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Feb 23, 11:07 AM EST

Suzan-Lori Parks' trilogy wins Kennedy Prize for Drama

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NEW YORK (AP) -- Suzan-Lori Parks' historical trilogy set during the Civil War has won a theater award honoring the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, one of the largest prizes given for dramatic writing.

Parks' "Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3)" traces the journey of a slave named Hero, his wife, Penny, and the best friend he betrayed, Homer. Spanning a total of three hours, the plays premiered last fall at the Public Theater to largely rave reviews. It is the initial trio in a planned nine-play cycle.

The Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History honors a new play or musical that explores the United States' past and deals with "great issues of our day." Given every year through Columbia University, it comes with $100,000.

The winning play Monday beat out four other finalists: Robert Schenkkan's "The Great Society," Marcus Gardley's "The House That Will Not Stand," and two by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins - "Appropriate" and "An Octoroon."

The judges this year included playwright Kristoffer Diaz, playwright and director Stephen Adly Guirgis, playwright David Henry Hwang and librettist John Weidman.

"In its unflinching treatment of homecoming, betrayal and heroism, `Father Comes Home from the Wars' announces itself as an iconic work that challenges and engages Western theatrical tradition while providing a compelling contribution to the urgent American conversation about race," the judges said.

The prize was established by Kennedy's sister Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith in consultation with playwright Tony Kushner. It is given every Feb. 22, the anniversary of the late senator's birth.



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