EXCLUSIVE: Seayoung Yim, a playwright and educator from Seattle, has won the 2022 Yale Drama Series Prize for her new play Jar of Fat, a work selected from more than 1,500 entries.
Set in a fantastical fairytale world where two Korean American sisters are deemed too fat to fit in their family grave, Jar of Fat was described by the Prize committee as an “irreverent and vicious satire on beauty standards” and was cited for its “thought provoking subject matter (the universal problem of obesity) as examined through a unique cultural prism, and by the singular voice that the playwright possesses.”
The play follows the sisters as their close bond is threatened under the pressure of their community and fretful parents, who will spare no effort to get them tinier. Jar of Fat “is a prescient absurdist comedy that explores desire, ugliness, and beauty,” the committee said.
In a first in the Prize’s 15 years, the winner was decided by a body of six judges – the honor has traditionally been decided by one award-winning playwright. This year’s six judges are all past Prize winners, including Neil Wechsler, Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, Virginia Grise, Jacqueline Goldfinger, Leah Nanako Winkler and Rachel Lynett. As the 2022 Prize winner, Yim receives the David Charles Horn Prize of $10,000, as well as publication of the winning play by Yale University Press and a celebratory event.
“When I first received the news at winning this prize, I was very much in shock and disbelief,” said Yim in a statement. “Jar of Fat is a darkly comedic Korean American fairy tale about the allure and danger entangled within the quest for beauty and thinness. I offer this play as a struck match to burn some of the accumulated rage at what fatphobia steals from us every day: grace, space, possibility, and breath.
“As a Korean American,” she continued, “it was important to have this conversation about fatphobia and attractiveness in a culturally specific context to explore the ways these issues present themselves differently from the mainstream Western norms. It is my long-term hope that we collectively dream about and build the capacity to honor all bodies in their ever-changing forms.”
The Yale Drama Series is an annual international open submission competition for emerging playwrights who are invited to submit original, unpublished, full-length, English language plays for consideration. All entries are read blindly.
Rachel Lynett, winner of the 2021 Yale Drama Series Prize (and the author who called this year’s winner to the committee’s attention), said, “Jar of Fat immediately grabbed my attention from the first page. The voice of the playwright was incredibly strong and especially fun. Reading the play felt like a conversation like the playwright was daring me to play along. I’m always asking myself ‘What have I never seen before? What voices are missing from theater?’ This play felt radical, but also simply so honest that it couldn’t be ignored.”
Francine Horn, President of the David Charles Horn Foundation, said, “Seayoung Yim, writes brilliantly about this struggle between perceived acceptance, sacrifice, love, and clashing with deeply rooted cultural rituals. She has a magical sense to transform the narrative from horror to humor; from fantasy to reality.”
The selection process of the 2023 Yale Drama Series Prize will return to its original form; the playwright who will preside over the process will be announced next week.
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