Gethsemane Herron '19 Named Recipient of a 2022 Helen Merrill Award for Playwriting

Anastasia Ellis
September 12, 2022

Playwriting alumna Gethsemane Herron ’19 received a Helen Merrill Award for Playwriting last month. The prestigious award, which includes a prize of $30,000 in unrestricted funding for each recipient, is one of the nation’s most significant awards for playwriting, and carries a reputation for identifying breakthrough talent. 

The late Helen Merrill, a theatrical agent, established the award through the New York Community Trust in 1999 with the intention of lessening the financial strain on playwrights working to pursue their art. Following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which time artists’ financial challenges grew due to theater closures, the Helen Merrill advisory committee expanded the number of recipients. This year’s five honorees are celebrated for their unique voices, impressive talent, and inspiring artistry.

When asked for comment, Herron expressed her gratitude for the guidance of Lynn Nottage, the two-time Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and Associate Professor of Theatre at Columbia, and Dr. Lauren Britt-Elmore ’02, the Director of Academic Administration for Columbia’s Theatre program and an alumna of the Dramaturgy concentration. Herron said: “I would not have received this award without their mentoring. Both of these women are critical to my development and I am proud to be their student.”

Gethsemane Herron, originally from Washington, D.C, is a poet-turned-playwright who writes for survivors and is enamored with magical girl warriors. Her plays explore a post-loss world—the place that remains after war ends, built upon scorched earth and infinite possibility. She has worked with JAG Productions, The Fire This Time Festival, The Liberation Theater Company, The Hearth, Roundabout Theatre Company, The Playwright’s Center, Ars Nova, and WP Theater. At The Playwright’s Center in Minneapolis, she was a 2021-2022 Jerome Fellow and is currently a 2022-2023 Many Voices Fellow. Herron is also presently a Resident Artist at Ars Nova Play Group and a resident in the 2020-2022 WP Theater Lab. In addition to the Helen Merrill Award and many residency opportunities, Herron is a previous winner of the [email protected] Reading Series and the 45th Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Short Play Festival.