Lynn Nottage and Young Jean Lee Win PEN/Laura Pels Awards

March 16, 2016

Professor Lynn Nottage and Mellon Visiting Artist and ThinkerYoung Jean Lee have both received PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Awards. Nottage was honored with the prize for Master American Dramatist, and Lee received the prize for American Playwright in Mid-Career.

The awards were judged by Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Baker, past PEN/Laura Peels recipient Kirsten Greenidge, and Pulitzer and Tony Award winner Tracy Letts. The prizes are awarded in three categories, in recognition of “ a Grand Master of American Theater, a mid-career playwright with an outstanding voice, and an emerging playwright who demonstrates great promise,” according to the PEN website.

In their citation for the “Grand Master” prize, the judges wrote that Nottage’s “inspiring array of work speaks to the strength of the human spirit within all of us.” Nottage received the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theatre Award for an American Playwright in Mid-Career in 2002; since then, she has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a MacArthur Grant in 2007 and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Ruined. Past winners of the prize include Arthur Miller, Edward Albee, Horton Foote, Richard Foreman, Tina Howe and Columbia faculty member David Henry Hwang.

“Young Jean Lee's work has been challenging and thrilling audiences since her first play opened in 2003,” the judges said in their award citation. “By tackling themes and projects that initially strike her as nightmarish, Ms. Lee writes and directs theater that has a raw, honest vulnerability that the judges think is unprecedented in the American theater. No play she writes is anything like the play that came before, and her treatment of race, gender, and sexual politics onstage is devastatingly astute and subversive."

As the 2016 Mellon Visiting Artist and Thinker, Lee is engaging with Columbia students through a series of workshops and talks, including a March 24 conversation about her play The Shipment with Theatre Department Chair Christian Parker.

The award for Master American Dramatist is conferred with the presentation of a specially commissioned art object. The award for an American Playwright in Mid-Career awards a cash prize of $7,500.