Jennifer Barclay Newsham


I am very pleased to announce that Jennifer Barclay Newsham has won the 2016 Smith Prize for Political Theater.

The Smith Prize, a commission to write a new play, encourages playwrights to address the pressing issues of our time through personal or intimate stories. Jennifer’s proposed play, Ripe Frenzy, will certainly do that.

In 2012, she had just given birth to a daughter when the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting took place in which twenty very young children were killed. For years that horrifying event troubled her as she struggled with how to dramatize it without falling prey to the Ripe Frenzy of the media coverage. Her answer is a play that will examine the impact of that tragedy on the town, told in part through some of the oldest storytelling approaches – a Greek chorus, and stories shared around a campfire – and in part through contemporary media techniques. For the latter, Jennifer has teamed up with Jared Mezzocchi, an award-winning multimedia theater director.

Underscoring Jennifer’s story, of course, is the issue of gun control—but that is not what Ripe Frenzy is about. Instead, it’s an exploration of the consequences of the media’s frenzy. What happens to us as individuals and a society as we obsess over the news reports of a massacre? What happens to the survivors of the event who, through the media, are forced constantly to relive it? Ripe Frenzy is not a story about what happened at Sandy Hook, but about what happened afterward.

Jennifer Barclay is a Chicago-bred actor-turned-playwright who recently relocated to Washington D.C. to join the faculty at the University of Maryland. Her goal is to write plays that are full of raw, muscular humanity that actors clamor to perform. Her works have been developed and produced across the country, including (to name only a few venues): La Jolla Playhouse, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Northlight Theatre, American Theater Company, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, South Coast Repertory, and The Old Globe.

For more information on Jennifer Barclay, please visit