Get to work, playwrights! Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith and Columbia University have established a new theater award, The Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History. Smith created the prize to honor the legacy of her late brother, Senator Ted Kennedy, and has enlisted Angels in America playwright Tony Kushner to serve on the EMK Prize Board.
The first recipient of the EMK Prize will be announced on February 22, 2013, the date of Kennedy’s birthday. The winner will receive $100,000 and a website of study and teaching guides to correspond with the prize-winning play or musical.
The new prize will be awarded annually through the Columbia University Libraries to a new play or musical that, according to the EMK Prize’s mission statement, “enlists theater’s power to explore the past of the United States, to participate meaningfully in the great issues of our day through the public conversation, grounded in historical understanding, that is essential to the functioning of a democracy.”
Kennedy hailed from Massachusetts, and after serving in the United States Army from 1951 to 1953, became a member of the Senate in November 1962. Initially, he temporarily filled a seat once held by his brother John, but In 1964 was elected to serve in his first six-year term. He was re-elected seven additional times before his death on August 25, 2009. Kennedy died of brain cancer at home in Hyannis Port. He was a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.