2008 PEN/Laura Pels Foundation Award for Drama to a Master American Dramatist
Richard Nelson, best known for his plays Goodnight Children Everywhere, Some American Abroad, Two Shakespearean Actors, Conversations in Tusculum, Madame Melville, The General From America, Frank’s Home, New England, Franny’s Way, Rodney’s Wife, and the musicals James Joyce’s The Dead (with Shaun Davey), and My Life with Albertine (with Ricky Ian Gordon)
The PEN/Laura Pels Foundation Awards for Drama recognize a master American dramatist and an American playwright in mid-career, both of whose literary achievements are vividly apparent in the rich and striking language of their work. The former receives a rare first edition of dramatic literature from Bauman’s Rare Books, the latter a $7,500 stipend. The awards were developed to reflect Laura Pels’ dedication to supporting excellence in American theater, as well as PEN’s commitment to recognizing and rewarding the literary accomplishments of playwrights. As is the case with all PEN awards, the judges of the Pels Awards are all distinguished members of the theater community.
A.R. Gurney, Naomi Iizuka, and Doug Wright
From the Judges’ Citation
“Richard Nelson is a true man of the theater. He has been writing plays for over 30 years, making his mark in a multiplicity of forms and themes. He has lived and worked in England as well as the U.S. and has written several plays about the cultural differences between the two countries. Besides these, Nelson has presented works on such historical figures as Frank Lloyd Wright, Benedict Arnold, and the actor Edwin Booth. He has adapted Proust and Joyce into musical dramas, and doctored the librettos of more commercial musical showpieces bound for Broadway. Most of Nelson’s plays, historical or not, manage to cast a subtle light on contemporary issues. For example, his most recent play, Conversations in Tusculum, which played at the Public Theater, is both a study of the Roman Republic on its last legs and a dark comment on the current American political scene. Somewhere in all this activity, Nelson found time to reorganize and run the playwriting component at the Yale School of Drama, even as, more and more, he was becoming an imaginative and successful director of his own work. In short, he has been, and continues to be, is a major voice in American theatre and a prime example of talent and tenacity in our beleaguered profession.”