Abbie Spallen

Abbie Spallen’s plays confront audiences with all the awkward questions, reminding us with thrilling proof that theater can still be urgently necessary.

Abbie Spallen is a Northern Irish playwright whose work is haunted by the history and geography of her hometown of Newry, County Down. Spallen’s Northern Ireland is a borderland of bogs, caves, hills, and marshes, a place where (despite the claims of self-serving politicians) the past is never really dead. In her political satire Lally the Scut, which premiered at Belfast’s Mac Theatre in April 2015, a mother struggles to save her little boy after he falls into a bog hole. This task proves difficult for many reasons, not the least of which is her neighbors’ fear that digging up the fields will uncover secrets from the Troubles. In Pumpgirl (2006), co-winner of the 2007 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, a rural gas station attendant’s affair with a married race car driver takes on the proportions of classical tragedy as it careens towards a conclusion that feels at once absurd and inevitable. Spallen has described her work as “uncomfortable theater,” and while her plays are undeniably dark, there are flashes of beauty, humor, and tenderness in their depiction of life on the margins. Spallen’s other plays include Strandline (2009) and Bogwog (2005). She is also the author of several screenplays and was recognized with a major grant from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland in 2014.

I am, as we say in Ireland, 'beside myself' to receive this award. Both in monetary terms and as a recognition of my work. I do try to be brave, and I'm aware that I can produce work that may not be palatable to all. Sometimes that can feel quite the lonely pursuit. Thank you so very much. I'll stagger on. Less lonely than before. ABBIE SPALLEN