Branden Jacobs-Jenkins Wins 4th Annual Paula Vogel Playwriting Award

by Jacob Coakley
Branden Jacobs-Jenkins will receive a cash prize and residency at the Vineyard as part of Paula Vogel Playwriting Award.
Branden Jacobs-Jenkins will receive a cash prize and residency at the Vineyard as part of Paula Vogel Playwriting Award.

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins—author of the play Neighbors and an adaptation of The Octaroon, Princess Grace Award-winner and Fulbright scholar—has just won the fourth annual Paula Vogel Playwriting Award, given by the Vineyard Theatre. The award comes with a cash prize, residency at the Vineyard and artistic support over the 2011-2012 season.


Kara Lee Corthron, Rajiv Joseph and Tarell Alvin McCraney are previous recipients

Vineyard Theatre will present its 4th annual Paula Vogel Playwriting Award to emerging playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, author of the play NEIGHBORS and an adaptation of THE OCTAROON, it has been announced by Vineyard Theatre’s Artistic Director Douglas Aibel and Associate Artistic Director Sarah Stern.

Named in honor of playwright and teacher Paula Vogel -- whose plays THE LONG CHRISTMAS RIDE HOME and HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE (Pulitzer Prize for Drama ) debuted at the Vineyard - the Paula Vogel Award is presented annually by The Vineyard to an emerging playwright of exceptional promise. The residency-based award comes with a cash prize and artistic development support over the 2011-12 season.

The award will be presented to Mr. Jacobs-Jenkins by Ms. Vogel on June 9 at a luncheon at the National Arts Club (15 Gramercy Park South) in New York to be hosted by Colman Domingo (Vineyard’s productions of A BOY AND HIS SOUL and THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS) and Donna Hanover (currently appearing in The Vineyard’s world-premiere of Christopher Shinn’s PICKED). Proceeds from the luncheon benefit The Vineyard’s artistic and education programs.

The Paula Vogel Playwriting Award is made possible through the generosity of the Tournesol Foundation.

The Paula Vogel Award’s first recipient was playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, whose play WIG OUT! was a popular and critical success when it debuted at The Vineyard in 2008.  Rajiv Joseph, author of the play BENGAL TIGER AT THE BAGHDAD ZOO now on Broadway, was the Vogel Award’s second recipient, followed last year by Kara Lee Corthron, author of the play ETCHED IN SKIN ON A SUNLIT NIGHT and LADYBUG GONNA GETCHA.

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins is a Brooklyn-based playwright, dramaturg and performer, who has spent the past year living in Berlin on a Fulbright Fellowship. His work has been seen at The Public Theatre, New York Theatre Workshop, PS122, Soho Rep, New Dramatists, The Matrix Theatre, Theater Bielefeld in Bielefeld, Germany and the National Theatre in London and he is working on commissions from Lincoln Center Theater/LCT3 and Yale Repertory Theater. He is a former New York Theatre Workshop Playwriting fellow, an alum of the Soho Rep Writers/Directors Lab and Public Theater Emerging Writers Group and a member of the Ars Nova Playgroup. His honors include a Princess Grace Award, the Dorothy Strelsin Playwriting Fellowship and a fellowship in playwriting from the New York Foundation for the Arts. He also holds an M.A. in Performance Studies from NYU.

About the selection of Mr. Jacobs-Jenkins for this year’s honor, Mr. Aibel and Ms. Stern state, “We are delighted to present the 2011-12 Paula Vogel Playwriting Award to Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. Branden is a young playwright who brings an original and powerful voice to his work in the theatre, with plays that are ambitious and intimate, funny and heartfelt. His work explores big questions - about identity, race, performance, change, America - with creative and intellectual vigor.”

When the Paula Vogel Award was, Ms. Vogel said, “They say a person is judged by the company he or she keeps and I am so honored by my association with the Vineyard Theatre -- they are a company I always want to keep. I am doubly honored: honored by having the award in my name from The Vineyard and honored to be blessing a new generation of rising playwrights. The Vineyard fulfills the promise of its name: in planting the seeds of new plays, we as audiences reap the harvest.”

Paula Vogel’s long and cherished relationship with the Vineyard began with the theatre’s acclaimed production of HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE, directed by Mark Brokaw; the play won the Pulitzer Prize, Lucille Lortel, Outer Critics Circle and Drama Desk Awards for Best Play. THE LONG CHRISTMAS RIDE HOME, also directed by Mark Brokaw, premiered at The Vineyard in 2001 and was praised by Ben Brantley of The New York Times as “The most visually exquisite production of the season. It’s enough to make even diehard agnostics believe in the mystical powers of drama.” Subsequent to their productions at the Vineyard, both DRIVE and LONG CHRISTMAS RIDE have gone on to numerous productions at U.S. theatres and around the world. Ms. Vogel’s other plays include THE BALTIMORE WALTZ, THE MINEOLA TWINS, THE OLDEST PROFESSION, HOT N THROBBING and A CIVIL WAR CHRISTMAS. After more than 20 years heading the MFA Playwriting program at Brown University, Ms. Vogel is presently the Chair of the MFA Playwriting Program at the Yale School of Drama.

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