South Carolina native wins national theater honor

From The State

Story by Bertam Rantin

Sarah Hammond and Adam GwonSarah Hammond won her first playwriting prizes in South Carolina years ago during The Palmetto Dramatic Association’s one-act writing contest for students.

Turns out she was just getting started.

The Ridge View High School and University of South Carolina graduate’s artistic works have since graced the stages of area productions and recently earned her national recognition.

Hammond has been named a winner of the 2015 Richard Rodgers Award for Musical Theater. The award nurtures talented composers and playwrights and enables their musicals to be produced in New York City. The selection was announced earlier this month by the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Hammond, now based in Brooklyn, was recognized for the musical “String,” on which she collaborated with musical composer Adam Gwon (pictured above). Hammond wrote the book and Gwon provided the music and lyrics.

“We’re incredibly honored to win the Richard Rodgers Award,” Hammond said by email this week. “Adam and I have been working on the show for seven years. We’ve put a lot of time and a ton of soul into this musical, and we’ve been lucky to have really great supporters along the way.”

“String” is a modern-day twist on the story of the three Greek Fates: Atropos, Lachesis and Clotho. In the story, the workaholic goddess, Atropos, gets tangled up with a security guard in the basement of the tallest building in the world. One mistake leads to another ‑ including a lost pair of scissors, a kiss and a stolen string – and soon Atropos breaks her own rules to offer immortality to an ordinary man.

The show has been presented at the O’Neill Music Theatre Festival and the inaugural Oscar Hammerstein Festival at the Bucks County Playhouse in Pennsylvania. It won a New Dramatists’ Loewe Award and the Weston Play House New Musical Award.

“Some of my Broadway writing heroes were on the judging panel (for the Rogers award), and it’s really humbling to know they thought our show was worth the honor,” Hammond said.

Hammond’s writing honors also include the Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Heidemann Award and the New Dramatists” Lippman Award. Locally, her work has been showcased at Trustus Theatre and she was on the production teams of several shows at USC’s Drayton Hall and Longstreet Theatre.

“My first couple of plays were all produced in South Carolina, with costumes and sets and memorization and everything,” Hammond said. “It’s really rare for a young playwright to get to see their work fully produced like that, and it taught me 10 times more than any playwriting class ever could.”

Photo by Ric Kallaher (via Broadway World)