But, the New York Times co-chief theater critic Ben Brantley wrote, it moves into unexpected and uncomfortable territory: “And then abruptly you’re free-falling down a rabbit hole, and there’s no safe landing in sight,.” (He also called the play “dazzling” and “extraordinary”).

[Check out our Culture Calendar here.]

Along with Ms. Drury, nine finalists for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize were honored and received $5,000 each. Among the finalists for this year’s prize was Lily Padilla, for her play “How to Defend Yourself.” Last week, Ms. Padilla won the Yale Drama Series Prize for that play.

Past winners of the Blackburn Prize have included Sarah Ruhl, Annie Baker and Wendy Wasserstein. Last year, Alice Birch won for her play “Anatomy of a Suicide.”

Ms. Drury’s latest play, “Marys Seacole” opened last week at Claire Tow Theater in a Lincoln Center production. “It has been a really exciting and slightly intense year,” she said. “I’ve never worked on two things so close together, so it will be exciting to take a moment and spend some time reading and thinking.”

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