Kennedy prize awarded to Pakistani-American playwright


NEW YORK: Junk, the sprawling, weighty drama by Pakistani-American playwright Ayad Akhtar exploring the underhanded world of junk bonds and Wall Street in the 1980s is this year’s winner of the Edward M Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History, reported The New York Times.

The play, which ran on Broadway at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center and closed last month, was an ambitious undertaking, using a cast of 19 characters to deeply examine various capitalist perspectives. A New York Times review said that the show “unfolds with the crispness and legibility of a conscientiously assembled spreadsheet.”

A scene from Junk

The prize jury, made up of playwrights, scholars and others, said that Junk “trenchantly examines the financial behaviour and the flawed system of thought in the 1980s that paved the way for the polarized world in which we now live — manufacturing debt.” It added that the play “speaks directly to the aims of the prize, enlisting theater’s power to explore America’s past, and through that, speak to our present, so crucial to the health of our democracy.”

Akhtar, who won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Disgraced, will receive a sum of USD 100,000 in prize money. The award was created by Jean Kennedy Smith, a former United States ambassador to Ireland, in honour of her brother, Edward M Kennedy, the former senator from Massachusetts. It is awarded yearly on or around his birthday. Past winners include the performance artist Taylor Mac and Lin-Manuel Miranda.