American Award, Prestige Abroad for Aleshea Harris
Hometown artists made good not only brings cheer but hope to artists trying to branch out, especially when acclaim goes international.
In this spirit, raise a glass to recent St. Petersburg-based performer, spoken word artist and playwright Aleshea Harris,who according to a news brief in Playbill, will soon be seeing her work staged in one of the most famous theaters in the world.
On March 26, Harris received the Relentless Award for her play Is God Is. The award was established in honor of late movie actor and theater stalwart Philip Seymour Hoffman, who “relentlessly sought out truth in his work and demanded the same from his collaborators.”
The famed London theater The Old Vic, which shone its lights on Laurence Olivier, Judy Dench and Ian McKellen, will present a staged reading of Harris’ play as part of a new annual tradition. The reading will feature a British cast and director, and the eight Relentless Award finalists and semi-finalists will be part of a week-long Reading Series in the UK.
The American Playwriting Foundation awards annual grants to new American plays and presented the award to Harris in a ceremony at the Cherry Lane Theatre, New York’s oldest continuously operating Off-Broadway theater. Big names that made up the play selection committee: Eric Bogosian, Thomas Bradshaw, David Bar Katz, Dominique Morisseau, Lynn Nottage, John Ortiz, Jonathan Marc Sherman,and Lucy Thurber.
The prize includes $45,000, a weeklong stay at a retreat and the opportunity to put on staged readings at regional theaters across the country.
A revenge tale with nods to “the ancient, the modern, the tragic, the spaghetti western, hip-hop and Afropunk,” Is God Is stood out because of its “absolute fearlessness,” according to American Playwriting Foundation’s Executive Director Katz. He told the New York Times that “The way that the writer approaches extreme violence, race, love and this relationship between two siblings is really unique.”
According to Manhattan-based Theater Mania, Ellen Burstyn and Billy Crudup spoke at the New York award ceremony.