Jackie Sibblies Drury and Lauren Yee Win 2019 Steinberg Playwright Awards (Exclusive)

Jackie Sibblies Drury and Lauren Yee - Publicity - H 2019
Courtesy of Slate PR; Beowulf Sheehan

The authors of 'Fairview' and 'Cambodian Rock Band,' respectively, each receive a cash award of $50,000 as part of the honor presented biennially to early- and mid-career playwrights.

The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust announced today that Jackie Sibblies Drury and Lauren Yee are this year's recipients of the Steinberg Playwright Awards, presented biennially to honor the artistry and accomplishments of early- and mid-career American dramatists.

Drury earlier this year was awarded both the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for Fairview, her multilayered conceptual examination of racial identity and representation, which takes unexpected turns for both the characters and the audience. After two sold-out extended engagements in New York, the play will have its U.K. premiere next month at London's Young Vic. The Brooklyn-based playwright's other acclaimed works include Marys Seacole and We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915.

Yee, a New York transplant from San Francisco, counts among her awards the Horton Foote Prize, the Kesselring Prize and the Whiting Award. Her most widely produced plays are Cambodian Rock Band, which tells the story of a Khmer Rouge survivor returning to his homeland for the first time in three decades, with music by Dengue Fever; and The Great Leap, inspired by events from her father's life and his brief professional basketball career. Her latest play, The Song of Summer, will have its world premiere next March at Trinity Rep in Providence, R.I. Her television work includes Pachinko for Apple and Soundtrack for Netflix.

Trustee Jim Steinberg said of Drury and Yee in a statement: "Their work has made an indelible impact in a remarkably short amount of time. We look forward to watching their powerful ideas continue to influence the lives of all who have the privilege of experiencing them onstage."

During a period when major theater companies have made a concerted push in their season programming to shift the focus away from the dominant white male voice, it's significant that both of this year's Steinberg recipients are women of color whose formally innovative work combines humor with piercing insight in politically charged considerations of race and cultural history.

They join a distinguished list of honorees, including Ayad Akhtar, Lucas Hnath, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Dominique Morisseau, Annie Baker, Rajiv Joseph, Lisa D'Amour, Melissa James Gibson, David Adjmi, Tarell Alvin McCraney and Bruce Norris.

"I'm so grateful to the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust for strengthening our theatrical ecosystem by supporting a diverse variety of artists and theaters," said Drury.

"The Trust has had a huge impact on my work and career, both through this award and through its support of America's regional theaters," added Yee. "This prize deepens that relationship and focuses me on the work that I might do in the future."

The writers will be honored at the 12th Annual Mimi Awards, to be presented Jan. 13 at Lincoln Center in New York. Each prize includes a $50,000 cash award and a Mimi statuette designed by David Rockwell.

Since 2008, the Steinberg Playwright Awards have been presented in alternating years with the Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award for artists further along in their careers. Last year, that prize went to Suzan-Lori Parks, who joined previous recipients Sarah Ruhl, Stephen Adly Guirgis, David Henry Hwang, Lynn Nottage and Tony Kushner.

The Steinberg Charitable Trust was established in 1986 and since its inception has given more than $100 million to nonprofit theater organizations around the country.