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Brendan Gill Prize Celebrates Diversity

sarah jones playwright brendan gill prize winner 2007

The 2007 Brendan Gill Prize was awarded on Monday evening, December 3, to actor, playwright and poet Sarah Jones, for her Tony-award winning one-woman show “Bridge & Tunnel.” The newly built Diker Pavilion in the National Museum of the American Indian, a transformed landmark — formerly the U.S. Custom House built by the legendary Beaux-Arts architect Cass Gilbert — on Bowling Green, was the stage for the presentation.

In an exhilarating performance, Ms. Jones selected excerpts from her play which celebrates the city’s diversity with all its idiosyncrasies, conflicts and humor through the voices of fourteen immigrant characters. Among these were a Polish-Lithuanian- Jewish grandmother, a hip, young Dominican girl, and a Chinese-American mother. Individually they take the stage at a poetry slam in a dive in “beautiful South Queens” where their personal narratives are expressed in a new vocabulary. Through the actor’s acute observation and empathy, each exemplifies the day-to-day experience of an immigrant community that contributes to the city’s fusion of cultures.

Originally produced off-Broadway in 2004 by Meryl Streep, “Bridge & Tunnel” moved to Broadway in 2006 to critical acclaim. Both the process that fueled the production of the play and the exceptional talent that abounds within it are the essential elements of the Brendan Gill Prize. As Kent Barwick said in his opening remarks, it was also Ms. Jones’ imagination and passionate concern for human justice that won her the 2007 Gill Prize.

“The museum, with its handsome display of Native American objects, and the play, with its focus on many nationalities, each tell a story of how resilient Native peoples and immigrants have enriched American society in ways that truly re-consecrate this Island.”