The Robert Chesley Foundation Announces 2007 Awards

The Robert Chesley Foundation presents its 2007 gay and lesbian playwriting awards on May 7 at 7:00 pm at Tishman Auditorium of The New School, 66 West 12th Street NYC, in conjunction with the annual Publishing Triangle Awards, which honor the best lesbian and gay fiction, non-fiction, and poetry published in 2006. The award for lifetime achievement will be given to Eric Bentley and the emerging gay playwright award will be given to Chris Weikel. The awards carry a cash prize of $2,000 each. The ceremony is free and open to the public.

Eric Bentley is cited in recognition of his plays essays and songs that have championed the right to live an openly gay life since 1968. Chris Weikel’s play, “The Way-Weary,” about T.E. Lawrence, was a recent finalist for the Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays.

Each year, the Robert Chesley Foundation recognizes the work of an emerging gay or lesbian playwright and in many years also honors a writer who has produced a significant body of work. Established in 1993 by the playwright’s friend Victor Bumbalo, the Robert Chesley Foundation seeks to advance gay and lesbian theater by honoring playwrights who have put lesbian or gay characters at the center of their plays, have rejected stereotypes or turned them to new uses, and have made or are making a significant contribution to our culture. Previous winners include Doric Wilson, Lisa Kron, Megan Terry, Christopher Shinn and Maria Irene Fornes. In collaboration with Broadway Play Publishing, the Foundation is publishing new editions of Chesley’s plays. The first volume, “Plays by Robert Chesley,” was published in 2005.

Photo of Eric Bentley, scholar, teacher, critic, performer and playwright, by Frank Fournier
Photo of Eric Bentley by Frank Fournier

Asked when he came out, Bentley once replied, “Well, I seem to have come out in l942, when I answered the army’s questions candidly. ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’? They did ask and I told. But I didn’t issue any public manifestoes till l968 when Folkways issued my record album ‘The Queen of Forty Second Street.'”

Photo of Chris Weikel by Gregg Moore
Photo of Chris Weikel by Gregg Moore

Robert Chesley was born in Jersey City, New Jersey in 1943. He received a BA degree in Music from Reed College in Portland, Oregon, and composed prolifically. He began writing plays in 1980. In 1984, the Meridian Gay Theater presented his “Night Sweat,” the first play produced in America about the AIDS crisis. Two years later, “Jerker, or the Helping Hand” was produced in Los Angeles, and productions quickly followed in New York, San Francisco and elsewhere. His other plays include “The Dog Plays,” “Stray Dog Story” and “Private Theatricals.” Chesley died of complications from AIDS in Los Angeles in 1990.

The Robert Chesley Foundation does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. Donations (made out to the Robert Chesley Foundation) may be sent to the Robert Chesley Foundation c/o Victor Bumbalo, 828 North Laurel Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90046.

For further info on the Publishing Triangle Awards, see:

Jonathan Slaff
Jonathan Slaff writes on cultural events from the brainy, the edgy and the good. He helps us keep ahead of the curve in the world of the arts and culture.