The NATIONAL NEW PLAY NETWORK (NNPN), the country's alliance of non-profit theaters that champions the development, production, and continued life of new plays, has announced the winner of the 2012 Smith Prize for a new play on American political themes: George Brant's Grounded, the powerful, surprising story of an F-16 pilot who gets "repurposed" to fly drones following her unexpected pregnancy. In addition to upcoming development stints with the New Harmony Project and the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, Grounded will receive a staged reading at NNPN's Annual Conference at Unicorn Theatre in Kansas City, MO on June 8, directed by Artistic Director Cynthia Levin.
"I'm honored and thrilled to be this year's Smith Prize winner, and grateful for the vote of confidence in Grounded from the National New Play Network," said Brant. "With its generous matching award, the Prize will hopefully launch the play into the world, where it may raise public dialogue and awareness of our expanded use of drone warfare and its implications." The 2012 Prize Finalists, in addition to Brant's play, were The Feast by Tony Fiorentino, The Harassment of Iris Malloy by Zak Berkman, The Miners by Josh Billig, Warrior Class by Kenneth Lin, and The Wind Farmer by Dan O'Neil. The selection committee was led by Toni Press-Coffman of Tuscon's Borderlands Theater.
Awarded annually to the best new play focusing on American politics, The Smith Prize is funded by a gift from screenwriter, novelist and playwright Timothy Jay Smith and a number of other socially-conscious donors. Since 2006, the Prize has been administered by NNPN, and is awarded to a play that asks: Who are Americans as a people? What are we becoming? What are our global responsibilities? Previous Prizewinners are A. Zell Williams' In a Daughters' Eyes, Sean Christopher Lewis' Killadelphia, Martin Zimmerman's White Tie Ball, Y York's …And LA Is Burning, Seth Rozin's Black Gold, and Peter Gil-Sheridan's Topsy Turvy Mouse. The $5,000 Prize is split between the playwright and the first NNPN member theater to produce the play.
Seamlessly blending the personal and the political, Grounded tells the story of a hot-rod F16 fighter pilot whose unexpected pregnancy ends her career in the sky. Repurposed to flying remote-controlled drones in Afghanistan from an air-conditioned trailer near Vegas, the Pilot struggles through surreal twelve-hour shifts far from the battlefield, hunting terrorists by day and being a wife and mother by night. A tour de force play for one actress, Grounded flies from the heights of lyricism to the shallows of workaday existence, targeting our assumptions about war, family, and the power of storytelling.
George Brant's playsinclude Elephant's Graveyard, The Mourners' Bench, Any Other Name, Grizzly Mama, Salvage, Three Voyages of the Lobotomobile, Defiant, Good on Paper and Dark Room. His work has been produced and developed by such companies as Trinity Repertory Company, the Kennedy Center, Cleveland Play House, Asolo Rep, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, The Playwrights' Center, WordBRIDGE Playwright's Lab, the Hangar Theatre, Equity Library Theatre, Premiere Stages, Florida Studio Theatre, Trustus Theatre, Elemental Theatre Collective, Balagan Theatre, the Drama League, the Disney Channel, Factory Theatre, Debutantes and Vagabonds, StreetSigns Theatre Company, and zeppo theater company, among others. His scripts have been awarded the David Mark Cohen National Playwriting Award from the Kennedy Center, the Keene Prize for Literature, and an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award for 2012. He has received writing fellowships from the James A. Michener Center for Writers, the MacDowell Colony, the Djerassi Resident Artists Program and the Blue Mountain Center as well as commissions from Dobama Theatre and Theatre 4. George received his MFA in Writing from the University of Texas at Austin and is a member of the Dramatists Guild. His scripts are published by Samuel French and Smith & Kraus.