Rachel Lynett has been awarded the 2021 Yale Drama Series Prize for her play Apologies to Lorraine Hansberry (You Too August Wilson). The prize, awarded annually to an emerging playwright, is selected by a single judge—this year: Paula Vogel.
The award is presented in cooperation with Yale University Press and is sponsored by the David Charles Horn Foundation. The winner receives the David Charles Horn Prize of $10,000, as well as publication of the winning play by Yale University Press and a staged reading.
Apologies to Lorraine Hansberry (You Too August Wilson) is set in the fictional world of a post-second Civil War, Bronx Bay, an all-Black state established to protect “Blackness.” As Jules’ new partner Yael moves into town, community members argue over if Yael, who is Dominican, can stay. Questions of safety and protection surround both Jules and Yael as the utopia of Bronx Bay confronts within itself where the line is when it comes to defining who is Black and who gets left out in the process.
In addition to Lynett’s first prize entry, Vogel selected three runners-up from over 2,000 submissions: Timothy X Atack for Babel’s Cupid, Molly Bicks for Miss Atomic Power, and Francisco Mendoza for Machine Learning.
Previous winners include Leah Nanako Winkler for God Said This and Liliana Padilla for How to Defend Yourself , both selected by Ayad Akhtar.
Read on for an excerpt from Lynett’s Apologies to Lorraine Hansberry (You Too August Wilson) .
Alright. Damn. Please continue to take your time.
White folx call what I’m about to do “exposition.” But the Black folx in the audience know I’m about to preach. The world you’re about to see ain’t yours. It’s not a parallel universe, it’s not alternate reality. It’s something else. It lives in the imagination of every person of color in this room.
When I get bored, I like to remove one historical event and say to myself “would that make the playing field fair?” What if there had been a revolt when Trump got elected? Or, what if there had been no slavery? Like at all. Can you even imagine the world without it? Our whole socio-eco-system is built on the backs of people who look like me. And I know, I know, I know. The playwright’s hand is showing. Get over it. That’s kind of the point.
So, re-setting the clock. Slavery never existed. And since I know some of y’all are trifflin, let me be clear. The African diaspora due to the slavery of West Africans never happened. The Roman still enslaved the Greeks and the idea of slavery still exists but Black people, my people, were not slaves. We weren’t forced onto ships, our names and family histories weren’t taken from us. That has been erased.
During the Industrial Revolution, there was a great migration of Africans across the world but especially to Great Britain and the colonies. Though no one came through trying to steal resources from continental Africa, no one came through with resources either.
The African people became incredibly advanced but the only way to mass produce the technology was to take it over seas themselves. Black folk all over the world came up with brilliant inventions and became scientists, doctors, inventors.
But thanks to general xenophobia, many of their inventions, the credit to who invented what, was stolen from them. And when they tried to speak out against it, suddenly people started going missing. And then more and more people went missing. Names vanished from history.
Y’all should know history is written by white folks anyway.