U of G Playwright First Canadian to Win International Award

March 13, 2008 - News Release

Judith Thompson, theatre studies professor and acclaimed playwright, is the first Canadian to win the prestigious Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for her political play "Palace of the End."

The two-time Governor General's Literary Award winner received the $20,000 award this week during a ceremony at the Alley Theatre in Houston, Texas.

Thompson's international recognition was covered by the Canadian Press with stories appearing in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and Houston Chronicle.

Established in 1978, the prize is given annually to a woman who deserves recognition for having written work of outstanding quality for the theatre.

Thompson was also honoured with a signed print by artist Willem de Kooning. He was a friend of the late Susan Smith Blackburn, an American actress and author who believed that society needs more influence from talented women.

"Palace of the End" consists of three storylines that capture the global effects of the Iraq War. It was debuted at the Edinburgh Festival, was recently produced in Florence, Italy and just ended its run in Toronto.

The first fictional monologue is based on Lynndie England, the young female American soldier who was convicted for torturing detainees and was pictured in newspapers holding the end of a leash that was pulling a naked Iraqi man by the neck.

The second monologue features British microbiologist David Kelly, who told the BBC that the dossier justifying the invasion of Iraq was grossly exaggerated. He died suddenly soon after the interview.

The third monologue tells the story of Narjis al Saffarh, a leading Communist in the 1960s and mother of four, who was brutally tortured by the Baathists and finally killed by American bombs.

There's no question that Thompson, a U of G faculty member since 1992, has earned her reputation as one of the country's top playwrights.

She was named an officer of the Order of Canada in 2005 for her outstanding contributions in arts and writing. She also won the 2007 Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts.

Thompson has been nominated twice for a Genie and received the Floyd S. Chalmers Canadian Play Award, the Toronto Arts Award and the Canadian Author's Association Award.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, l.hunt@exec.uoguelph.ca, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982, d.healey@exec.uoguelph.ca.

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