Playwrights’ Center Champions a Courageous New Cohort of Fellows, Uplifting Transformation and Resilience in Theater Field
Announces the 2022-23 Jerome Fellows, Many Voices Fellows, and Many Voices Mentees
Editor's note: A previous iteration of this release listed Jake Brasch among the Jerome Fellows. With Brasch's acceptance into Juilliard, we are thrilled to welcome back to Playwrights' Center Zola Dee–a current Many Voices fellow–as a 2022-2023 Jerome Fellow.
MINNEAPOLIS (March 28, 2022) —It has been a year of transformation and resilience, and the theater community is meeting the moment with a renewed sense of both. Playwrights’ Center has continued in its tireless mission to uplift an inclusive and equitable theater future, elevating an array of voices in harmony with one another, culminating in a robust number of Jerome and Many Voices Fellowships.
The Center is excited to announce the 2022-2023 Jerome Fellows Francisca Da Silveira, Zola Dee, Blossom Johnson, and Minghao Tu; Many Voices Fellows J. Corey Buckner, Gethsemane Herron, and Liqing Xu; and Many Voices Mentee Johanna Keller Flores. In partnership with the Jerome Foundation, these fellowship programs have anchored the Center’s support of playwrights and theatermakers for over 40 years. "I couldn't be more thrilled for this new cohort of playwrights to join the Playwrights' Center family,” said Producing Artistic Director Jeremy B. Cohen. “Our partnership with the Jerome Foundation has spanned nearly five decades around supporting early career playwrights, and this particular set of artists will continue that legacy — reflecting truths of our contemporary world in powerful, enlightening and joyful ways. We are so excited to lift up their voices and support sharing them with the world."
For Many Voices Fellow J. Corey Buckner, the experience will be one that braids the traditional writing experience with a deeply felt sense of belonging. “I am incredibly excited for the opportunity to be a part of a community of writers. Writing is so frequently a solitary experience, even more so due to today’s circumstances.” Adding, “I am really looking forward to being challenged and inspired by the work everyone brings to the room, as well as really learning all I can from the more experienced writers at the Playwrights’ Center. I plan to be a sponge.”
Echoing those sentiments, Jerome Fellow Francisca Da Silveira speaks to the power of collaboration in shaping a future-forward vision. “I want to be in spaces and with other artists who want to be in the room, want to take risks, grow and experiment.” Looking ahead, she is eager to immerse herself in a new geography. “I am ready for a new theatrical adventure, and what better place to have that adventure than with the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis? I’m excited to explore the Twin Cities and immerse myself in its arts world, to learn from its artistic leaders and contribute my own vision where I can.”
The Center’s commitment to equitable access has been rooted in its identity for decades, and is deeply felt by incoming playwrights including Many Voices Fellow Gethsemane Herron. “For those who are outside of the MFA pipeline–either before, after, or opting out–this fellowship keeps us connected to great theatrical minds, introduces us to the Midwest theater market, and best of all, gives us time and quiet to dream with support.”
“As an immigrant writer, I search for a place that says: ‘You belong … And we’ll accompany each other as we find our paths, our movements, and the things we have to say to the world,’ adds Jerome Fellow Minghao Tu. “With [this fellowship], such a place emerges. And I could not have dreamed of a better place than the Playwrights’ Center—with its incredible history, resources, and people.”
For some, the occasion is one that meets at the intersection of timing and opportunity. “I don't think I was at the point in my artistry to delve deep into myself and write a play bringing together so much thought, so many pieces of my identity, and research until now,” reflects Many Voices Mentee Johanna Keller Flores. “I have concepts in my head, history and myths from Peru I've bookmarked to research and immerse myself in. This feels like exactly the kind of support I need to get myself writing the play I've been dreaming about for the past two years.”
Jerome and Many Voices Fellows will spend a year in residency at the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis, working in an individualized and hands-on way with the experienced and connected Playwrights’ Center artistic staff. In addition to a $20,000 stipend, fellows receive $3,000 in play development funds to workshop new plays with professional directors, dramaturgs and actors. Playwrights’ Center will also build connections between these playwrights and producers of new work around the country. This holistic and customized combination of financial support, workshops with collaborators, and professional connections is career-changing for these playwrights.
“In my current artistic life, I often struggle to find the energy and time to write due to having to constantly hustle for the next job or opportunity” notes Many Voices Fellow Liqing Xu. “ With the support offered by the fellowship, the gift of uninterrupted deep reflection, thinking, and writing will be possible for me. This fellowship means that I can truly focus on the stories that are important to me.”
For Jerome Fellow Blossom Johnson, the opportunity is one of elevated, community centered growth. “Support from a fellowship allows you to dream of the many plays you can write, and support from the Playwrights’ Center provides you with a creative team that will collaborate with you to get your script to where you want it to be.”
As Buckner relates, “Theater is meant to be heard and experienced, so I’m really excited to hear these characters use voices other than mine. I am deeply into the draft phase of a brand new play, and I always have new ideas I’m chewing on. I can’t wait to plant seeds and see what grows.”
Speaking to power of human connection and growth, Jerome Fellow Zola Dee addresses the fellowships’ particular impact in 2022: “I'm most excited to dig deeper into the Minneapolis theater scene and community this year. This will be my second year at the Playwrights' Center and I feel like I planted really good seeds my first year. This second year I will be able to see the seeds grow and sprout into something really cool and beautiful. I'm ready to invest more time into this community of theater-makers and dream up some cool art with them.”
Playwrights’ Center serves as an artistic home for over 45 playwriting fellows and Core Writers annually, in addition to supporting 2,400+ member playwrights across the globe, and partnering with producing theaters to move work from page to stage.
2022-2023 JEROME FELLOWS
Jerome Fellowships are awarded annually to early-career playwrights. Playwrights’ Center’s 2022–2023 Jerome Fellows are:
Francisca Da Silveira
Previous recipients of the Jerome Fellowship include Lucas Baisch, Lee Blessing, Mia Chung, Lisa D’Amour, Kristoffer Diaz, Dan Dietz, Marvin González De León, Sarah Gubbins, Gethsemane Herron, Naomi Iizuka, Carson Kreitzer, Melanie Marnich, Anna Moench, Nubia Monks, Tori Sampson, Rhiana Yazzie, Martín Zimmerman, and August Wilson.
2022-2023 MANY VOICES FELLOWS
Many Voices Fellowships are awarded annually to early-career playwrights of color and/or Indigenous playwrights. Playwrights’ Center’s 2022-2023 Many Voices Fellows are:
J. Corey Buckner
Previous recipients of the Many Voices Fellowship include Sharif Abu-Hamdeh, Benjamin Benne, Marisa Carr, Zola Dee, Lester Eugene Mayers, Janaki Ranpura, Harrison David Rivers, Stacey Rose, James Anthony Tyler, P.C. Verrone, Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay, Josh Wilder, and Kit Yan.
2022-2023 MANY VOICES MENTEES
The Many Voices Mentorship is awarded to a Minnesota-based beginning playwright of color and/or Indigenous playwright. The 2022-2023 Many Voices Mentee is:
Johanna Keller Flores
Previous recipients of the Many Voices Mentorship include Ansa Akyea, ShaVunda Brown, Oya Mae Duchess-Davis, Antonio Duke, Max Delgado, Julia Gay, brianne a. hill, Jamil Jude, Junauda Petrus, Atlese Robinson, and James A. Williams.
Photos of the artists are available at https://bit.ly/3Nhsz9c
Images courtesy of the artists.
J. Corey Buckner is a Chicago-Based autistic playwright. His play Cross Roads: An Igbo Folktale was a finalist for the 2020 Bay Area Playwrights Festival, and his play BLERDS was a semi-finalist for the 2022 Bay Area Playwrights Festival. He has also been fortunate to develop work with Chicago Dramatists, The New Coordinates, and Jackalope Theatre Company. His work, often urban fantasy, focuses on identity, community, and challenging toxic masculinity.
His sketch comedy and storytelling has been seen all across Chicago, including at Stage 773 as part of the first annual Story Arc Sketch Comedy Festival, The Playground Theatre, pH Comedy Theatre, The Crowd Theater, and Judy’s Best Lounge at The Second City. J. Corey holds a BFA in Acting from Shenandoah Conservatory.
Francisca Da Silveira (she/her) is a Cape Verdean-American playwright and Boston native. She holds a BFA in Dramatic Writing from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and an MSc in Playwriting from the University of Edinburgh. She has been featured in ArtsBoston, The LA Times, and American Theatre Magazine. Her plays have been developed with Theatre503 (London), The Traverse Theatre (Edinburgh), Company One Theatre (Boston), The Fire This Time Festival (New York), The Playwrights Realm (New York), The Public Theater (New York), and La Jolla Playhouse (San Diego). Fran’s play NOT-FOR-PROFIT (OR THE EQUITY, DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION PLAY) was featured in The Playwrights’ Realm’s INK’D Festival in April 2021 and in La Jolla Playhouse’s DNA New Works Series in July 2021. Her play CAN I TOUCH IT? was featured in the National New Play Network’s 2020 National Showcase of New Plays in November 2020 and will receive a World Premiere production at Company One Theatre in July 2022.
She was a 2020-2021 Playwrights Realm Writing Fellow and is currently an Affiliated Artist with the National New Play Network, member of The Public Theater's 2020-2023 Emerging Writer's Group and is under commission with Brooklyn-based theater Colt Coeur.
Zola Dee is a playwright, poet, and vocalist whose works are deeply invested in exploring Black Americana. Her plays include: GUNSHOT MEDLEY: Part 1, Smile, Goddamnit, Smile, and Rain, River, Ocean. Her work has been seen and/or developed with Rogue Machine Theater, Collaborative Artists Bloc, The Playwright’s Center, Hi-Arts, and the Edinburgh Fringe. Other accomplishments include: 2021-2022 Many Voices Fellow at the Playwrights Center, member of CTG Writer’s Workshop, and 2017-2018 Core Apprentice at The Playwrights' Center.
She is a graduate from CalArts with a BFA in Acting and a minor in Creative Writing. She currently serves as the Education and Professional Training Coordinator at the Guthrie and has worked as the Artistic Associate at The Pasadena Playhouse. She is currently managed by Management 360 in Los Angeles.
Johanna Keller Flores is a Peruana American theater artist who’s out here trying to tell stories close to her heart for her queer and trans Black and brown familia. She was born and raised on the Dakota Land of St. Paul, Minnesota, and also has roots in Chimbote, Peru. She has written the short plays ANGELITA, Marixa y La Depre, ceviche con cancha, Mal Ojo, and other pieces. Johanna’s writing exists in the spaces where queerness, mixed Peruana identity, magic, and spirits come together across time. She has had the sincerest pleasure of creating in her Twin Cities home in recent years, while assistant stage managing, writing, directing, and performing with Pangea World Theatre, Twin Cities Media Alliance, Teatro del Pueblo, Full Circle Theatre, Lightning Rod at Pillsbury House Theatre, 20% Theatre, Gadfly Theatre, BareBones Productions, Exposed Brick Theatre, Threshold Theater and Alliance for Latinx Minnesota Artists. Te mando muchisimo amor, ya?
Gethsemane Herron is a playwright from Washington, D.C. She has developed work with JAG Productions, The Hearth, The Fire This Time Festival, The Liberation Theater Company, Roundabout Theatre Company, The Playwrights’ Center, Ars Nova, and WP Theater. She is a Resident Artist with Ars Nova’s PlayGroup, a 2020-2022 member of the WP Lab, and a 2021-2022 Jerome Fellow at the Playwrights’ Center. Additional residencies from VONA and the Millay Colony. Winner of the Columbia@Roundabout Reading Series. Winner of the 45th Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Short Play Festival. Semi-Finalist for the Princess Grace Playwriting Fellowship and the Bay Area Playwrights Festival. Finalist for Space on Ryder Farm’s Creative Residency, the Van Lier New Voices Fellowship at the Lark, and the Founders Award at New York Stage and Film.
MFA: Columbia University. Gethsemane splits her time between New York City and Minneapolis, where she is a Proud member of the Dramatists Guild. She’s enamored with Sailor Moon and other magical girl warriors. She writes for survivors.
Blossom Johnson is a Diné storyteller, playwright, teaching artist, and screenwriter. She is from The Yé’ii Dine’é Táchii’nii (Giant People) clan, and her maternal grandfather is from the Deeshchíí’nii (Start of the Red Streak People) clan.
She was raised by her grandmother on the very top of Dził Yijiin (Black Mesa), AZ, and she’s always been surrounded by stories. When she opens the front door of her grandma’s yellow house, she can see a coal mine. Below the mesa is an old run-down restaurant where her mother used to hustle as a waitress during the summer in her teen years, and there is an old store where her grandmother would up-sale her handmade jewelry to tourists by the entrance. The restaurant and the store have now been closed for years, because what was taken from the earth was diminished, so no one stayed, and they eventually went out of business. The people that stayed are Diné and their stories–her stories–are thriving. When she creates, she writes for her people and the stories she writes come from memories, experiences, and family history. In her writing, she reveals truths that are hard to face. She balances the darkness with humor, so the viewer has a chance to breathe and laugh.
Blossom has been commissioned by AlterTheatre Ensemble and has been awarded a residency with Willowtail Springs/Durango PlayFest. She is excited to make a smooth transition from theater to film narrative with the In Progress NEXUS Program in St. Paul, MN. Additionally, she has been awarded the 2022 First Peoples Fund Cultural Capital Fellowship and is proud to be a recipient of The Playwrights’ Center 2022-2023 Jerome Fellowship.
Blossom holds an MFA in Dramaturgy from Columbia University and a BA in Theatre from Arizona State University. She is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild and the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americans (LMDA).
Minghao Tu is an immigrant playwright from Wuhan, China. He has been a resident of Pipeline Theatre Company’s PlayLab and a Travis Bogard Artist-in-Residence at the Eugene O’Neill Foundation. His works have been developed/produced at Yangtze Repertory Theatre of America (Clubhouse Series, New York Times’ “Theatre to Stream” picks), Tofte Lake Center, Voyage Theater Company, New York Public Library, Ground Floor Theatre, Lucky Chaos Productions, and UT New Theatre; featured on The Steppenwolf Theatre’s The Mix; finalist for the Woodward/Newman Award at the Bloomington Playwrights Project, and the Van Lier New Voices Fellowship at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater; and semifinalists at the O’Neill’s National Theatre Conference, PlayPenn, Ground Floor at Berkeley Rep, and Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries at American Shakespeare Center. He was a Michener fellow at UT Austin.
Liqing Xu (they/she) is a playwright from Davis, California. Liqing is passionate about uncovering the intersection of power and identity. Their Yellow Trilogy includes Yellow Fever (premiered internationally in Shanghai, China, to sold-out audiences), Yellow Dream$ (Zarkower Award for Playwriting, PWC Core Apprentice Finalist), and upcoming Yellow Mirrors. Their work has been supported by Theater Mu and Second Stage, and they are a proud inaugural member of the Mu Tang Clan. They received their BFA in Film and Television from NYU Tisch, and are a graduate of Hunter College’s MFA Playwriting program.
ABOUT PLAYWRIGHTS’ CENTER
The Playwrights’ Center sustains, develops, and advocates for playwrights and their work to realize their full artistic potential. Through the practice of inclusive theater-making, Playwrights’ Center fosters engagement towards an equitable, empathetic, and boundlessly imaginative world. The Center serves playwrights by starting and sustaining careers, developing new work, and connecting playwrights to theaters. Each year at the Center, fellows and Core Writers receive more than $400,000 in direct support, 70+ new plays are workshopped, playwrights connect with 100 producing theaters through partnership programs, and over 2,400 member playwrights from around the world find resources to achieve their artistic vision. Since its founding in 1971, the Playwrights’ Center has become one of the nation’s most generous and well-respected theater organizations, helping launch the careers of numerous nationally recognized artists such as August Wilson, Lee Blessing, Jordan Harrison, Carlyle Brown, Craig Lucas, Jeffrey Hatcher, Melanie Marnich, and Kira Obolensky. Work developed through Center programs has been seen nationwide on such stages as Yale Rep, Woolly Mammoth, the Guthrie, Goodman, and many others.
Programs and Services
Believing everyone has a story to tell, Playwrights’ Center Membership is open to all and provides over 2,400 playwrights worldwide with tools, resources, and support. Benefits include a database of playwriting opportunities, online and in-person seminars and classes, access to readings with professional actors, dramaturgical services, and more. In addition, the Playwrights’ Center’s New Plays on Campus program serves dozens of colleges and universities nationwide, providing script-matching services, arranging playwright residencies, and offering immersive apprenticeships to student playwrights.
The Core Writer program gives 25-35 of the most exciting playwrights from across the country the time and tools to develop new work for the stage. All Core Writers receive play development workshops at the Center, in collaboration with prominent directors, actors, dramaturgs, and designers. Selected work by Core Writers makes up the Center’s formal season of public readings: the PlayLabs festival and the Ruth Easton New Play Series. Core Writers are also promoted by the Center and provided opportunities through an extensive network of colleges and universities, cultural institutions, and producing theaters.
Fellowships, made possible by the McKnight and Jerome foundations, and the Venturous Theater Fund of the Tides Foundation provide more than $400,000 each year for residencies, commissions, and development funds. Beyond the financial stipend, the value of fellowships is more than doubled with the year-long support the Playwrights’ Center adds through workshops with professional collaborators and through the connections the Center makes between playwrights and producers of new work. This holistic and customized combination of financial support, access to talent, and professional connections is career-changing for most playwrights. Fellowship programs: Jerome Fellows, Many Voices Fellows and Mentees, McKnight Fellows in Playwriting, McKnight National Residency and Commission, McKnight Theater Artist Fellows, Venturous Playwright Fellows, Core Apprentices.
Local and national partnerships elevate the role of living playwrights. Through the Regulars partnership program, the Playwrights’ Center partners with 100 theaters around the country to bring their artistic staff to the Center in order to spend time with playwrights and to co-develop new plays with a keen eye towards production. In fact, 60% of these plays have gone on to full production within two years (rather than the average seven-year timeframe for most plays to see production).
Recent Playwrights’ Center co-development projects include “Isaac Asimov Grand Master Funk” by Herbert Siguenza at San Diego Rep; the Afro-Atlantic Festival with Carlyle Brown & Company and Camargo Foundation; “Legacy Land” by Stacey Rose at Kansas City Repertory; “FLEX” by Candrice Jones at Actors’ Theatre of Louisville; “Scarfoot Lives” by Idris Goodwin at Arena Stage; “Little Women” by Kate Hamill at The Jungle Theater; “The Thanksgiving Play” by Larissa Fasthorse at Artist Repertory Theatre; “The Great Leap” by Lauren Yee at Denver Center Theatre and the Guthrie Theater.
ABOUT THE JEROME FOUNDATION
The Jerome Foundation, created by artist and philanthropist Jerome Hill (1905-1972), seeks to contribute to a dynamic and evolving culture by supporting the creation, development, and production of new works by early career/emerging artists. The Foundation makes grants to early career artists and those nonprofit arts organizations that serve them in the state of Minnesota and the five boroughs of New York City.