Theater Begins Here 

6.11.09 | The Playwrights' Center Announces Over $200,000 in Direct Support to Playwrights


The Playwrights' Center today announced recipients of its
prestigious fellowships funded by the Jerome and McKnight Foundations

(Minneapolis, MN – June 11, 2009) —The Playwrights' Center today announced recipients of its prestigious fellowships funded by the Jerome and McKnight Foundations. The Center continues its history of significant financial support to playwrights of color through the Many Voices Fellowships and its development support to emerging playwrights through its Jerome Fellowships. The Center also announced recipients of the McKnight Advancement Grants for Minnesota playwrights of distinction, the McKnight National Residency and Commission for a playwright of national significance, and the McKnight Theater Artist Fellowships for outstanding Minnesota theater artists.

"Our fellowship programs have always been the lifeblood of the Playwrights' Center, drawing the best talent locally and nationally through a highly competitive process," said Producing Artistic Director Polly Carl in announcing this year's recipients. "Both the McKnight and Jerome Foundations recognize what these artists bring to this community and have maintained these programs at their current level despite a tight economy."

Jerome Fellowships Recipients

Jerome Fellowships award emerging American playwrights with $10,000. The five fellows will also receive $1,000 to develop their plays in the Center's renowned Ruth Easton Lab. A national panel of theater artists selected the following five recipients on the basis of artistic excellence, potential and commitment to their craft: Kristoffer Diaz, Virginia Grise, Kevin Kautzman, Dominic Orlando and Mat Smart.

Many Voices Fellowships enrich the American theater through support of beginning and emerging playwrights of color, who continue to be underrepresented in contemporary theater. With funding from the Jerome Foundation, these fellows will receive financial support, playwriting instruction, a development workshop in the Center's Lab, and ongoing mentorship opportunities. The 2009-10 fellows are: Juma B. Essie, Eric “Pogi” Sumangil, Lorena Duarte, Reginald Edmund, and Rebecca Nicholson.

McKnight Grants, Commission and Fellowship Recipients
McKnight Advancement Grants are awarded annually to two Minnesota-based playwrights whose work demonstrates exceptional artistic merit and potential. This year's recipients of the $25,000 grants are Aditi Kapil and Carson Kreitzer.

The McKnight National Residency and Commission recipient is selected annually from an impressive pool of nationally significant applicants. One playwright receives a $12,500 commission and an additional $10,000 to be put toward development of the play, and commits to a residency at the Center while the play is in development. Playwrights must have had at least two different plays fully produced by professional theaters. Past recipients include Craig Lucas, Mac Wellman, Kathleen Tolan, Ruth Margraff, Daniel Alexander Jones, and Kia Corthron. This year's recipient is Dan O'Brien.

McKnight Theater Artist Fellowships recognize outstanding work by professional artists—other than playwrights—whose skill and talent contribute to theatrical productions, and whose primary residence is in Minnesota. A diverse panel of local and national theater artists selected the following three recipients for $25,000 grants on the basis of professional achievement and sustained level of excellence: Steven Epp, Paul Herwig, and Greta Oglesby.

About the Fellowships & Grants Over the past 38 years, the Playwrights' Center has awarded playwrights more than $10 million, much of it through the support of the McKnight and Jerome Foundations. The funding provides playwrights and theater artists the time and financial security to focus on their work. This support has helped launch the careers of numerous nationally recognized artists, notably August Wilson, Lee Blessing, Suzan-Lori Parks, Craig Lucas, Jeffrey Hatcher, Kevin Kling, and Kira Obolensky. Former fellows Jordan Harrison and Carlyle Brown have gone one to receive, respectively, 2009 and 2008 Guggenheim Fellowships for playwriting.

About the Playwrights' Center The Playwrights' Center champions playwrights and new plays to feed the national theater community with new ideas, talents, stories, styles and opportunities. As a national leader in incubating potent new work, the Center focuses on both supporting playwrights and bringing new plays to production. Work developed through Playwrights' Center-funded workshops, fellowships, advancement grants, and commissions has been seen at Yale Rep, Woolly Mammoth, the Guthrie, Theater Latté Da, and many other stages.

2009-10 Jerome Fellows in playwriting

Kristoffer Diaz is a member of the Ars Nova Play Group, and a playwright-in-residence at Teatro Vista. He was one of six writers of Brink!, the anthology play at the 2009 Humana Festival of New American Plays. His plays have been developed and performed at Victory Gardens, Teatro Vista, Summer Play Festival, Hip-Hop Theater Festival, The Lark, Donmar Warehouse, South Coast Repertory, American Theater Company, Ars Nova, The Tank, Manhattan Theatre Source, New York University, Brooklyn College, and New Dramatists.

Kevin Anthony Kautzman
is an American playwright born in North Dakota and a 2009-10 Jerome Fellow at the Playwrights' Center in Minneapolis. He is an alumnus of the University of Minnesota, where he studied history and philosophy. Kevin has studied drama in Minneapolis and London at the Workhouse Theatre Company, the Central School of Speech and Drama, and the Royal Court and Soho theatres. His work has been performed in New York by the American Story Project, the Living Theatre, and Poliglot Theater and in London at the Dogstar, the Soho Studio Theatre, and the Tristan Bates Theatre. Kevin's play Then Waves was a finalist for the 2009 Yale Drama Series and the Seven Devils' and Great Plains Theatre conferences. He currently lives in Saint Paul.

Mat Smart
is the author of ten full-length plays, the book & lyrics of one musical, and numerous oneacts. Recently, The 13th of Paris premiered at City Theatre in Pittsburgh (dir. by Melia Bensussen). The Hopper Collection is published by Broadway Play Publishing and a monologue from the play will be included in Smith and Kraus' Best Men's Monologues 2008. Mr. Smart is a co-founder of Slant Theatre Project, serves on the Board of Directors for The New Harmony Project and is a member of Ars Nova's Play Group. He has been commissioned by South Coast Rep and Huntington.

Virginia Grise
is a Chicana cultural worker who has performed nationally and internationally at venues including the Jose Marti Catedra in Havana, Cuba and The University of Butare in Rwanda, Africa. Her published work includes The Panza Monologues (Evelyn Street Press) and an edited volume of Zapatista communiqués entitled Conversations with Don Durito (Autonomedia Press). Her play blu was a recipient of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Art's Latino/a Playwrighting Award and Alliance Theatre's Kendeda Award. Virginia holds her MFA in Writing for Performance from the California Institute of the Arts, where she studied with multidisciplinary artist Carl Hancock Rux.

Dominic Orlando
is a former Jerome and McKnight Fellow. His plays have been developed and produced at major venues across the country, as well as in Edinburgh, Prague, Munich, and Tokyo. He was recently commissioned by Berkeley Repertory Theater to write the book and lyrics for a new musical. He has been a writer-in-residence at The MacDowell Colony (three-time Fellow), Yaddo, The Edward Albee Foundation (multi-year), Ucross, and The Djerassi Resident Artists Program, among others. He is a Core Writer and board member of the Playwrights' Center and a founding member of the Workhaus Collective, company-in-residence at the Playwrights' Center.

2009-10 Many Voices Fellows

Juma B. Essie is a writer, performance artist, and video maker. In 2008 he performed his piece 2Real 2Be Free as part of the Jerome Naked Stages Program for emerging performance artists at Intermedia Arts. Juma's video work has screened at the Translations film festival in Seattle, Soul Night in Mexico City and as a PSA for The New Neighbors Hidden Scars program. Juma is also a volunteer with the Seward Longfellow Restorative Justice Partnership. He is originally from New Jersey and spent his adolescence in Detroit. Juma moved to the Twin Cities in 1999 where he lives with his wife and too many cats.

Eric “Pogi” Sumangil is a native Minneapolitan and has performed around the Twin Cities for nearly 10 years. Regional credits include Altar Boyz and West Side Story (Chanhassen Dinner Theatres), The Seven (La Jolla Playhouse), Cowboy Versus Samurai (Mo'olelo Performing Arts Co.), The Awesome 80s Prom (Hennepin Stages), Anything Goes w/ Sandy Duncan (Ordway Center), Pride & Prejudice (Guthrie), The Monkey King (The Children's Theater Company), HAIR (Pantages), and Bill of (W)Rights and The Pajama Game (Mixed Blood). He is a member of Actor's Equity Association and once got his name on a plaque for eating a three-pound steak. Learn more at

Lorena Duarte is a poet, playwright, teacher and journalist born in El Salvador, raised in Minnesota and educated at Harvard University. Her poetry has been published in various journals and anthologies and has won numerous awards. She represented Minnesota at both the Individual World Poetry Slam and at the National Poetry Slam in 2007 and is a prominent member of Palabristas, a Minnesota Latino poetry collective. She is an artist in residence with Young Audiences of Minnesota and Intermedia Arts and is a board member, mentor and teacher at The Loft, the largest literary organization in the United States.

Reginald Edmund was awarded the Kennedy Center's inaugural Soul Mountain Retreat for Writers of Color fellowship and was named runner up for the Lorraine Hansberry and Rosa Parks National Playwriting Awards in 2009. His plays, The Ordained Smile of Sadie May Jenkins, Southbridge, and Keepin' It 100 were developed at esteemed theaters including Ensemble Theatre of Houston, Silver House Theatre, the Playwrights' Center, Karamu House and the Mid-American Theater Conference. Reginald Edmund received his BFA in Theatre-Performance from Texas Southern University and his MFA in Playwriting at Ohio University.

Rebecca Nicholson is an aspiring African-American playwright, actress and director. In the spring of 2008 Rebecca had the leading role in Allen Hamilton's adaptation of Antigone. The play was well received and invited to participate in the Minnesota Fringe Festival. She was awarded the 2008 Student Leadership award from Minneapolis Community & Technical College for her artistic service to the college and was nominated to audition for the coveted Irene Ryan Scholarship. Rebecca hopes to create works that celebrate multiculturalism, enlighten the human spirit and contribute to a more inclusive society.

2009-10 McKnight Advancement Grant recipients

Carson Kreitzer's plays include The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer ("New Playwrights: Best Plays of 2004,"), Self Defense, or death of some salesmen ("Women Playwrights: Best Plays of 2002"), 1:23, Flesh and the Desert, Valerie Shoots Andy, Freakshow, Slither, and Take My Breath Away. Grants: NYFA, NYSCA, NEA, TCG, Jerome and McKnight Foundations. Commissions: Guthrie Theater, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Next Theatre. Affilliations: Workhaus Collective, Clubbed Thumb, New Georges, the Playwrights' Center, the Dramatists Guild, and New Dramatists. Ms. Kreitzer recently returned home from New York, where she was the first Playwrights of New York (PONY) fellow at the Lark Play Development Center.

Aditi Brennan Kapil is an actress, writer, and director of Bulgarian and Indian descent, raised in Sweden, and residing in Minneapolis, MN. She is a graduate of Macalester College with a BA in English and Dramatic Arts. Locally, her work has been produced at Mixed Blood, Heart of the Beast, and SteppingStone Theatre for Youth. Her most recent play, Love Person, was nominated for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and the ATCA/Steinberg Award, and has been produced to critical acclaim around the country. Her current work-in-progress, Agnes Under the Big Top, was selected as a Distinguished New Play Development Project by the NEA New Play Development Program hosted by Arena Stage.

2009-10 McKnight National Residency and Commission recipient

Dan O'Brien's new play The Cherry Sisters Revisited is scheduled to premiere at Actors Theatre of Louisville's Humana Festival in 2010. Recently he was a Hodder Fellow at Princeton University, as well as the inaugural Djerassi Fellow in Playwriting at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. His other plays include The House in Hydesville, The Voyage of the Carcass, The Dear Boy, Moving Picture, Key West, and Lamarck, as well as the new play The Three Christs of Ypsilanti. His awards include the American Theatre Critics Association's Osborn Award for an emerging playwright, and the Kennedy Center's Mark Twain Comedy Playwriting Award. O'Brien is a Core Writer at the Playwrights' Center.

2009-10 McKnight Theater Artist Fellows

Steven Epp is an actor, writer, and director and was co-Artistic Director at Theatre de la Jeune Lune from 1983-2008. In his 25 years with Jeune Lune, Epp collaborated on the creation and performance of over 50 productions. Acting credits include the title roles in Tartuffe, Hamlet, Figaro, and The Miser; and major roles in Yang Zen Froggs, Cyrano, Don Juan Giovanni, The 3 Musketeers, The Magic Flute, and The Little Prince. Epp adapted and directed Medea by Euripides and co-authored Children of Paradise, winner of the 1993 Outer-Critics Circle award for best new play. Epp has toured nationally and off- Broadway with Jeune Lune. He appeared most recently at The Guthrie in The Caretaker. Epp holds a degree in Theatre and History from Gustavus Adolphus College and was a 1999 Fox Fellow. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and three children.

Paul Herwig: For 26 years Paul has created and performed original work throughout France, Canada, Hungary, Scotland, and in the US from San Francisco's Theatre Artaud to Philadelphia's Painted Bride. He specializes in combining design with performance, emphasizing physical performance, visual art, and mask. Paul's primary focus is his 10-year collaboration with dancer and choreographer Jennifer Ilse, with whom he founded the performance company, Off-Leash Area. He graduated from the Lecoq School of Theatre in Paris in 1983, received a Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative grant in 2007, and currently teaches Mask and Movement for the Dancer and Actor at Macalester College.

Greta Oglesby is currently starring in Caroline or Change at the Guthrie Theater. Other theatre credits include: Five Fingers of Funk and Beggars' Strike (Children's Theatre Company); The Piano Lesson, Dinah Was, Joe Turner's Come and Gone, A Love Song for Miss Lydia, and Black Nativity (Penumbra Theatre); Gem of the Ocean (Aunt Ester) and The Tempest (Antonia), Ma Rainey in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, The Winter's Tale (Paulina), and Two Gentlemen of Verona (Antonia) (Oregon Shakespeare Festival); Crowns (Guthrie Theater); Salt Fish and Bakes (Mixed Blood Theatre); Once on this Island, King Lear, The Furies (Ten Thousand Things Theatre). Honors include the Black Theatre Alliance Award (BTAA) for her portrayal of Miss Shepard in Train Is Comin'; the Joseph Jefferson Award and BTAA for her role in Do Lord Remember Me, and a BTAA nomination for her portrayal of Aunt Ester in Gem of the Ocean.

The Playwrights' Center champions playwrights and plays to build upon a living theater that demands new and innovative works.

About the Playwrights’ Center

The Playwrights’ Center is one of the largest and most innovative playwriting centers in the country, providing major fellowships, grants, workshops, commissions, and production opportunities for playwrights. Since our founding in 1971, we have given more than $10 million to thousands of writers. Our membership has grown to nearly 1,000. In a typical year, we devote significant attention to developing approximately 50 scripts for the American stage while supporting the aspirations of hundreds of playwrights.

Programs and Services

The Ruth Easton Lab brings the Playwrights’ Center Core Writers—a group of 25-30 leading playwrights from across the country—and their collaborators to Minneapolis for play development workshops and a formal season of public readings with prominent directors, actors, dramaturgs, and designers. Core Writers are promoted through the Center’s extensive website and are provided opportunities through an extended network of colleges and universities, cultural institutions and producing theaters.

Fellowships, made possible by the McKnight and Jerome Foundations, provide over $200,000 each year for residencies, commissions, and development funds. Through these fellowships, the Playwrights’ Center functions as a home for:

  • Jerome Fellows (five emerging American playwrights)
  • Many Voices Fellows (five emerging playwrights of color)
  • McKnight Advancement grants (two Minnesota-based playwrights whose work demonstrates exceptional artistic merit and potential)
  • McKnight National Residency and Commission (one playwright selected annually from an impressive national pool)
  • McKnight Theater Artist Fellows (recognizing outstanding work by three professional artists whose skill and talent contribute to theatrical productions).

is open to all for just $50 per year and provides access to an online hub of information about the field including blogs, columns, and a database of playwriting opportunities, as well as roundtable readings and discounted classes at the Center. This is the only national, nonselective career development program for playwrights.

Local and National Partnerships elevate the role of living playwrights. The Center works with several theaters each year to develop work for their stages, including The Public Theater, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ten Thousand Things Theater Company, and others. The Center also collaborates with such prominent local cultural institutions as the Walker Art Center and Minnesota History Center.

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