Mona Mansour has been named the winner of the 2020 Kesselring Prize for playwriting, a $25,000 award given annually to a writer that includes a two-week residency and a one-year membership at The National Arts Club in Gramercy Park. The National Arts Club, which has bestowed the award since 1980, will present Mansour with her award at a virtual ceremony to be held later this year.
Mansour, who was nominated for the Kesselring by Seattle Rep for her play The Hour of Feeling (from her The Vagrant Trilogy)—is also the author of We Swim, We Talk, We Go to War; Urge for Going; The Way West; and Beginning Days of True Jubilation. A Lebanese-American, Mansour leads a playwrights group of Middle-Eastern Americans in conjunction with the Lark Theatre, is a member of New Dramatists, and a co-founder of the new theatre collective Society. The Vagrant Trilogy was set to make its New York debut in March at The Public Theater but was postponed due to the ongoing pandemic.
Alice Palmisano, president of The National Arts Club, states, “During this unprecedented time when live theatre has been suspended, our club and the Kesselring committee know that writers continue to write, and it is more important than ever before that we help them keep writing as we move forward.”
Mansour adds, “When you’re a playwright, you anticipate the ripple effect your words and ideas have with audiences when they see the play, but with the theatre on pause at it has been, it is especially exhilarating that the language of the play still resonates in a way that has led to this great honor. Being awarded the Kesselring is incredibly gratifying.”
The Kesselring Prize was established in 1980 by Charlotte Kesselring, widow of Arsenic and Old Lace playwright Joseph Kesselring, to honor and support emerging writers who are not yet nationally recognized, and provide them with an honorarium and indirect support towards development of new work. Recent recipients include Inda Craig Galvan, Lauren Yee, Lindsey Farrentino, James Ijames, Tracy Scott Wilson, Lucas Hnath, Rajiv Joseph, Anna Deavere Smith, Deb Margolin, Nicky Silver, and Melissa James Gibson.
The National Arts Club invites nonprofit theatres across the U.S. to nominate an emerging playwright for the Kesselring Prize, which is then selected by a committee that includes Tony-winning playwright John Guare, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis, and Lincoln Center Theater dramaturg Anne Cattaneo. Michael Parva, artistic director of The Directors Company, has been the Kesselring Prize artistic director since its inception.