Alfred University News

Assistant Professor of Theater Rachel Lynett Spurgers wins Yale Drama Series Prize

Alfred University Visiting Assistant Professor of Theater Rachel Lynett Spurgers has won the 2021 Yale Drama Series Prize for her play Apologies to Lorraine Hansberry (You Too August Wilson).

Alfred University Visiting Assistant Professor of Theater Rachel Lynett Spurgers has won the 2021 Yale Drama Series Prize for her play Apologies to Lorraine Hansberry (You Too August Wilson). The work was chosen from thousands of entries by the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel.

Set in the fictional world of a post-second Civil War, Spurgers’ play showcases an all-Black state called Bronx Bay that is established in order to protect “Blackness.” As Jules’ new partner, Yael, moves into town, community members argue whether Yael, who is Dominican, can stay. Questions of safety and protection surround both Jules and Yael as the utopia of Bronx Bay debates where the line is drawn when it comes to defining who is “Black” and who gets left out in the process.

Vogel describes Apologies to Lorraine Hansberry (You Too August Wilson) as “a taut examination of the impact of racism in a future African American state after the next Civil War in America.” Its many questions include: “How do the community members of a fictional “Bronx Bay” protect Blackness? Who gets to define Blackness in a gated Black community? And ultimately, in policing Blackness, what families and relationships are torn asunder in this new world? With a metatheatrical playfulness and a direct inclusion of actors and audience alike, Rachel Lynette’s play exposes the many layers to the notion of race in order to awaken us.”

“When I wrote ‘Apologies to Lorraine Hansberry (You Too August Wilson),’ I wanted to break as many ‘rules’ as I could,” Lynett says. “As someone who is multiracial and multicultural, I often feel by existing, and I am sometimes breaking the rules and wanted to write a play that reflected that. I have also spent a lot of time thinking about how to get catharsis in plays about race and how I could find a way to give the actors of color on stage a way to reclaim that. It has been incredibly humbling to see that this play resonates with others when it feels like an argument within myself. Every year, I look to see who has won the Yale Drama Series Prize and immediately add those plays to my reading list as a guide to where I think conversations about theatre and playwriting are headed. It feels incredibly surreal to know this year my name is added to the list of so many artists who I’ve admired and respected for years.”

Annual competition for the Yale Drama Series Prize is open to emerging playwrights who submit original, unpublished, full-length English language plays. Sponsored by the David Charles Horn Foundation, the award includes $10,000 and a staged reading of the winning play, although this year’s reading will take place virtually on a date to be announced.

In addition to its staged reading, Apologies to Lorraine Hansberry (You too August Wilson) will have its premiere production next month with the Fonesca Theatre, in Indianapolis, IN, opening May 7 and running through May 23.