James Ijames Gets Kesselring Prize

James Ijames
James Ijames. Photo by Kim Carsen.

The Kesselring Prize, the annual $25,000 award to a rising U.S. playwright, will be given this year to Philadelphia playwright James Ijames. Ijames will receive the prize at a ceremony on Monday, November 5 at the National Arts Club, which has bestowed this prestigious honor since 1980. The award also provides  Ijames with the opportunity to reside in the National Arts Club’s historic clubhouse in New York City, where he can develop his work.

Ijames was chosen for his play Kill Move Paradise, about four black men who find themselves stuck in a cosmic waiting room in the after life, a play inspired by the growing number of slain unarmed black men and women.

Kill Move Paradise at the Wilma. Photo by Joanna Austin, AustinArt.org.
Kill Move Paradise at the Wilma. Photo by Joanna Austin, AustinArt.org.

The play premiered in New York last year and received its Philadelphia premiere this September at the Wilma Theater, which nominated Ijames for the Kesselring. He was previously the Kesselring’s Honorable Mention winner for his play The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington. Other previous playwriting honors include the Terrance McNally New Play Award for White in 2015, a Pew Fellow for Playwriting and the Whitting Award.  He is on the theater faculty at Villanova University.

Kill Move Paradise was one of 16 plays considered for the 2018 Kesselring submitted for the Prize by 16 theaters across the country including The Actors Theatre of Louisville, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Ars Nova, and the La Jolla Playhouse.

The 2018 Kesselring Prize jury wass comprised of playwright John Guare (The House of Blue Leaves, Six Degrees of Separation, Landscape of the Body); Anne Cattaneo (Dramaturg of Lincoln Center Theater and creator/head of its Directors’ Lab); and Lynn Nottage (two-time Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, Sweat and Ruined). The Kesselring Prize’s long-time artistic director is Michael Parva, who also heads The Directors Company in New York City.

Established by The National Arts Club in 1980 by Charlotte Kesselring – widow of the playwright Joseph Kesselring, author of the comedy classic Arsenic and Old Lace – the Kesselring Prize honors and supports playwrights on the brink of national recognition with an honorarium and added support towards development of their work.  Among the past recipients of the Kesselring: Lucas Hnath, Lindsey Ferrentino, Tony Kushner, Nicky Silver, and last year’s winner Lauren Yee.

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