Congratulations to Mardee Bennett, winner of the 2022 Blue Ink Award for The Reapers on Woodbrook Avenue. As part of the award, Bennett receives a $2,500 cash prize, a staged reading at American Blues Theater, and the opportunity to further develop his script with our artists.

Mardee Bennet notes, “I am elated to have my work selected by American Blues Theater. Set in mid-century Baltimore, The Reapers on Woodbrook Avenue is the tale of a family striving for what was once called the American dream. It is also a political drama that speaks to the state of the nation with grace and humor. The opportunity to develop this play in one of the theater capitals of the world— Chicago—is a delight. The Blue Ink Award adds legitimacy to my work. For that I am profoundly grateful.”

“We are thrilled to announce Mardee Bennett’s script The Reapers on Woodbrook Avenue as the 2022 winner,” notes Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside. “Mardee created an incredibly detailed world with rich characters that leap off the page and into our hearts. We’re honored to share this relevant and timeless story.”


Spanning decades, this heartrending play explores the complex relationship between three generations of women: Loretta Reaper, a middle-aged Black woman, her grown, spitfire daughter, Nell, and her starry-eyed granddaughter Tamar. Raised in the church, all three ladies cut a mean cloth while taking us on a riveting journey through time, exhuming long-buried family secrets, and creating gospel fire in the process. 

About Mardee Bennett

Mardee Bennett is a playwright, screenwriter, and actor based in New York. With a sharp ear for dialogue, Mardee’s work explores the collective triumphs of Black people in America. His eight-character comedy Cane was a 2021 Blue Ink Award Finalist. The Reapers on Woodbrook Avenue was a finalist for the Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference and the Seven Devils Playwrights Conference. Other full-length titles include Loretta, The Nerve, In the Ramble, and A Pleasant Place to Be. His work has been developed at Center Stage, Signature Theatre, and Gloucester Stage Company. National Black Theatre will hold a workshop of his new play Sylvia Fair in Spring 2022.A proud Baltimore hometown boy, he trained at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Mardee is represented by A3 Artists Agency.

Other 2022 Blue Ink winners

Featured Finalists: Gina Femia (Staff Retreat), Rachel Lynett (White People By the Lake), Matthew Paul Olmos (a home what howls (or the house what was ravine)), Deborah Yarchun (Preservation)

Finalists: Paris Crayton III (Only Some of God’s Children or Mississippi Magnolias), Raul Garza (Arbolito), Emma Gibson (If nobody does remarkable things), Shannon TL Kearns (Body + Blood), Matthew Libby (Tomorrow and Tomorrow), Kyle J. McCloskey (Edge of Town), Tania Richard (The America Situation), Nia Akilah Robinson (“WP” Means “White People”), chandra thomas (…of Champions), Sarah Tuft (ABIGAIL), Ken Urban (The Moderate), P.C. Verrone (The Pretendians), Jessica Wu (Good Mourning)

Semi-finalists: Lucas Baisch (404 Not Found), Leah Roth Barsanti (The Almost Emperor of the Unofficial Deestrick of Lake Michigan), Cris Eli Blak (Sons of Liberty), Brysen Boyd (Closing Costs on 6101 Nyanza Park Drive APT D6 Flushing, NY 11351), Xavier Clark (supper), Erin Considine (Artists & Vandals), Shualee Cook (Cercle Hermaphroditos), Andrew Lee Creech (Last Drive to Dodge), Pauline David-Sax (Cotton’s Tale), Angela J. Davis (AGATHE), Alexandra Espinoza (All My Mothers Dream in Spanish), Mouncey Ferguson (Three-Day Hold), Linda Maria Girón (amémonos // let us love each other), Keiko Green (Sharon), Amina Henry (Interstate), M.J. Kang (Pretender), Gloria Majule (Culture Shock), Nick Malakhow (A Picture of Two Boys), Thaddeus McCants (No Different Than Cotton or Cobalt), Karissa Murrell Myers (Blood of My Mother’s), Felicia Oduh (Mercy), Tira Palmquist (The Body’s Midnight), Ankita Raturi (The Elephant is Very Like), Kira Rockwell (Oh, to Be Pure Again), Marcus Scott (Tumbleweed), SEVAN (Gorgonae), Christopher G. Smith (The Violin Maker), Phillip Christian Smith (Walking While Black), Ellis Stump (Once on Rumspringa), Caridad Svich (Clara Thomas Bailey), Caity-Shea Violette (Rx Machina), Laura Zlatos (The Blue Whale)

About the Blue Ink Award for playwriting

The nationally-renowned Blue Ink Award was created in 2010 to support new work. Since inception, we’ve named 12 Award winners, 112 finalists, and 171 semi-finalists. Nearly $10,000 in cash and prizes will be distributed to playwrights in 2022.

Each year American Blues Theater accepts worldwide submissions of original, unpublished full-length plays. The winning play will be selected by Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside and the theater’s Ensemble. The 2022 winning playwright receives a monetary prize of $2,500. Cash prizes are awarded to finalists and semi-finalists too.  All proceeds of the administrative fee are distributed for playwrights’ cash prizes.

Submissions for the 2023 Blue Ink Playwriting Award open July 1, 2022. All submissions must be received by American Blues Theater by August 31, 2022 at 11:59pm. Playwrights may only submit one (1) manuscript each year for consideration.

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