Ava Pickett Wins The 2024 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize For Her Play 1536


Ava Pickett | Photo: Jed Cullen/Dave Benett/Getty Images

Alex Mecklosky
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March 12, 2024 11:45 AM

The 2024 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize has been awarded to UK playwright Ava Pickett for her play 1536.  This award has been given annually since 1978.  The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize is the largest and oldest international award recognizing women+ who have written works of outstanding quality for the English-speaking theatre.

On March 11th, the Prize hosted the theatre community at the Royal Court Theatre in London to celebrate and honor Pickett and the 9 Finalists. Pickett garnered a cash award of $25,000, and a signed limited-edition print by renowned artist Willem de Kooning, created especially for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. U.S. Playwright Justice Hehir won a Special Commendation Award of $10,000.  The 8 additional finalists each received an award of $5,000.

Set in Tudor Essex, 1536 follows three best friends as they wrestle with marriage offers, gossip, and bad hair.  When the news from London of the Queen’s arrest at the hands of her husband reaches them, the dynamics of their friendship begin to splinter as they struggle with what it means to be a woman in a society that kills women, even those high-born. Picket calls it a “very funny and very angry play, which is also a love letter to the violence and primal nature of female friendship.” 

The Judges for the 2024 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize praised Pickett’s play for its creation of a world and characters which “speak across the centuries” in a play with “sparkling dialogue and thrilling, charismatic writing underpinned by great craft and restraint.”   They applauded the play’s portrayal of a “rising tide of puritanical misogyny”, and how it affects the characters and their relationships in ways both “brilliant and chilling.”

1536 was nominated for The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize by London’s Almeida Theatre, which commissioned the play as part of the Genesis Almeida New Playwrights/Big Plays Writers Programme.  Aimed at supporting emerging and mid-career writers to develop new plays for larger stages, the programme is a partnership between the Almeida and the Genesis Foundation.  1536 was also recognized with a special commendation by the 2023 George Devine Award.

A writer and performer, Ava Pickett graduated from The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in 2018 and was also a member of Soho Theatre Writers Lab of that year. Ava's first commission was to write Roots for Radio 4 which aired in 2020 with a cast led by Vicky McClure and was Comedy of the Week. In 2020, Ava was a resident Playwright at The Mercury Theatre in Essex. Ava was a staff writer on season 3 of “The Great” for Hulu/Channel 4. Ava wrote for hire on two Danny Brocklehurst led dramas: “Brassic” and “Ten Pound Poms”. Ava is currently adapting the 90s film Pret-A-Porter for Miramax and Paramount Plus; S.T.A.G.S for Annapurna and Urban Myth; Kirsty Capes’ novel Careless for Neal Street; and John Wyndham’s The Trouble with Lichen for Route 24. Ava was a member of the 2021-22 cohort of the Almeida Genesis Writers Programme.

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Alex Mecklosky

As a native New Yorker, Alex has always loved everything involving theatre. With a degree in Theatre and New Media from Marymount Manhattan College, Alex realized that, since he was not talented enough to be on Broadway, the next best thing would be to write about it!