Clarence Coo '10 Receives 2023 L. Arnold Weissberger New Play Award

Anastasia Ellis
February 08, 2023

Playwriting alumnus and former Writing Program staff member Clarence Coo ’10 is the recipient of the 2023 L. Arnold Weissberger New Play Award for his play, Chapters of a Floating Life. The award, announced by Williamstown Theatre Festival last week, includes a prize of $10,000 and an accompanying $10,000 commission for a new play. 

Williamstown Theatre Festival (WTF) administers the L. Arnold Weissberger New Play Award on behalf of the Anna L. Weissberger Foundation and WTF Trustee Emeritus Fredda Harris. The award, which accepts submissions by invitation only, is named for theatrical attorney and avid supporter of emerging playwrights L. Arnold Weissberger, and it is designed to recognize excellence in playwriting. Fredda Harris’s late husband, former WTF Trustee Jay Harris, established the New Play Award in 1998; the $10,000 commission included in the award is named the Jay Harris Commision in his honor. In addition to the monetary awards, Coo will also receive a reading at the Williamstown Theatre Festival’s Fridays@3 series, which showcases new work in development, in summer 2023. 

Chapters of a Floating Life follows the stories of two couples from China trying to make ends meet in New York City in the wake of World War II. One husband and wife live uptown and cherish a past filled with poetry, painting, and gardens. The other pair face the harsh daily reality of maintaining a Chinatown restaurant. The seemingly disparate worlds of the two couples—separated by class and education— converge during a chance meeting in Central Park, when the two women find themselves drawn together by the spell of the Chinese language. 

Clarence Coo was born in the Philippines and grew up in a multilingual household in Virginia. He writes about language, class, and sexuality. His plays include On That Day in Amsterdam, The God of Wine, The Birds of Empathy, Beautiful Province (Belle Province, winner of the 2012 Yale Drama Series Prize), and People Sitting in Darkness. His work has been produced or developed at Primary Stages, the Atlantic Theater Company, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, New York Theatre Workshop, and the Bay Area Playwrights Festival. He has received fellowships from the Dramatists Guild of America, the Rita Goldberg Playwrights’ Workshop at the Lark, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Playwrights Realm. Coo was a 2017 Whiting Award recipient. He is a member of the Ma-Yi Writers Lab and an alumnus of New Dramatists.