January 2, 2008

New Fellows

Program helps four local artists develop new work for the stage.

BOSTON – The Huntington Theatre Company announced today its choices for the 2008 Huntington Playwriting Fellows program, which provides a structured environment for theatre artists to explore and talk about their work while providing significant access to the company’s artistic staff and resources.

The current class includes Boston-area playwrights Kirsten Greenidge, Jacqui Parker, Ken Urban, and Joyce Van Dyke. This is the third class since the program began in 2004.

The Fellows meet together with Brownstein twice monthly for one year to discuss creative ideas, receive critical input on their works, and learn the process of getting plays read at theatres across the country. In year two, they receive individual support focused on specific theatrical pieces they are developing. To date, the Huntington has produced five plays by its Fellows.

The 2008 Fellows are, in alphabetical order:

Wesleyan University and University of Iowa graduate Kirsten Greenidge has received commissions from New York’s Clubbed Thumb, The Kennedy Center/White House Historical Association, South Coast Rep, and Boston’s Company One, where she is this season’s playwright in residence. (Company One will produce her play, “Gibson Girl” this spring.) An Arlington, Mass. native, she was the NEA/Theatre Communications Group playwright-in-residence at New York’s Woolly Mammoth Theatre and has had plays produced around the country, including two at Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Humana Festival. Greenidge’s “103 Within the Veil,” featuring stories inspired by a cache of historical African American photographs, was the 2005 winner for Best New Play from the Independent Reviewers of New England.

Recipient of Elliot Norton and Independent Reviewers of New England Awards, Boston's Jacqui Parker is a playwright, actor, artistic director of Our Place Theater Project, and founder of Boston's African American Theatre Festival. In 2004 she received the StageSource Theatre Hero Award. Her play "Dark as a Thousand Midnights" premiered at the 2006 Festival at the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA. She has been seen on stages around the country, including the Huntington’s productions of “Breath, Boom,” and as an understudy to Phylicia Rashad in August Wilson’s “Gem of the Ocean.”

A recent transplant to Boston, Ken Urban is a Harvard University professor and founding artistic director of The Committee, a New York-based theater company. He has received a commission from Target Margin Theatre in New York, and his work has been produced at Soho Rep, Moving Arts, Rude Guerrilla, and other theatres in Los Angeles and New York. His plays ( “Wasps,” “I [Heart] Kant,” and “The Secret Lives of Eskimos”) and critical essays about theatre have appeared in Performing Arts Journal, New Theatre Quarterly, New York Theatre Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Modern Drama, and Yale’s Theatre Journal.

Joyce Van Dyke graduated from Boston University’s playwriting program and was a Massachusetts Cultural Council Playwriting Grant finalist. Her play, "A Girl's War," received a workshop production at Boston Playwrights Theatre in 2001, for which it was named one of the Boston Globe’s Top Ten Plays of the year and won the John Gassner Memorial Playwriting Award. “A Girls’ War” premiered in 2003 at New Repertory Theatre in Watertown, Mass., was nominated for the Steinberg National New Play award, and was published in the anthology “Contemporary Armenian American Drama.” New York’s Ensemble Studio Theatre—in conjunction with the Sloan Foundation—commissioned her play, "The Oil Thief," in 2006. She is a MacDowell Colony Fellow, and is a published scholar of Shakespeare and poetry.

The program underscores the Huntington's commitment to fostering and presenting original work by local and new playwrights and artists. Under the direction of Literary Manager Ilana Brownstein, Fellows receive commissions from the Huntington’s Stanford Calderwood Fund for New American Plays.

"This program gives artists a safe place to flex their muscles and develop their work," says Ilana Brownstein. "Our goal is to allow the playwrights to feel they have a permanent artistic home – to welcome them as part of the company and the Huntington family."

The 2005 group of four Huntington Playwriting Fellows has had significant success since its involvement with the program. Plays by Lydia Diamond and Kate Snodgrass are in development. John Shea's "Comp" premiered at Boston Playwright's Theater this year and Rebekah Maggor's one-woman show, "Shakespeare's Actresses in America" is part of this year’s “Huntington Presents” series at the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts.

The 2003 Fellows also have had success. Melinda Lopez’s “Sonia Flew” has been produced nationwide since its development and premiere at the Huntington’s Calderwood Pavilion. Sinan Unel’s “The Cry of the Reed,” and Ronan Noone’s “The Atheist” and “Brendan” were produced by the Huntington this season, and John Kuntz’s play, “Jasper Lake,” developed while at the Huntington, won the Kennedy Center’s National Student Playwriting Award and a Paula Vogel Playwriting Award.


Anonymous said...

This playwrights' program sounds great, but I'm completely puzzled as to how it operates. There doesn't seem to be any application process or transparency as to how playwrights might go about enquiring into the program. Can you please explain how it works? Thanks!

Todd Williams said...

Dear Anon,

I checked in with our literary manager, Ilana Brownstein. Here is her reply:

Playwrights who are invited to join the Huntington Playwriting Fellows program do not need to fill out any applications, nor do they undergo any interviews. The Artistic staff of the Huntington identifies writers who are active in Boston as being potential candidates. How do we decide who fits the bill? Because we have an open submission policy for scripts by Boston-area writers, we read a lot of plays by Boston playwrights. Additionally, the Artistic staff sees plays in production by local writers whenever possible. We get to know local artists whose work excites us. We are constantly on the look-out for writers whom we think would benefit from the HPF programming, and who, more importantly, are at a point in their careers or craft where they will get the most they possibly can from affiliating with us and the other HPFs. We actively seek to create HPF groups that contain a diversity of artistic and cultural voices; we look for writers who not only have something to add to the conversation, but can learn from one other.

The comment in the blog is correct, this is not a transparent process, nor is it meant to be. It is not a school, nor a graduate program. It is, in essence, a commission, and as such it is an extension of the Huntington's artistic curatorial skills as we look to enrich the local theatre scene by investing in the writers whom we admire, and in whom we deeply believe. In this way, it is not unlike programs such as the MacArthur "Genius" Grant (not that we are able to fund our writers as richly as the MacArthur Foundation does their grantees, unfortunately). Participation is by invitation, and so the Artistic staff works hard to stay abreast of what's happening in the Boston theatre community.

My advice to local playwrights: keep sending us your work.

Info on submissions can be found at http://www.huntingtontheatre.org/new_work/