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Princeton faculty member Nathan Davis wins Windham-Campbell Prize for Drama

Nathan Davis
Courtesy of Nathan Davis

Nathan Davis, a lecturer in the theater department and Berlind Playwright-in-Residence, received the Donald Windham-Sandy M. Campbell Literature Prize for Drama on March 22. The prize provides each winner with a citation, which describes why they were selected, and an unrestricted grant of $165,000 to support the their writing. 

Hailing from Rockford, Ill., Davis received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a Master of Fine Arts from Indiana University Bloomington, and graduated from The Juilliard School’s Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program. Prior to the Windham-Campbell Prize, Davis received the Lark Venturous Playwright Fellowship, the Steinberg Playwright Award, the Sundance at Ucross Fellowship, and the Whiting Award. 


Davis has written a number of critically acclaimed plays, including “Nat Turner in Jerusalem,” “Dontrell, Who Kissed The Sea,” and “The Wind and the Breeze.” His play “The Refuge Plays” was meant to run in the spring of 2020 at the Berlind Theatre at McCarter Theatre Center, though it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and his newest play, “The High Ground,” is coming to the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. 

Donald Windham and Sandy M. Campbell were writers who dreamed of creating an award that would support writers financially. When Campbell died in 1988, he left Windham his estate, and Windham held onto that estate until he was wealthy enough to establish a literary prize. After Windham’s death in 2010, he entrusted his and Campbell’s combined estates to Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library for it to establish the Windham-Campbell Prize. 

Since the first distribution of the prizes in 2013, eight writers writing in English anywhere in the world win awards each year in four literary categories: non-fiction, drama, fiction, and poetry. Previous recipients affiliated with Princeton are Professor of Creative Writing Yiyun Li and playwright Branden Jacob-Jenkins ’06. According to the Windham-Campbell Prize website, “the mission of the prizes is to call attention to literary achievement and provide writers with the opportunity to focus on their work independent of financial concerns.” 

Davis received the prize for being “an artist whose work fuses depth of feeling and love of language, balancing the profound, the prosaic, and an overwhelming desire to reach through the fourth wall and pull his audiences towards him.” 

In a normal year, winners would engage in a literary festival in New Haven, Conn., receiving their awards on the Yale campus, but the 2021 festival will take place online instead. The winners’ work will be featured in a special edition of The Yale Review.