David Lindsay-Abaire is thrilled to have been announced as the winner of the 2001 Kesselring Prize for playwriting. "My favorite thing about the award--other than the $10,000 cash--is that Joseph Kesselring was the author of Arsenic and Old Lace, which was one of my earliest influences," Lindsay-Abaire tells TheaterMania. "The movie--which is pretty close to the play--would run, like, twice a week on Channel 56 in Boston when I was a kid, so I saw it over and over again. It's an off the wall, funny movie, but it's also really dark; the Boris Karloff part is so terrifying, especially to an eight-year-old. It's a violent, scary little play, but it's also farcical and funny. And that's where I live. That's me!"
Now in its 21st year, the Kesselring Prize honors the late Kesselring and is funded by a bequest from his widow; previous recipients include Doug Wright, Tony Kushner, Nicky Silver, Anna Deavere Smith, Heather McDonald, and Marion McClinton. Lindsay-Abaire was nominated for the prize by the South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, California, which presented the world premiere of his Kimberly Akimbo last season. The playwright is best known for Fuddy Meers, a brilliant, quirky piece about a woman who wakes up each morning with no memory of her previous life.
Fuddy Meers premiered at Manhattan Theatre Club last fall in a wonderful production starring J. Smith-Cameron, then transferred to an open run Off-Broadway at the Minetta Lane Theatre. The play's sensibility is typical of the playwright. "I was re-reading Arsenic and Old Lace because of the Kesselring award," says Lindsay-Abaire. "Mortimer--the Cary Grant part--is a theater critic, and at one point he describes a play he's seen. This isn't an exact quote, but he says something like, 'It's what would happen if Strindberg had written Hellzapoppin.' Maybe that's not exactly what I do, but the feeling of a play being sort of at odds with itself definitely applies."
Dael Orlandersmith received the Kesselring Honorable Mention this year, which carries a $2,500 award. She and Lindsay-Abaire will be honored in a ceremony at the National Arts Club on November 18 which will also include a reading of Kimberly Akimbo, directed by Michael Parva.
Lindsay-Abaire's newest work, Wonder of the World, is sure to attract enormous attention when it begins performances at Manhattan Theatre Club on October 9 in a production starring Sarah Jessica Parker. Asked for an intriguing comment about the play, its author did not disappoint: "I will tell you that it's about a woman who finds a very dirty little secret in her husband's sweater drawer...and nothing will prepare you for what that secret is."