Ucross, WY — April 12, 2021 — Ucross, a prestigious artist residency program and creative laboratory for the arts in Wyoming, and The Blank Theatre, a Los Angeles institution celebrating 30 years of imaginative theatre, today announced the winners of the newly created Ucross + The Blank Theatre Future of Playwriting Prize, a one-of-a-kind award for young playwrights nationwide. Ucross and The Blank are partnering to showcase the importance of emerging artists across the country and to celebrate the innovative work that is asking questions and evolving theatre as we know it.
The competition was originally designed for an individual winner. Said Daniel Henning, The Blank’s Founding Artistic Director, “With the amazing cornucopia of talent, we were faced with such a difficult decision that we realized we had to recognize two winners.” They are, in alphabetical order, Kori Alston and Dave Osmundsen. The winners were chosen by The Blank Jury [Ryan Bergmann, Beth Bigler, Shelli Boone, Melissa Coleman-Reed, Lisa Sanaye Dring, Josh Gershick, Fay Hauser-Price, Daniel Henning, Kate Jopson, Levi Jelks, Kila Kitu, Jully Lee, Jer Adrianne Lelliott, Amir Levi, Annie McGrath, Angela Oh, Bree Pavey, Michael A. Shepperd, Cece Tio, Joseph Valdez, Carolina Xique, and Prize Program Director Jennie Webb] in consultation with representatives of Ucross and funders Deb and Ed Koehler and the Raymond N. Plank Philanthropy Fund. An additional finalist, A.K. Payne, has been named as the recipient of a $500 cash prize.
The chosen playwrights will receive a cash award of $5,000 each, professionally produced staged readings in The Blank Theatre’s Living Room Series (a new play development program), and two-week residencies at Ucross’s 20,000-acre ranch at the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains (including transportation).
Kori Alston is writer, poet, and activist based in Brooklyn, New York and the Berkshires in
Massachusetts. A previously Chicago-based artist, Alston is a graduate of Northwestern University where he began his work as a playwright. His work has been featured at the Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts, Victory Gardens Theater, as well as other smaller venues, and has earned him the Agnes Nixon Award for Playwriting. As a middle school teacher in Brownsville, his work takes a particular interest in the way in which young people of color process trauma. Most recently, he has finished his year as a Clubbed Thumb (NYC) Emerging Writer and his play A Case for Black Girls Setting Central Park on Fire received its world
premiere production at Lycoming College in March of 2020.
Dave Osmundsen is an autistic playwright and dramaturg whose work explores the intersections of queerness and neurodiversity. He is a resident playwright with Spectrum Theatre Ensemble, a neurodiverse theatre company based in Providence, RI. His work has been seen and developed at KCACTF Region 8, Kennedy Center/NNPN MFA Playwrights Workshop, B Street Theatre, William Inge Theatre Festival, Midwest Dramatists Conference, Phoenix Theatre Company, and more. His play Light Switch was the 2021 Distinguished Achievement recipient of the Jean Kennedy Smith Playwriting Award. His one-act play A Firework Unexploded was a semi-finalist for the NYC Audio Theatre Writing Contest and was produced by Pint-Sized in London. In addition to playwriting, he has had short stories published on ScholarsAndRogues.com. His plays have been or will be published by The Dionysian, Canyon Voices, and The Exposition Review. He is currently pursuing his MFA in Dramatic Writing at Arizona State University.
A.K. Payne is a playwright, womanist, artist-theorist, and theatre-maker. She holds a BA in English and African-American Studies from Yale College and is currently pursuing an MFA in playwriting from Yale School of Drama. She is an alumna of the Mellon Mays Fellowship Program and has served as leadership of several Black theatre ensembles. In 2019, she received the Leadership Award for Community Arts and Service at the Afro-American Cultural Center at Yale and the Louis Sudler Prize in the Performing and Creative Arts for her work as an artistic director and playwright. At Ucross, artists in residence experience an inspiring combination of solitude and community, with expansive time for private work, as well as lively exchanges at group dinners with fellow artists. Facilities include four visual arts studios, four writers’ studios, and two composers’ studios, and a large loft space suitable for dance and theatre collaborations.
Ucross was founded in 1981. Since its founding, Ucross has provided more than 2,500 residencies to established and emerging artists. Ucross provides a platform that nurtures and supports artists, many on the eve of major career breakouts. Ucross has been home to 10 Pulitzer Prize winners, eight MacArthur “genius” grantees, seven Tony Award winners, six National Book Award winners, and two Academy Award winners. Alumni include Billy Porter, Colson Whitehead, Yaa Gyasi, Annie Proulx, Terry Tempest Williams, Elizabeth Gilbert, Ann Patchett, Ricky Ian Gordon, and Adam Guettel.
The Blank was founded in 1990 by Daniel Henning and the theatre’s over 70 mainstage productions have won 13 LA Drama Critics Circle Awards, eight LA Weekly Awards, five LA Stage Alliance Ovation Awards, four NAACP Awards, 20 Back Stage Garland Awards, four BroadwayWorld Awards, and received hundreds of other nominations. Named “One of the Best Theatre Companies in America” by the Drama League, The Blank was honored by the LA City Council and won the Hollywood Arts Council's Award “for pursuing artistic excellence and nurturing the next generation of playwrights.”
Ucross + The Blank Theatre Future of Playwriting Prize is made possible by Deb and Ed Koehler and the Raymond N. Plank Philanthropy Fund.