The 24 MacArthur “genius” grants awarded today are given to “talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.” Among the winners are authors Karen Russell, whose 2011 novel Swamplandia was a finalist for the Pulitzer Award; Donald Antrim, associate professor at Columbia University and author of The Verificationist; and playwright and member of Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater Company Tarell Alvin McCraney. The winners are awarded a “no strings attached” grant of $625,000. For more about these winners as well as the the other honorees, check out today’s articles in NPR and the New York Times.
Playwright and actress Anna Deavere Smith received this year’s Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize. Now in its 19th year, the $300,000 arts award was established by actress Lillian Gish’s will and given “to a man or woman who has made an outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to mankind’s enjoyment and understanding of life.” Chosen from a list of 30 finalists, Ms. Smith is well-known for creating one-woman theater pieces focusing on social issues (Fires in the Mirror, Twilight: Los Angeles) where she portrays multiple people she’s interviewed. Past honorees names include Bob Dylan, Ornette Coleman, Ingmar Bergman, Isabel Allende, Merce Cunningham, Laurie Anderson, Robert Wilson, Bill T. Jones, and Pete Seeger. She’s received numerous other accolades: a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” in 1996, Tony nominations for best actress and best play in 1994, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1993. Anna Deveare Smith is a professor at NYU in their Performance Studies department and has had numerous film and television roles, including The West Wing and most recently Nurse Jackie. See more in this NYT article.