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Jan 30, 2015 11:38 AM

Theater prize inspired by Philip Seymour Hoffman gears up

The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) A new theater prize inspired by Philip Seymour Hoffman has been launched, seeking play submissions that "exhibit fearlessness."

The Relentless Award, the largest annual cash prize in American theater awarded to a playwright in recognition of a new play, comes with an annual award of $45,000 and the promise of influential workshops.

"Phil was so relentless in his pursuit of truth in his art," said playwright David Bar Katz, who helped create The American Playwriting Foundation that gives out the award. "Anything that even slightly smacked of not being as true as you could possibly be, he would detect and call out. The idea is to take his approach to work and use it to help others."

Submissions will be taken starting Friday. This cycle's deadline is July 10, and the winner and three finalists will be announced Oct. 2.

Katz, a member of The Labyrinth Theater Company, funded the prize from a settlement he reached with The National Enquirer over a false story that claimed he was Hoffman's gay lover and watched him freebase cocaine. Katz has, in essence, turned that journalistic falseness into a search for onstage truth.

The playwright, whose plays include "The History of Invulnerability" and who collaborated with Hoffman on the plays "Ask/Tell" and "Oh The Power," wanted to use the money to honor his friend's legacy and help up-and-coming playwrights break through.

"I noticed that most of the big playwriting awards ones that have substantial money and attention are mostly for established writers," he said. "The idea was that this would be something for a writer who is probably not yet part of the community." Katz hopes the award makes the winner "instantly part of the conversation."

Hoffman, who died from a drug overdose last February, made his Broadway debut in Sam Shepard's "True West" with John C. Reilly in 2000 and followed it up three years later with Eugene O'Neill's "Long Day's Journey Into Night" with Brian Dennehy and Vanessa Redgrave. In 2012, he played a powerful Willy Loman in "Death of a Salesman" by Arthur Miller under the direction of Mike Nichols. Each time he earned a Tony nomination.

The Relentless Award's selection committee consists of Katz, Eric Bogosian, Thomas Bradshaw, Lynn Nottage, John Ortiz, John Patrick Shanley, Jonathan Marc Sherman and Lucy Thurber. Manuscripts can be uploaded directly to the Foundation's website.

The committee will place a special emphasis on works from first-time playwrights and underrepresented voices. When creating the criteria, Katz said, he wanted the fewest number of obstacles and so the committee is looking for unproduced plays from American citizens over the age of 21 that are "challenging," ''exhibit fearlessness" and "exude passion."

The winning play will get a staged reading at one of a network of theaters: The American Conservatory Theater of San Francisco; Asolo Repertory Theater in Sarasota, Florida; the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park; The Goodman Theatre in Chicago; The Huntington Theatre Company in Boston; The Wilma Theater in Philadelphia; the Milwaukee Repertory Theater; The New Group in New York City; The Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington, D.C.; and the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts.

The Relentless Award-winning playwright will also have the option to have his or her work published by the Dramatists Play Service.





Follow Mark Kennedy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits


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