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Playwrights' Center & Jerome Foundation announce major expansion in Many Voices Fellowship

08-08-2012

The Playwrights' Center in partnership with the Jerome Foundation today announced a major expansion of its Many Voices Fellowships for early-career playwrights of color. 

Beginning in July 2013, the Many Voices Fellowship award will increase from $5,650 to $12,500, of which $2,500 is specifically designated to assist with living expenses. In addition to this award, fellows will have access to funds of $1,500 to develop new plays at the Center. 

Additionally, for the first time in the program's history, the Playwrights' Center will accept applications from national playwrights for one of the two 2013-14 Many Voices Fellowships. The national Many Voices Fellow must be in residency in Minnesota during the grant year, and may use his or her living expenses to assist with travel and relocation. 

Finally, the Many Voices Fellowship will focus more intensively on building connections with theater leaders and companies in the Twin Cities and nationwide through on-site visits, exclusive master classes, and complimentary tickets to productions.

"By expanding its support at this critical time, the Many Voices program opens up exciting new opportunities for early-career playwrights of color and ultimately for theaters and audiences nationwide," said Playwrights' Center Producing Artistic Director Jeremy B. Cohen. "I am proud to continue our close collaboration with the Jerome Foundation in taking this critical fellowship to the next level."

"The Jerome Foundation's connection with the Playwrights' Center is a vital one, growing and evolving as the Foundation seeks to understand the needs of emerging playwrights and to provide opportunities for meaningful support," said Cynthia Gehrig, President of the Jerome Foundation. "Playwrights of color participate in all programs and services offered by the Playwrights' Center, but the re-envisioned Many Voices Fellowship allows for focused and specific attention and support."

In addition to the expanded fellowship, the Many Voices program will continue providing mentorship support for two Minnesota-based, beginning playwrights of color. Mentorships offer a $1,000 stipend and educational resources to introduce participants to the nuts and bolts of playwriting. 

Information on the Many Voices program is available at pwcenter.org/manyvoices. Applications for both the Fellowships and the Mentorships will be posted in early September and due February 7, 2013. Applicant information sessions will be held in New York, Minneapolis, and streaming online on #NEWPLAY TV (newplaytv.info), with dates to be announced.

FROM CONVERSATION TO TRANSFORMATION

The Many Voices program was instituted in 1994 to increase cultural diversity in the contemporary theater. Since then, the program has supported nearly 100 artists, including Ike Holter, Naomi Iizuka, Daniel Alexander Jones, Aditi Brennan Kapil, and Janaki Ranpura. For the past six years, Many Voices has been overseen by Program Coordinator Christina Ham, an established Minneapolis playwright and screenwriter. The program consists of two parts: Fellowships, for playwrights with previous playwriting experience or training; and Mentorships, for writers with little or no playwriting experience.

In recent years Many Voices has undergone a significant transformation, driven by two field studies commissioned by the Jerome Foundation and the Playwrights' Center. The first, a local study in 2008, resulted in the formation of separate tracks within the program to better serve writers of different experience levels. The second, a local and national study, was conducted in 2011. 

The latter study involved conversations with more than 50 playwrights and theater leaders around the country, including alumni of the Many Voices program, about the state of affairs for emerging playwrights of color and the program's potential impact. Respondents cited the difficulty faced by these writers in finding an artistic home and forging connections with producing theaters. 

"This inquiry highlighted the necessity of having a program that is uniquely positioned to identify, promote and nurture a diversity of voices in the American theater," said Ham. "The Many Voices Fellowship program in its new iteration is built to address these needs."

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