This is a national competition to discover and to encourage American dramatists and was established by Neil Simon in 1977 to foster the development of quality plays for the theater. The competition was renamed in 1985 to honor Julie Harris in appreciation of her continuing encouragement to playwrights.
During the past ten years alone, more than 5,000 plays have been entered in the competition, which annually offers aspiring or established dramatists a chance to win one of three cash awards. First prize: $3500, Second prize: $2,500, Third prize: $1,500. In addition, playwrights have the opportunity to have their unproduced plays evaluated by an impartial panel of distinguished theatre professionals.
As a direct result of the competition, many of these plays (not only the winners) have had public readings and have been further developed through professional workshop or regional theatre productions. Several of the first-prize winning plays have been produced at theatres in Los Angeles. For many of the playwrights, winning an award has led to career opportunities: Broadway and off-Broadway productions, playwright-in-residence positions, assistance from agents and producers, and writing assignments for film and television.