Pasadena Production Among Steinberg Playwriting Award’s Six Finalists

Published on Apr 6, 2020

“How the Light Gets In,” a full-length play written by Ellen M. Lewis and produced by Boston Court Pasadena, has been selected as one of six finalists for the Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) 2020 New Play Award, recognizing playwrights for the best scripts that premiered professionally outside New York City during 2019.

“How the Light Gets In,” directed by Emilie Pascale Beck, premiered at Boston Court Pasadena on September 19, 2019 featuring Amy Sloan as Grace, Ryun Yu as Haruki, Chelsea Kurtz as Kat and Dieterich Gray as Tommy Z. It was one of the four plays workshopped at Boston Court’s New Play Reading Festival. 

The play is described as a beautiful, haunting, and richly human world premiere from Lewis, who also wrote “The Gun Show” and “Song of Extinction.” It portrays a travel writer who never travels, a Japanese architect who can’t figure out how to build a simple tea house, a gifted tattoo artist who resists the power of his talents, and a homeless girl who lives under a weeping willow tree in the Japanese Garden. 

“Four lonely people, their stories written on paper, earth, and skin, find each other when one of them falls apart,” says a description on Boston Court Pasadena’s website. “Together they realize the heart is as strong as it is fragile, and that the safety of home might be found in the most fearsome explorations.”  

“E.M. Lewis and I have been looking to partner on a project for years,” Pascale told Broadway World last year. “This script has personal resonance for both of us. Ellen sent it to me when it wasn’t even a fully formed play yet, and it’s been exhilarating to collaborate with her as story, characters, and theme have deepened and found their surprising connections. I’m eager to get in the room with our wonderful actors and give it all the dimension it deserves.” 

This year, the  top award of $25,000 and two citations of $7,500 each for the Steinberg/ATCANew Play Award, plus commemorative plaques, will be presented at a date still to be determined, said a BroadwayWorld report Saturday. The awards were to be presented this month at the Pacific Playwrights Festival in Costa Mesa, but that event has been cancelled because of the COVID-19 emergency. 

With annual prizes totaling $40,000, Steinberg/ATCA is one of the largest national new play award programs.

ATCA began honoring new plays produced at regional theaters outside New York City in 1977. Plays receiving a production in New York City during the award cycle are not eligible for the Steinberg/ATCA award, recognizing the many other awards programs that award New York productions. The Steinberg/ATCA award has been funded by the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust since 2000.

The other five 2020 finalists include “Animal Control,” by Chandler Hubbard, produced by Firehouse Theatre of Richmond, Virginia; “The Coast Starlight,” by Keith Bunin, produced by La Jolla Playhouse; “The First Deep Breath,” by Lee Edward Colston II, produced by Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago; “Nonsense and. Beauty,” by Scott C. Sickles, produced by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis; and “Sheepdog,” by Kevin Artigue, produced by South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa. 

The finalists were selected from scripts recommended by ATCA members from around the country. Led by Lou Harry of louharry.com and the podcast “Lou Harry Gets Real,” judges included Misha Berson, Nancy Bishop, Lindsay Christians, Amanda Finn, Mike Fischer, Melissa Hall, Pam Harbaugh, Ed Huyck, Jonathan Mandell, Julius Novick, Wendy Parker, Martha Wade Steketee, Perry Tannenbaum, Karen Topham, and Bob Verini. 

The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust was created in 1986 by Harold Steinberg on behalf of himself and his late wife. Pursuing its primary mission to support the American theater, it has provided grants totaling millions of dollars for new productions of American plays and educational programs for those who may not ordinarily experience live theater.
To learn more about “How the Light Gets In,” visit www.bostoncourtpasadena.org/events/how-the-light-gets-in/#0.

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