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Playwright Nancy Harris receives 2012 Rooney Prize for Literature

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Article by Barry Houlihan © 19 October 2012.
Posted in Guest Blogs ().

Good news for Irish theatre and new stage writing this week as playwright Nancy Harris was awarded the 2012 Rooney Prize for Literature. Now in its 36th year the Rooney Prize is a highly regarded award that recognises a work or works of considerable achievement by an Irish author. The award has a distinguished record for being received by the very best of young and emerging Irish talents across all genres and types of writing from fiction – both novels and short stories to poetry and playwriting. Notable past recipients include Bernard Farrell, Neil Jordan, Frank McGuinness, Anne Enright, Mark O’Rowe, Claire Keegan, Kevin Barry and Leontia Flynn. The award was initiated by U.S. businessman and current U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, Dan Rooney.

HarrisThe chair of the Rooney Prize committee, Dr Terence Brown, comments: “Nancy Harris has an ear keenly attuned to how the fracture lines in relationships are opened in apparently innocent conversations. Critics and audiences have been impressed by her psychological insight and by her sharp wit”.

For the last number of years Harris has been creating quite the stir among audiences and critics alike with her vibrant and engaging take on modern society, people and values. Her 2011 play, No Romance, was an Abbey Theatre Commission and received its debut and also world premiere on the Peacock stage at the Abbey in arch of that year. No Romance would also go on to receive the Stewart Parker Trust Award and bursary for a new play also in 2011. Harris, who studied

In 2008, Harris was a participant in 20: Love, a playwright development programme run by the Literary Department of the Abbey Theatre which also featured writers such as Phillip McMahon, Belinda McKeon, Gary Duggan and Paul Murray. Her work, Love in a Glass Jar was a central piece in that series that explored love, relationships and the sexes in a modern Ireland.

Harris’ latest work on the stage was her play Our New Girl which premiered at the Bush Theatre London and which received hugely positive reviews from the likes of Michael Billington at the Guardian. Harris was the Pearson Playwright in Residence at the Bush Theatre in London in 2011.

In the week where Fintan O’Toole was all but heralding the death of the playwright and the ‘traditional’ scripted play, here is due recognition of a playwright whose great skill lies in beautifully crafted words and dialogue, deep and rich characters and stories that engage the audience from the stage.


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Barry Houlihan is chief blogger at writing.ie's Centre Stage blog - he is a professional archivist and specialises in theatre and literary archives. He has catalogued the Project Arts Centre archive (1967-2003) at the National Library of Ireland, established an archive for the Gaiety School of Acting in Dublin and produced a research guide on the history of Smock Alley Theatre. Barry has worked as a researcher for ‘Cultureshock’ program on Newstalk FM radio and also recently acted as researcher for the RTE Radio 1 documentary series ‘From Stage to Street’. Barry is currently working for NUI Galway Archives where he is cataloguing the archives of Druid Theatre Company and the Galway Arts Festival.

Read Barry's post chronologically.

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