I’ve been a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) for about a decade. I even had the opportunity to serve as its chair a few years ago, but these days I’m back to being a run-of-the-mill member. Every year ATCA does something that makes me very proud and I want to tell others about it: We recognize “emerging” theater artists with several prizes.
By that, we mean mostly playwrights who have not yet come to the attention of a national audience. By virtue of a membership base spread across the United States, ATCA has the advantage of noticing up-and-coming talent before it arrives in major theater centers, especially New York City, where it’s expensive to put new works onstage in any significant way.
ATCA annually hands out its M. Elizabeth Osborn Award for a playwright whose work has not moved beyond regional status. This year’s Osborn recipient was Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder for her moving play, Gee’s Bend, about several generations of African-American women who have been quilters on an isolated island off the Gulf Coast of Alabama.