ASHLAND, OREGON, July 8, 2011 – At its annual conference, the American Theatre Critics Association today announced that playwright Caridad Svich has been awarded the $10,000 Francesca Primus Prize for The House of the Spirits. Svich will receive her check immediately and be celebrated at an upcoming ATCA conference.
Jointly sponsored by ATCA and the Francesca Ronnie Primus Foundation, the Primus Prize is given annually to an emerging woman theater artist. Playwrights, artistic directors, and directors are eligible to apply.
Svich’s play is a dramatic adaptation of Isabel Allende’s sprawling novel, The House of the Spirits, which follows the fortunes of three generations of a Chilean family, especially its women, against the backdrop of political upheaval that shaped and split the country during the major part of the 20th century. That Svich could translate such an encyclopedic work into a concise and emotionally powerful play is admirable enough, but she does it with a wonderful mix of poetry, song, and earthy realism that brings the characters and events that shape their lives to vibrant life.
The House of the Spirits was read as part of the 2010 Colorado New Play Summit and given a full production at the Denver Center Theatre Company in the fall. A Spanish-language version premiered in 2009 at Repertorio Espanol/NY, where it won numerous awards. The Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis staged a bilingual production last fall.
The Denver Post acclaimed the play as the best theater production of 2010, and author Allende commented, “Caridad didn’t try to follow the plot. She recreated the atmosphere and spirit of the book. She has a very original, very special kind of mind. She’s not restricted by anything.” Svich’s command of languages enables her to write fluidly in English and Spanish.
Svich was selected from 22 nominees by ATCA’s nationwide committee of critics, headed by Barbara Bannon and composed of Marianne Evett, Kathryn Osenlund, Lynn Rosen, and Herb Simpson.
“The Francesca Ronnie Primus Foundation was established to recognize and support emerging women artists who are making a difference in the theater community in which they work,” observed Barry Primus, the foundation administrator. Founded in 1997 in memory of actress, critic and ATCA member Francesca Primus, the Primus Prize has
been overseen by ATCA since 2004, when the qualifications were expanded to include directors and artistic directors.
Svich had two other plays premiere in 2009: Instructions for Breathing at the Passage Theatre in New Jersey and Wreckage at the Crowded Fire Theatre in California. Her other plays include Iphigenia Crash Land Falls on the Neon Shell That Was Once Her Heart, 12 Ophelias, and The Booth Variations. In addition to her writing, Svich is the founder of NoPassport theater alliance and press, which enable Latino theater artists and professionals to connect, collaborate and publish their work. She is the recipient of the Lee Reynolds Award from the League of Professional Theatre Women as well as multiple fellowships and grants, and her plays have been short-listed three times for the PEN USA West Award. Svich’s work has been staged at theaters ranging from the Cincinnati Playhouse to the ARTheater-Cologne in Germany, and from Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago to the Teatro Mori Parque Arauco in Chile.
ATCA is the national organization of theater critics, an affiliate of the International Association of Theatre Critics. In addition to the Primus Prize, it administers the $40,000 Harold and Mimi Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award and the M. Elizabeth Osborn Award. ATCA members also recommend a regional theater for the annual Tony Award and vote on induction into the Theater Hall of Fame. For further information, go to www.americantheatrecritics.org.
Previous Winners of the Francesca Primus Prize
1997 Julia Jordan, playwright, Tatjana in Color
1998 Brooke Berman, playwright, Wonderland
1999 Melanie Marnich, playwright, Blur
2000 Brooke Berman, playwright, Playing House
2001 S. M. Shepard-Massat, playwright, Some Place Soft to Fall
2002 Alexandra Cunningham, playwright, Pavane
2004 Lynn Nottage, playwright, Intimate Apparel
2005 Michelle Hensley, artistic director of Ten Thousand Things Theatre Company, Minneapolis
2006 Karen Zacarias, playwright and founder/artistic director of Young Playwrights’ Theater, Washington, D.C., Mariela in the Desert
2007 Victoria Stewart, playwright, Hardball
2008 EM Lewis, playwright, Heads
2009 Jamie Pachino, playwright, Splitting Infinity
2010 Michele Lowe, playwright, Inana