Friday, December 27, 2013

INVEST IN THE ARTISTS #16: The June Anne Baker Prize

I have never been on stage as a writer, director, or actor, but I have loved being involved with PlayGround for over 18 years.  It all started innocently enough — my late wife June and I buying a couple tickets to a Monday Night PlayGround — those enhanced script readings of plays written in just a few short days for which PlayGround is famous. I was hooked. Couldn’t get enough. Added the fully produced festival of the best plays of the year.  Marveled at how just a few actors could play so many roles in one evening and bring those hastily written scripts to life. 

In 2000, June was struck down by cancer. She was such a unique person whose life was characterized by many wonderful traits, among them an unrestrained joie de vivre, a love of words (at the time of her death she was struggling to make public the writer within her) and an unwavering commitment to advancing opportunities for women.

To honor her, I created PlayGround’s June Anne Baker Prize which is awarded every year to an emerging female playwright whose work promises to embody two of June’s passions: comedy and politics. Each year I donate $2,500 to PlayGround to make possible the award and the $1,000 commissioning grant that goes with it.  Twelve women have won the prize and each has gone on to write a new full-length play as a result. Two of these plays have since premiered in the Bay Area and several others are in preparation for premieres in the coming season. And perhaps more importantly, these women have gone on to receive other commissions, productions and recognition for their playwriting since receiving the June Anne Baker Prize. What a joy it is for me to award the prize each year, to await the commissioned play, and to follow the lives and careers of these amazing women. I am honored to support PlayGround and the artists in this way.


John H. Gilman

June Anne Baker Prize Winners & Commissions (2002-13)
2013: Amy Sass, Song for a Whale
2012: Robin Lynn Rodriguez, Hella Love Oakland
2011: Mandy Hodge Rizvi, Drive Thru
2010: Diane Sampson, Naked
2009: Erin Marie Bregman, Nightmare Play
2008: Lauren Yee, Crevice
2007: Evelyn Pine, The Secrets of the World
2006: Brady Lea, Feets Too Big
2005: Geetha Reddy, Me Given You
2004: Maria Rokas, Plans & Peccadilloes
2003: Martha Soukup, Manumission
2002: Kristina Goodnight, The Eve Generation

As we count down twenty days of PlayGround's 20th Season Year-End Campaign, we're pleased to share with you a daily testimonial from PlayGround artists, subscribers and supporters and community leaders. To participate in the Year-End Campaign, make a tax-deductible contribution online at or on the PlayGround website, or call us at (415) 992-6677.

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