Williamstown Theatre Festival is pleased to announce Clarence Coo as the recipient of the 2023 L. Arnold Weissberger New Play Award for his play Chapters of a Floating Life. Coo will receive the $10,000 award and the accompanying $10,000 Jay Harris Commission to write a new play. The play will also receive a reading at the Festival this summer as part of the Fridays@3 reading series, showcasing new work in development.
In Chapters of a Floating Life, two couples from China try to make ends meet in New York City in the wake of the Second World War. One husband and wife live uptown, obsessed with a past of poetry, painting, and gardens. Another pair face the day-to-day reality of keeping a Chinatown restaurant in business. Their worlds, previously separated by class and education, converge when the two women find each other in Central Park and fall under the spell of the Chinese language.
Clarence Coo was born in the Philippines and grew up in a crowded, multilingual household in Virginia. He writes about language, class, and sexuality. His plays include On That Day in Amsterdam, The God of Wine, The Birds of Empathy, Beautiful Province (Belle Province), and People Sitting in Darkness. His work has been produced or developed at Primary Stages, the Atlantic Theater Company, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, New York Theatre Workshop, and the Bay Area Playwrights Festival. He has received fellowships from the Dramatists Guild of America, the Rita Goldberg Playwrights’ Workshop at the Lark, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Playwrights Realm, and he has been the recipient of a Whiting Award and the Yale Drama Series Prize. He received his MFA in playwriting at Columbia University. He is a member of the Ma-Yi Writers Lab and an alumnus of New Dramatists.
Williamstown Theatre Festival administers the L. Arnold Weissberger New Play Award on behalf of WTF Trustee Emeritus Fredda Harris and the Anna L. Weissberger Foundation. Championed for the Festival in 1998 by Fredda’s late husband and former WTF Trustee Jay Harris, the award honors noted theatrical attorney and avid theater supporter L. Arnold Weissberger, and it is designed to recognize excellence in playwriting.