Wanted to celebrate a major milestone for my career, as the future of our field looks nebulous for the next few years…
NEW YORK CITY: The Dramatists Guild of America has announced that the recipient of the 2020 Lanford Wilson Award is Madhuri Shekar. The playwright will be honored at the Guild’s annual awards ceremony on Monday, July 27, at Joe’s Pub in New York City.
The Lanford Wilson Award is named after the Pulitzer-winning, Tony-nominated playwright—and longtime Dramatists Guild Council member—who died in 2011. Established by a generous contribution from Wilson’s estate, and matched by a contribution from the Guild, the award is presented annually by the Dramatists Guild Council to a dramatist, based primarily on their work as an early-career playwright. Previous recipients are Francine Volpe, Mike Lew, Chisa Hutchinson, Lauren Gunderson, Christopher Chen, Martyna Majok, Isaac Gomez, R. Eric Thomas, Abe Koogler, and Charly Evon Simpson.
Madhuri Shekar’s plays include In Love and Warcraft, A Nice Indian Boy, Queen, House of Joy, and Dhaba on Devon Avenue. Her audio play Evil Eye was named one of the top 10 Audible titles of 2019. She is a graduate of the Juilliard playwriting program and a fellow at New Dramatists.
The awards ceremony will now be a virtual event, as most things are. So grateful to the Dramatists Guild for this boost, so happy that they enjoyed my plays and thought me worthy of this honor. I submitted Queen and Evil Eye for consideration, and there are a litany of amazing mentors and institutions behind both of those plays – Center Theatre Group, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and Victory Gardens which gave Queen it’s final developmental push and world premiere. The amazing team at Audible Theatre for Evil Eye. Joanie Schultz and Chay Yew for Queen, Megan Sandberg-Zakian and Emilia LaPenta for Evil Eye.
Our beloved play Dhaba on Devon Avenue, was shut down two weeks before its world premiere, a proactive and courageous step by Victory Gardens to protect the health of our team and our audiences. It was a major blow. But our director Chay Yew penned this incredibly moving missive in American Theatre Magazine, one that I will treasure forever.
In the last weeks, Dhaba gave us the rare opportunity to honor our families and communities. Table work was deeply moving and personal as we all shared the tremendous sacrifices our immigrant families made to make this country their second home. Madhuri’s powerful play is a tribute to anyone who has braved oceans and deserts to reach these United States. I wouldn’t trade the time we spent in the rehearsal room for anything in the world. We’d love to have shared Dhaba with our South Asian community in Chicago, as it’s a valentine and testament to all of them. I know we will celebrate them another time and soon.
My other two March productions were also shut down, but got brief rebirths virtually.
House of Joy at San Diego Rep enjoyed a virtual run, as a recording of the invited dress rehearsal was made available to watch for a limited time. I got to experience the recording in the most joyful way possible – the cast and creative team of the CalShakes world premiere of House of Joy convened on Zoom, and we watched the stream together, chatting and sharing our enthusiasm the whole time.
And the cast of Antigone, presented by the Girls of St. Catherine’s at Sacred Fools got to show off their chops in a Zoom excerpt of the play, shared to the Instagram page Theatre Without Theatre. You can watch it here!
It is a devastating time for everyone around the world. Unprecedented in our sorrow and loss. But the epicenters of New York and New Jersey, where I live, are hurting so terribly. If you are reading this, I hope you and yours are as safe and well as possible right now.