Updated at: 02/22/2013 7:08 AM
By MARK KENNEDY
(AP) NEW YORK - Dan O’Brien’s "The Body of an American" and Robert Schenkkan’s "All the Way" have been named the inaugural winners of a theater award honoring the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy.
Columbia University on Friday said the playwrights will share the award and $100,000, one of the largest prizes given for dramatic writing.
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 the day.
The play by Schenkkan, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for "The Kentucky Cycle," begins in November 1963 with Lyndon B. Johnson’s sudden ascension to the presidency following the assassination of Kennedy’s older brother John F. Kennedy and ends 12 months later with Johnson’s historic landslide victory over Barry Goldwater. "All the Way" premiered at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2012.
O’Brien’s play is a story of war and war reporting that was inspired by the experiences of Paul Watson, who won a Pulitzer for a 1993 photo of a dead U.S. Army Ranger dragged through the streets of Somalia’s capital. It premiered at Portland Center Stage last year.
The other finalists were "Hurt Village," by Katori Hall; "Party People," by the performance group Universes; and "Rapture, Blister, Burn," by Gina Gionfriddo.
The prize was established by Kennedy’s sister Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith in consultation with playwright Tony Kushner. It will be announced each year on Feb. 22, the anniversary of Kennedy’s birth. The Massachusetts senator died of cancer in 2009.
Plays and musicals that received their first professional productions in 2012 were eligible for the prize. The winners were selected by a panel of nine judges that included playwrights Lynn Nottage, Itamar Moses, Diana Son and Brian Yorkey and Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)