Theater News

Erika Dickerson-Despenza Wins Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for Cullud Wattah

Kimber Lee and Ife Olujobi received Special Commendations.

Erika Dickerson-Despenza
Erika Dickerson-Despenza
(© Joey Stocks)

Playwright Erika Dickerson-Despenza has won the 2021 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for her play Cullud Wattah. The award comes with a $25,000 prize and a signed, numbered print by artist Willem de Kooning.

Cullud Wattah is an Afro-surrealist play about three generations of Black women living through the current water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Dickerson-Despenza also won a Princess Grace Award for the work, which was scheduled to have its world premiere in the summer of 2020 at the Public Theater, directed by Candis C. Jones. Cullud Wattah was also scheduled to have a production at the Victory Gardens Theater in 2021.

Dickerson-Despenza is currently the Public's Tow Playwright-in-Residence. The Public is currently producing her latest work, an audio play called Shadow/Land, which is part of a 10-play cycle about the effects of Hurricane Katrina in and beyond New Orleans.

The Judges of the 2021 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize also awarded two Special Commendations, with $10,000 prizes, to finalists Kimber Lee for The Water Palace and Ife Olujobi for Jordan.