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Ayad Akhtar Selects Lily Padilla's How to Defend Yourself for Yale Drama Series Prize

The 2019 winning play will receive a private staged reading at Lincoln Center Theater.

Pulitzer Prize winner Ayad Akhtar has selected Lily Padilla's How to Defend Yourself as the winner of the 2019 Yale Drama Series Prize.
(© David Gordon)

It was announced today that the 2019 Yale Drama Series Prize will be awarded to Lily Padilla for her play How to Defend Yourself. This year's recipient was selected by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Ayad Akhtar (Disgraced, Junk). The winning play receives a private staged reading at Lincoln Center Theater's Claire Tow Theater in the fall. Gina Femia was this year's runner-up for her play Allond(R)a.

Now celebrating its 13th year, the Yale Drama Series is the preeminent playwriting award in cooperation with Yale University Press, and is solely sponsored by the David Charles Horn Foundation. The Yale Drama Series Prize is given out annually for a play by an emerging playwright, selected by a judging panel of one — a distinguished playwright of our time. The winner receives the David Charles Horn Prize of $10,000, as well as publication of the winning play by Yale University Press and a staged professional reading. The Yale Drama Series is an annual international open-submission competition for emerging playwrights who are invited to submit original, unpublished, full-length, English language plays for consideration. All entries are read blindly.

"It was a year of strong submissions, with a particularly muscular sample of deft, moving plays about the toxic interplay of power and sexuality," said judge Ayad Akhtar, who chose How to Defend Yourself from over 1,750 submissions from 65 countries. "Lily Padilla's play about desire, defense, and the insidious, labyrinthine reach of rape culture is that rare thing: Formally inventive, timely, accessible, and soulful. I can't wait for people to experience it."

How to Defend Yourself is described as follows: "Seven college students gather for a DIY self-defense workshop after a sorority sister is raped. They learn to use their bodies as weapons. They learn to fend off attackers. They learn 'not to be a victim.' Learning self-defense becomes a channel for their rage, anxiety, confusion, trauma and desire – lots of desire. How to Defend Yourself explores what you want, how to ask for it, and the insidious ways rape culture steals one's body and sense of belonging."