Within the relatively recent development of a tradition of African American playwriting, the Theodore Ward Prize has, over its twenty-year history, offered a rich reflection of the accomplishments of emerging and established black playwrights and their growing importance in shaping contemporary theater. This volume showcases three winners of the Theodore Ward Prize - plays that, in their quality and subject matter, aptly represent what is being written and produced by African American playwrights and theaters today. Carefully selected by a director and educator who has been affiliated with the contest for eighteen of its twenty years, these three works have themes that range from the sordid shenanigans of a Depression-era ""South Side Burial Society"" (Leslie Lee's ""Sundown Names and Night-Gone Things"") to a single mother's heartbreaking battle to save her children's souls (Mark Clayton Southers' ""Ma Noah"") to a poignant and achingly funny reunion of three sisters after their parents' death (Kim Euell's ""The Diva Daughters DuPree""). Their publication answers a growing demand for the work of African American playwrights even as it affords deep and varied insights into African American culture in our era.
Chuck Smith is a resident director at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, where his productions have included The Story, Proof, The Death of Bessie Smith, The Gift Horse, The Amen Corner, A Raisin in the Sun, Blues for an Alabama Sky, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, A Christmas Carol, and The Meeting. Smith is also a faculty member in the Theater Department of Columbia College, Chicago. He is the editor of Seven Black Plays: The Theodore Ward Prize for African American Playwriting (Northwestern, 2004).