American Award, Prestige Abroad for Aleshea Harris

Hometown artists made good not only brings cheer but hope toξartistsξtrying to branch out, especially when acclaim goes international.

In this spirit, raise a glass to recentξSt. Petersburg-based performer, spoken word artist and playwright Aleshea Harris,who according to a news briefξin Playbill, will soon be seeing her work staged in one of the most famous theaters in the world.

On March 26, Harris receivedŒæthe Relentless Award for her play Is God Is.ŒæŒæThe award was establishedŒæin honor of late movie actor and theater stalwartŒæPhilip 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 ŒæHarris’ 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 FoundationŒæŒæ awardsŒæannual grants to new American plays and presented the award to Harris in a ceremony at the Cherry Lane Theatre, ŒæNew 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,äó Is God IsŒæstood out because ofŒæits “absolute fearlessness,” according to American Playwriting Foundation’s Executive Director Katz. He told the New York Times that äóìThe way that the writer approaches extreme violence, race, love and this relationship between two siblings is really unique.äó

According to Manhattan-basedξTheater Mania, Ellen Burstyn and Billy Crudup spoke at the New York award ceremony.


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