NNPN Announces More Than $115,000 in Awards for 2016-17

Jun 23, 2016

Washington, D.C. - National New Play Network, the country's alliance of nonprofit theaters that champions the development, production, and continued life of new plays, announced its 2016-17 grant recipients, including the 2016 Smith Prize for Political Theatre, four Producer Residencies, and four Collaboration Fund awards that will support partnerships between multiple Member Theaters, playwrights, and other theater makers in various projects.

Executive Director Nan Barnett reported that “The growth of these awards mirrors the expanding impact of the Network as it continues to support the development, production and continued life of new plays and innovate and implement programs that change how American theater is discovered, made and shared.”

NNPN Affiliated Artist Jennifer Barclay received the 2016 SMITH PRIZE FOR POLITICAL THEATRE, established in 2006 by Timothy Jay Smith and a group of socially conscious donors to encourage emerging playwrights to tackle the pressing issues of our times. Her project, Ripe Frenzy, will examine the role that media plays in perpetuating the mass shootings in the US. Set in a small fictional town, the play will be told in part through some of the oldest storytelling approaches – a Greek chorus, and stories shared around a campfire – and in part through contemporary media techniques. For the latter, Jennifer has teamed up with Jared Mezzocchi, an award-winning projections designer. Barclay is a Chicago-bred actor-turned-playwright who recently relocated to Washington D.C. to join the faculty at the University of Maryland. She previously developed work with NNPN at the 2009 MFA Playwrights Workshop, in conjunction with the Kennedy Center.

In 2016-17, four emerging theater makers will serve as PRODUCERS IN RESIDENCE at NNPN’s Core Members: Cat Ramirez at InterAct Theatre Company (Philadelphia, PA), Maria Patrice Amon at San Diego REPertory Theatre (CA), Helen Jaksch at Southern Rep Theatre (New Orleans, LA), and Olivia Haller at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company (Washington, DC). The program aims to revolutionize the way theaters support new plays by educating new leaders about collaboration, training early-career producers about successful models, and providing connections to alternative networks.

The COLLABORATION FUND was established in an effort to encourage innovative, pioneering, project-based partnerships among theaters in support of playwrights and new plays. Monies are awarded annually on a competitive basis to projects proposed by National New Play Network Core Members, working together with other Member Theaters and playwrights on the development or production of a new work or works. NNPN is grateful that for 2016-17 additional monies for this program were provided by the Tides Foundation’s Venturous Theater Fund, in recognition of NNPN’s expansion of this program to include Theater to Playwright Collaborations. This new configuration is the Network’s effort to address the many different ways theater companies work together and with playwrights to develop and produce new works. This year, NNPN will support four collaborative projects.

Borderlands Theater (Tucson, AZ) will develop playwright Virginia Grise’s adaptation of the Helena Maria Viramontes’ novel, Their Dogs Came With Them, for which Grise was awarded the 2015 NNPN Annual Commission. “The collaboration consists of site specific developmental readings to create time and space for Viramontes and Grise to work closely on the adaptation; to arrive at a production ready script for the 2017-2018 season; and to share the script with targeted communities (homeless teens, women who are incarcerated, and young people of color) who are particularly impacted by the issues discussed in the play,” according to Borderlands Producing Artistic Director, Marc Pinate.

Magic Theatre (San Francisco, CA) and NNPN Affiliated Artist Mfoniso Udofia (alumni of the National Showcase of New Plays) will partner a ten-day developmental residency, culminating in a concert reading of Udofia's complete nine-play Ufot Family Cycle. From Loretta Grecco, Artistic Director: "We believe that this super-sized undertaking will afford Mfoniso not only an invaluable opportunity to hear the cycle performed together but also vital opportunities to secure new artistic homes across the country. This process of building national investment in a writer is time-consuming; we hope to jump start that process and give Mfoniso best possible odds for artistic success and financial sustainability, so that she may remain in the field for a long time. To accomplish this goal, we will invite more than a dozen national new play leaders, representing theatres on both coasts and a handful of adventurous organizations in between, to attend the reading series and host them in San Francisco if they accept.”

Salt Lake Acting Company (UT) is using NNPN support to augment its Playwrights’ Lab, “a week-long developmental play laboratory that brings together some of the most talented, generous, and fearless new play warriors in the country to delve into the work of four trailblazing playwrights,” in the words of Cynthia Fleming and Shannon Musgrave, Executive and Associate Artistic Directors, respectively. In its third iteration, the Lab will work with at least one NNPN Affiliated Artist and bring in at least five more Member Theater representatives to participate in the process as directors, dramaturgs, and other resource artists.

Amanda Jane Shank (2011 MFA Playwrights Workshop alumni) will complete a season-long Residency at Unicorn Theatre (Kansas City, MO), the first of its kind for this Core Member Theater. In addition to providing space for Shank to work on two new scripts, the playwright will also participate in dramaturgy, the In-Progress New Play Reading Series, and involvement on a number of Unicorn’s artistic programs. From Shank, a native of Kansas City, “I feel the Unicorn is the ideal home for me to develop my work at this time...because my work is fundamentally, soulfully, and inextricably informed by my experience of growing up in Kansas City in a way that begs to be torn wide open. It is because the Kansas City community provided me with my first crucial theatrical opportunities and I am finally at the point in my career that I can begin to create opportunities in return. It is because the Unicorn is a theater that has long been helmed by a female artistic director and, as an emerging playwright committed to creating work that transforms the representation of women on stage, that particular quality of mentorship is absolutely crucial to me.”


The $5,000 Prize is awarded annually as a commission, chosen by the Network, from proposals from NNPN-affiliated early career writers for a play that examines the American body politic. NNPN also compensates a Core Member theater up to $2,500 for a developmental workshop of the play, and provides an additional $2,500 to the first NNPN Core Member to fully produce the resulting work.


Jennifer Barclay is an actor-turned-playwright, formerly based in Chicago and recently relocated to DC. Jennifer developed her play Red Helen with NNPN and the Kennedy Center as part of the 2009 MFA Playwrights Conference, and she is thrilled to be working with NNPN again. Her plays been produced and developed by Steppenwolf, La Jolla Playhouse, The Old Globe, Center Stage, RedCat, The International Theatre of Vienna, The Edinburgh Fringe, Teatro Vista, Moxie, Stage Left, The Source, Samuel French, Piven, Remy Bumppo, Red Tape, Collaboraction, and others. Her plays include DannyObscuraFreedom, NYThe Human CapacityPlunderRed HelenThe Attic DwellersEat It Too and The Exile of Petie DeLarge. Her site-specific work includes the car play, The Carpool, which was commissioned and produced by La Jolla Playhouse, and Counterweight: an elevator love-play, produced in La Jolla Playhouse’s inaugural WOW Festival. Her community-based work includes Emancipated, developed with The Old Globe, and An Experiment, commissioned by the Physics department at the University of Maryland. As an actor, Jennifer has performed at Steppenwolf and Court Theatres in Chicago, The International Theatre of Vienna, The Edinburgh Fringe, and has toured her one-woman show, Clearing Hedges, both nationally and internationally. Awards include: Samuel Goldwyn Writing Award, Kennedy Center National Science Playwriting Award, Pinter Review, Princess Grace finalist, O’Neill National Playwrights Conference Finalist, Heideman Award finalist, and Northwestern University’s Mary Margaret Linn Theatre Award.  Fellowships include: The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, The Hawthornden International Writers Retreat in Scotland, and a year as the Shank Playwright in Residence at South Coast Rep. She is a graduate of Northwestern University (BS) and UC San Diego (MFA). Jennifer is currently an Assistant Professor of Playwriting and Performance at the University of Maryland, and a member of Center Stage’s Playwrights Collective.


Founded in 1988, InterAct is dedicated to presenting new and contemporary plays that explore the political, social and cultural issues of our time. The company produces four plays annually, and is actively involved in the development of new plays, workshops, and playwright support, as well as cultivating prize-winning writers, championing world premiere work, and creating community partnerships.


Cat Ramirez is grateful and excited to be an NNPN Producer in Residence at InterAct Theatre Company for 2016-17. A Philadelphia based director and theatre artist, Cat was a member of InterAct’s 2015/2016 Apprentice class.  She has worked with The Renegade Company (Bathtub Moby Dick), Quince Productions (Gayfest!), Pig Iron Theatre Company (99 Breakups), and Philadelphia Young Playwrights (Middle School Monologue Festival).  Cat also participates as core member of Philadelphia Asian Performing Artists (PAPA), an organization dedicated to the development of Asian American theatre artists.  She holds a B.A. in Drama from Vassar College and has subsequently studied with Pig Iron Theatre Company in Philadelphia and Spitfire Company in Prague.


San Diego Repertory Theatre produces intimate, exotic, provocative theatre that feeds the curious soul. It is downtown San Diego’s resident theater, promoting a more inclusive community through work that nourishes progressive political and social values. The company produces and hosts over 300 events and performances year-round on three stages at the Lyceum Theater; since its move to the Lyceum, the REP has produced 39 mainstage productions by Latino playwrights, and more than 40 world premieres.


San Diego REP’s incoming NNPN Producer in Residence, Maria Patrice Amon, is a recent PhD in drama from UCI with emphases in Critical Theory and Chicano Studies. Her dissertation is titled “Little Girls and Legal Defendants: Theatricalization and Performances of Innocence in Modern American Culture.” She is a UC Irvine Chancellor’s Fellow in drama. Maria Patrice is a dramaturg and has worked with San Diego Rep, Mo`olelo, and The University of San Diego. She has directed and produced with Brown Bag Theatre Company. Maria Patrice holds a Juris Doctorate from California Western School of Law.


Founded in 1986, Southern Rep Theatre’s mission is to develop and produce new plays that reflect the diversity of the city it calls home, to provide our audience with professional theatre of the highest artistic quality and achievement, and to establish a creative working environment that nurtures theatre professionals. As New Orleans’ leading non-profit professional theatre, we strive to use the artistry of theater to enlighten, educate, and entertain audiences, and further extend that service through educational and outreach programs.


Helen Jaksch considers both El Paso, TX and New Orleans, LA home. She is working on her Doctorate of Fine Arts in Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism at Yale where she is studying Youth-Created Theatre in America. Her writings on theatre and performance have been featured in TDR, Theater, Performing Fiction and the NOLA Defender. She has produced and served as dramaturg for new plays, devised performances, and youth playmaking programs in New York, Connecticut, Louisiana, and Texas. A passionate advocate for young voices and community artists, she is excited to be joining Southern Rep as the company’s NNPN Producer in Residence.


Now in its 36th Season, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company continues to hold its place at the leading edge of American theatre. Acknowledged as “one of the most influential outposts for the best new American plays” (The Washington Post), and “known for its productions of innovative new plays” (The New York Times), Woolly Mammoth is a national leader in the development of new works, and one of the best known and most influential mid-sized theatres in America.


Olivia Haller is a playwright, actor, and dramaturg based in Washington, DC. She is thrilled to continue her relationship with Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company by serving as their NNPN Producer in Residence after completing a literary fellowship there during their 14-15 season. Olivia received her BFA in Theatre Arts from Boston University’s School of Theatre and has also completed literary internships at Arena Stage and the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center prior to her time at Woolly. Currently, Olivia is a company member of Convergence Theatre in DC as both a creative artist and production manager. As a dramaturg, she has served on two of Convergence’s full-length productions, as well as in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. Olivia continues to devote her energies to new play development by volunteering as a script reader and working on her own plays, most recently at the Kenyon Playwrights Conference.


Borderlands Theater is a professional theater company recognized nationally and internationally for the development and production of theater and educational programs that reflect the diverse voices of the U.S./ Mexico border region. Its mission is to champion the development and production of new plays while producing plays by established playwrights whose work resonates with the diversity of its audiences; partnering with regional civic organizations to foster diversity in play development and productions; and producing diverse and quality programs for youth.


From panzas to prisons, from street theatre to large-scale multimedia performances, from princess to chafa – Virginia Grise writes plays that are set in bars without windows, barrio rooftops, and lesbian bedrooms. A recipient of the Whiting Writers' Award, Princess Grace Award in Theatre Directing and the Yale Drama Series Award, her published work includes blu (Yale University Press), The Panza Monologues co-written with Irma Mayorga (University of Texas Press), and an edited volume of Zapatista communiqués titled Conversations with Don Durito (Autonomedia Press). She earned her MFA from the California Institute of the Arts and currently lives in the Bronx.


Magic Theatre is dedicated to the cultivation of bold new plays, playwrights, and audiences – and to producing explosive, entertaining, and ideologically robust plays that ask substantive questions about, and reflect the rich diversity of, the world in which we live. Magic believes that demonstrating faith in a writer’s vision by providing a safe yet rigorous artistic home, where a full body of work can be imagined, supported, and produced, allows writers to thrive.


Mfoniso Udofia, a first generation Nigerian-American storyteller and educator, attended Wellesley College and obtained her MFA from ACT. Mfoniso's Ufot Family Cycle plays, Sojourners and Her Portmanteau, will be produced this coming Spring 2017 as part of New York Theatre Workshop's season. She is also Playwrights Realm's 2015-16 Page One Playwright and in Winter 2016 they produced the World Premiere of Sojourners. In Spring 2016, The Magic Theater in San Francisco produced the West Coast Premiere of Sojourners and the World Premiere of the third installation in the Ufot Family Cycle, runboyun. Mfoniso is currently working on Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Play On! commission translating Shakespeare’s, Othello. She’s also the Artistic Director of the NOW AFRICA: Playwrights Festival and a proud member of New Dramatists class of 2023. 


Salt Lake Acting Company's 45-year history is reflected in the expansive body of work it has produced and in the long-standing support of its most open and adventurous audience. SLAC produces seasons of thoughtful, provocative, Regional and World Premieres; nurtures, supports and develops a community of professional artists; produces and supports emerging playwrights; and makes a significant contribution to the American theatre by commissioning, developing and producing new plays. SLAC presents a year-round season of 5 to 7 Regional and World Premieres, reaching an audience of over 37,000 (including a season subscriber base of nearly 3,500), and supporting over 150 professional theatre artists annually. With a budget of $1.7 million, SLAC works under a Small Professional Theatre contract with Actors' Equity Association—a union for professional theatre artists to secure health and pension benefits and negotiate contract rights. A 501(c)3, SLAC is one of the chief performing arts organizations in Utah. SLAC has earned a loyal following by providing audiences of Salt Lake and the Intermountain West with the opportunity to experience plays that would otherwise not be produced in this area. SLAC is committed to supporting and developing a community of local professional theatre artists and to commissioning, developing and producing new plays. Through arts education programs, SLAC strives to be a resource for the arts for Utah students from kindergarten to university.


A rare opportunity for writers, the SLAC Playwrights’ Lab dedicates time, talent, and artistic resources to the exploration and investigation of new scripts. Giving writers time, space, and a community of skilled and generous artists, without the pressure of a final reading, presentation, or showing, is invaluable. SLAC brings together local and national artists to form the Lab company, which is comprised of actors, directors, dramaturgs, stage managers, and resource artists, which have included a choreographer, visual artist/designer, musicologist, composer, storyteller, and improv artist.


Founded in 1974, Unicorn Theatre enhances Kansas City by developing and producing professional, provocative new plays. Unicorn Theatre chooses plays, most of which are less than five years old, that have never been performed in Kansas City, or often anywhere at all. The Unicorn looks for plays about strong female characters, people of color, LGBT, and any marginalized group. Under the artistic and executive leadership of Producing Artistic Director Cynthia Levin, the theatre has produced more than 300 productions, with 20 percent of those being world premieres. “We believe that as theatre artists we should take responsibility for illuminating significant issues and initiating change,” Levin said. “Our hope is that every time you come to the Unicorn, you discover something about yourself you did not know before you walked in.” In the Midtown neighborhood of Kansas City, Missouri, Unicorn Theatre houses two intimate stages — The Levin Stage (formerly The Main Stage) and The Jerome Stage (added in 2008).


Amanda Jane Shank is a playwright originally from Kansas City. Various scripts have been developed in conjunction with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the National New Play Network, Skylight Theatre Company’s PlayLAB, Circle X Theatre Company, The Blank Theater Company, Unicorn Theatre, the Center for New Performance at California Institute of the Arts, Theater Masters National MFA Playwrights Festival, The Industry, The Moving Art Collective, The Prototype Festival, The Hammer Museum, and the Jim Henson Foundation. Amanda has been a finalist for the P73 Playwriting Fellowship (2015), a semi-finalist for the O'Neill Theater Center's National Playwrights Conference (2015), and twice received an honorable mention for THE LIST (2014, 2015), an industry survey that identifies new plays of excellence by female authors. Her work has been published in the U.S. through Samuel French and translated internationally. She earned her MFA in Writing for Performance from California Institute of the Arts.