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Center for Theater Commons awarded $760k grant

Dan O'Brien
January 07, 2013

A multi-million-dollar nationwide initiative from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to fund the work of 14 playwrights over the next three years is anticipated to have a big impact on enhancing theater here in Boston and in 10 other cities.

The Center for the Theater Commons (CTC) at Emerson will receive a $760,000 grant — half of which will be used for playwrights’ travel and research expenses — as part of the initiative, according to the Boston Globe, which reported that the Mellon Foundation awarded $3.7 million for the entire initiative.

The goal of the initiative is to allow these accomplished playwrights to focus more on their work and less on trying to make ends meet in a field in which stable income can be difficult. Each playwright will collect a salary and benefits over the three years, so he or she can concentrate almost exclusively on theater projects at Emerson and the other institutions.

All of the artists involved will hold short-term residencies at Emerson College.

“Emerson is delighted to play a role in this important and ambitious initiative,” said Emerson President Lee Pelton. “As a leading institution of higher education in communication and the arts, Emerson is the perfect home for the Center for the Theater Commons, and by extension, a grateful partner with The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and these 14 theaters. It’s an honor to be part of an initiative that will continue to move theater into the 21st century.”

“That we will have Commons producers and playwrights in 14 theaters sharing work, practice, and ideas with the field is really thrilling,” said Polly Carl, director of CTC. “Transparency, access, and collaboration are 21st-century values that are critical to the future relevance of our art form.”

The CTC is a research center and communications hub for new theatrical work that joined Emerson College last spring as part of the College’s Office of the Arts.

Additionally, the initiative will pay for freelance Common Producers, hired by CTC, who will thoroughly review the work of the playwrights and share their findings through social media and other channels. Real-time updates on the playwright initiative will be made using CTC’s online journal, HowlRound, its interactive map, New Play Map, and by using the #newplay tag on Twitter.

In addition to the Globe, news of the initiative was reported online by the New York Times.

The 14 playwrights are: Melinda Lopez, Huntington Theatre Company of Boston; David Adjmi, Soho Repertory Theatre of New York City; Dan Le Franc, Playwrights Horizons of New York City; Robert O’Hara, Wooly Mammoth Theatre Company of Washington, D.C.; Luis Alfaro, Oregon Shakespeare Festival of Ashland, Oregon; Pearl Cleage, Alliance Theatre of Atlanta; Marcus Gardley, Victory Gardens Theater of Chicago; Nathan Louis Jackson, Kansas City Repertory Theatre of Kansas City, Missouri; Julie Marie Myatt, South Coast Repertory of Costa Mesa, California; Peter Nachtrieb, Z Space of San Francisco; Qui Nguyen, Mixed Blood Theatre Company of Minneapolis; Kira Obolensky, Ten Thousand Things of Minneapolis; Will Power, Dallas Theater Center of Dallas; and Andrew Saito, Cutting Ball Theater of San Francisco.

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