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Clarence Coo’s CHAPTERS OF A FLOATING LIFE Receives 2023 L. Arnold Weissberger New Play Award

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.

Submissions for the award are by invitation only, and are carefully evaluated by a team of readers over the course of six months. The five finalist plays are considered by a panel of three judges. The finalists for the award were Jordans by Ife Olujobi, Sperm Donor Wanted (or, The Unnamed Baby Play) by TJ Young, The Door (The Senior Sex Play) by Jessica Dickey, and Trojan Women by Lauren Gunderson. The 2023 finalist judges were Allyson Tucker-Mitchell, actress and founding member of Black Theatre United; Albert Park, actor, Man of God (Williamstown Theatre Festival, 2022); and Maggie Burrows, director, Man of God.

Clarence Coo Headshot Credit: Beowulf Sheehan



Since 1998, the L. Arnold Weissberger Award has recognized the following new plays and emerging playwrights:

  • 2022 – TINY FATHER by Mike Lew
  • 2021 – WET BRAIN by John J. Caswell, Jr.
  • 2020 – ENGLISH by Sanaz Toossi
  • 2019 – CINCHED/STRAPPED by Selina Fillinger
  • 2018 – SELLING KABUL by Sylvia Khoury
  • 2017 – NOURA by Heather Raffo
  • 2016 – HANNAH AND THE DREAD GAZEBO by Jiehae Park
  • 2014 – KILL FLOOR by Abe Koogler
  • 2013 – FIVE MILE LAKE by Rachel Bonds
  • 2012 – PARADISE BLUE by Dominique Morisseau
  • 2011 – THE BODY OF AN AMERICAN by Dan O’Brien
  • 2010 – CHOIR BOY by Tarell Alvin McCraney
  • 2009 – THE SUBSTANCE OF BLISS by Tony Glazer
  • 2008 – SENSE OF AN ENDING by Ken Urban
  • 2007 – THE GOOD NEGRO by Tracey Scott Wilson
  • 2006 – TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION by Etan Frankel
  • 2005 – SAID SAID by Kenneth Lin
  • 2004 – BFE by Julia Cho
  • 2003 – ARRANGEMENTS by Ken Weitzman
  • 2002 – MOTHERHOUSE by Victor Lodato
  • 2001 – THE BRIDEGROOM OF BLOWING ROCK by Catherine Trieschmann
  • 2000 – JUMP SLASH CUT by Neena Beber
  • 1999 – INTO THE FIRE by Deborah Brevoort
  • 1998 – INFRARED by Mac Wellman

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