Jennifer Blackmer

Three awards from PEN and the Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater honor a Grand Master of American Theater, a mid-career playwright with an outstanding voice, and an emerging playwright who demonstrates great promise. The 2015 PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation Award for Theater Award for an Emerging American playwright will award a cash prize of $2,500 to an emerging American playwright whose work to date has demonstrated initial critical success and poses great promise of further dramatic achievement.

Read the PEN Ten Interview with Jennifer Blackmer here.

From the Judges’ Citation

Jennifer Blackmer’s plays include Unraveled, Alias Grace, and Delicate Particle Logic. Her interests are wide ranging, from physics, knitting and the music of the spheres to the current American presence in the Middle East in all its moral ambiguity. She writes rich roles for actors of color and her female characters are exhilaratingly vital, challenging and no less stubbornly problematic than her men. The judges were deeply impressed by her startling and moving play, Human Terrain. In it, a female anthropologist finds herself enmeshed in a complex thicket of duty and compassion as she works alongside the American military in Iraq. Blackmer’s sure grasp on structure is evident from the beginning, as is her canny sense of the theatrical. She writes with nuance and humor about gender and how misunderstandings between cultures can play out in tragedy. She is beautifully articulate about the moral agony of choices made in times of war. She avoids any hint of formula or melodrama by creating flawed characters all trying their damnedest to make sense of an impossible situation. Few writers have been so successful in capturing with immediacy the ethical fog these wars create and what they cost in every sense. The play is bracing and unpredictable, darkly funny at times and unlike anything else written on this thorny subject. Her characters all have souls and hearts and no one has the uncontested high ground. Her refusal of the easy answers makes the play not only powerful drama but important and wise. We are so pleased that with this award PEN can acknowledge an artist of Blackmer’s integrity and skill. The theater community is immensely the better for her presence among us. She is doing work that matters.”

2015 Judges

Kathleen Chalfant is an American actress who works in the theatre, television and film. She was nominated for a Tony award for her work in Tony Kushner’s Angels in America and won the Drama Desk and numerous other awards for her portrayal of Vivian Bearing in Margaret Edson’s play Wit. She is the recipient of 3 Obie awards and a Doctorate of Humane Letters from The Cooper Union as well as The Sidney Kingsley Award for her body of work. She is currently a member of the ensemble of The Affair on Showtime and plays the President of Hudson University on Law and Order: SVU. Film work includes Duplicity, Five Corners, Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight and the recently released Isn’t it Delicious. She is also a member of the faculty of The New School for Dramateaching in the MFA program in acting.

Ellen McLaughlin‘s plays include: Iphigenia and Other Daughters, Tongue of a Bird, Helen, The Persians, Penelope, Septimus and Clarissa, and Ajax in Iraq. Regional and international venues include: The Guthrie Theater, Actors’ Theater of Louisville, Almeida Theater, London, Intiman, Mark Taper Forum and Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Off Broadway: New York Theater Workshop, National Actors’ Theater, CSC and the Public Theater. As an actor she is best known for having originated the role of the Angel in Angels in America, appearing in all American productions through the original Broadway run, 1993-1994.

Adam Rapp has been the recipient of numerous awards and scholarships for his plays, stories and novels. He received the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award for an American Playwright in Mid-Career, won the Benjamin H. Danks Award from the Academy of Arts and Letters, and was named a 2006 Pulitzer Prize finalist for his play, Red Light Winter. Rapp is also the author of young adult novels 33 Snowfish, Punkzilla, a 2010 Printz Honor Book, and Under the Wolf, Under the Dog, which was short-listed for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His new adult novel, Know Your Beholder, will be published by Little, Brown & Co. in March. 

Past winners

Laura Marks


Click here for additional information, including submission guidelines, for the award.