Playwrights’ Center announces the 2023–24 McKnight Fellows in Playwriting and the 2023–24 McKnight National Residency & Commission recipient. These fellowships, generously supported by the McKnight Foundation, are important components of the array of opportunities that Playwrights’ Center offers to playwrights at all stages of their careers. The McKnight Fellows in Playwriting for next season are Gethsemane Herron and Rachel Jendrzejewski; the McKnight National Residency & Commission recipient is Aya Ogawa.
“We are so excited to welcome this new cohort of McKnight Fellows!” proclaims Playwrights’ Center Director of Fellowship Lynde Rosario. “The 2023–2024 playwrights will be the inaugural group to open the new Playwrights' Center space in St. Paul and we believe this is the perfect group for such an occasion. Each of the Fellows in Playwriting have demonstrated deep community care in and for Minnesota. Gethsemane came to the Twin Cities, on a Playwrights’ Center fellowship, to pursue a sustainable life as a playwright and has embraced all opportunities to engage with local artists and community neighbors. Rachel is a playwright receiving this fellowship for a second time, so she embodies its purpose to sustain artists over their careers in Minnesota. McKnight National Residency & Commission awardee Aya Ogawa is excited to pursue a new piece of writing that she’ll share with our Minnesota communities as she continues to weave her work into the fabric of the American theatre.”
For all three playwrights these fellowships provide space to continue weaving together their personal and artistic lives. “This fellowship is profoundly meaningful to me,” offers McKnight Fellow Rachel Jedrzejewski. “It's impossible to convey the vastness and layers around why; but maybe most notably, for the past five years—on top of the pandemic and everything else unfolding in the world—I've been reckoning with a cancer diagnosis that has completely upended my life. It's been difficult to know how to think about art, and career, and the future in general. I've had to reimagine so much about how I live and work. Yet this fellowship reminds me that I'm still a writer, not just a cancer patient; that it's okay to move at my own pace; that so much remains possible.”
National Residency & Commission recipient Aya Ogawa will use the opportunity to reckon with personal experience in their work, explaining, “This residency and commission will allow me—or maybe FORCE me—to prioritize my writing by carving out the time and space I need to work on my play Meat Suit: the shitshow of motherhood. I've been wanting to write about the devastating and euphoric experiences of motherhood for many years, but ironically, my responsibilities as a mom have gotten in the way. Now that my kids are a bit older and more capable, it's time for me to center my own experiences as a parent and to uplift other mothers.”
McKnight Fellow Gethsemane Herron looks forward to the ways in which she’ll feed her creative life during the fellowship: “This fellowship means unencumbered time to focus on my craft, but also my person. It’s time to delve into home. Time to meet and befriend the incredible artisans of the Twin Cities. And of course, time to wake up, stretch my body, and bunker down with my reading, my writing—the work that calls me. I am so happy that Playwright’s Center gets to be my lily pad once more.”
Finally, Producing Artistic Director Jeremy B. Cohen sums up Playwrights’ Center’s enthusiasm for these playwrights, saying, "Aya is one of the most exciting writers today in the theater field—I've been following their work for years, and I'm thrilled we'll get to support them in making their next great piece. Being able to nurture Rachel and Gethsemane's next steps is so exciting for me, as they are both playwrights and theater makers that the whole field is looking to in terms of their bodies of new work."
The McKnight Fellowship in Playwriting recognizes and supports mid-career playwrights living and working in Minnesota who demonstrate a sustained body of work, commitment, and attributes of artistic merit. This fellowship includes a stipend, new play development resources, and travel funds. Past recipients include: Carlyle Brown, Lisa D'Amour, Barbara Field, Keli Garrett, Marvin González De León, Jeffrey Hatcher, Christina Ham, JuCoby Johnson, Tori Sampson, TyLie Shider, Carson Kreitzer, May Lee-Yang, Kira Obolensky, Savannah Reich, Harrison David Rivers, Stacey Rose, Katie Ka Vang, and Rhiana Yazzie.
The McKnight National Residency and Commission supports an established playwright from outside of Minnesota who demonstrates a sustained body of work, commitment, and distinct artistic vision. The recipient of the Residency and Commission will create a new play, receive new play development support, and have the opportunity to engage with local artists and Playwrights’ Center staff and fellows, creating dialogue between Minnesota-based artists and those outside of the community. Past recipients include: Sharon Bridgforth, Kia Corthron, Erik Ehn, Idris Goodwin, Karen Hartman, Daniel Alexander Jones, Sibyl Kempson, Taylor Mac, Dan O'Brien, Heather Raffo, Betty Shamieh, James Anthony Tyler, and Mfoniso Udofia.
Both fellowships run from July 1, 2023 to June 30, 2024.
Gethsemane Herron is a playwright from Washington, D.C. She has developed work with Ars Nova, The Fire This Time Festival, The Hearth, JAG Productions, The Liberation Theatre Company, Playwrights’ Center, Roundabout Theatre Company, and WP Theater. She was a 20–22 member of Ars Nova’s Play Group, a 20–22 member of the WP Lab, and a 21–22 Jerome Fellow/22–23 Many Voices Fellow at Playwrights’ Center. Winner of the Columbia@Roundabout Reading Series. Winner of the 45th Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Short Play Festival. 2022 Recipient of the Helen Merrill Award. Finalist for the Van Lier New Voices Fellowship at the Lark and the Founders Award at New York Stage and Film. MFA: Columbia University. Proud member of the Dramatists Guild. She’s enamored with Sailor Moon & other magical girl warriors. She writes for survivors.
Rachel Jendrzejewski (she/her) is an experimental playwright who frequently collaborates with choreographers, musicians, and visual artists to explore new interdisciplinary and performative vocabularies. Her work has been developed and/or presented by Red Eye Theater, Walker Art Center, Hair+Nails Gallery, Weisman Art Museum, Joe's Pub at the Public Theater, MASS MoCA, and Tricklock Company, among others. Publications include MERONYMY (forthcoming from 53rd State Press), ENCYCLOPEDIA (Spout Press), and IN WHICH _______ AND OTHERS DISCOVER THE END (collaboration with SuperGroup; Plays Inverse). She is honored to be a Playwrights’ Center McKnight Fellow and co-artistic director at Red Eye. MFA Playwriting, Brown University.
Instagram: @__rachelka__ (note: two underscores on each side)
Aya Ogawa is a Tokyo-born, Brooklyn-based writer, director, performer, and translator whose work centers women/non-binary perspectives and utilizes the stage to explore cultural identity. They wrote, directed, and performed in The Nosebleed (Japan Society with The Chocolate Factory Theater, 2021; Lincoln Center Theater, 2022; Woolly Mammoth Theatre, 2023) for which they were awarded an Obie Award. They have translated numerous plays by contemporary Japanese playwrights including Toshiki Okada, Satoko Ichihara, and Yudai Kamisato. Resident playwright, New Dramatists; Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants for Artists; President’s Award in Performing Arts, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.