Theater News

One in Two Playwright Donja R. Love Wins Terrence McNally Award for New Play About AIDS in the '80s

The newly revived award is given by Philadelphia Theatre Company.

Donja R. Love is the winner of the 2021 Terrence McNally Award.
Donja R. Love is the winner of the 2021 Terrence McNally Award.
(© David Gordon)

Playwright Donja R. Love is the first winner of the newly revived Terrence McNally Award, given by Philadelphia Theatre Company (PTC) to a local playwright whose work grapples with with queer identity, social justice, and the transformative power of art — just as many of the plays written by McNally do.

Love was honored for his new play What Will Happen to All That Beauty?, which revisits the horror of AIDS in the 1980s. "Donja Love wrote an unflinching, sprawling epic featuring intricately detailed characters that are so hungry, you find yourself trying to breathe for them," said PTC producing artistic director Paige Price. "What Will Happen to All That Beauty? revisits the desperately inhumane handling of AIDS in the 1980s United States beautifully and painfully." 

Love will receive a $5,000 cash award and developmental guidance for the play from PTC. Paige Zubel was a runner-up and named PTC Playwriting Fellow for their work Actually, Honestly, Going to F*cking Die. Jarrett McCreary and Lori Felipe-Barkin received honorable mentions for their submissions. 

Led by PTC resident artist Jeffrey Page, two panels of local theater artists reviewed 65 total applications. Producer Tom Kirdahy, husband of the late McNally, joined the process to adjudicate the 11 finalists. This year, the award was solely open to writers born, raised, or currently residing in Philadelphia.

A Philadelphia native currently based in New York City, Love is the author of a series of plays that have enjoyed acclaimed off-Broadway runs, including One in Two, Sugar in Our Wounds, and Fireflies.

The Terrence McNally Award was last given in 2015 to James Ijames for White. That year saw the first special citation for continuing development go to Jacqueline Goldfinger for her work-in-progress Fresh, which is now called Click.

PTC's relationship with Terrence McNally includes the world premieres of Master Class, Golden Age, Some Men, and Unusual Acts of Devotion. PTC also produced the Philadelphia regional premieres of Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, Love! Valour! Compassion!Mothers and Sons, and Lips Together, Teeth Apart.