Lark Uses NEA New Play Money For 'AGNES UNDER THE BIG TOP'

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Lark Uses NEA New Play Money For  'AGNES UNDER THE BIG TOP'The Lark Play Development Center was one of five theaters selected for the first-ever NEA Distinguished New Play Development Project. Each theater receives $20,000 to support early development activities for a new play which the Lark will be using to implement a national, multi-theater development strategy for Aditi Brennan Kapil's AGNES UNDER THE BIG TOP, A FAIRY TALE.

Working with Lark will be Mixed Blood Theatre, InterAct Theatre, 4th World Laboratory for International Theater Research, and The Playwrights Center. The process was designed by the playwright and her collaborator, dramaturg Liz Engelman in conjunction with Lark and its partners. Each theater will contribute to specific aspects of the development process as devised by the creative team, which will include research assistance, dramaturgy, consultations with designers, and workshop opportunities.

AGNES UNDER THE BIG TOP, A FAIRY TALE is a quintessentially American story, it is a surreal journey tracing the intersecting paths of a handful of immigrants as they struggle to form a new identity in America without losing connection to their past. Kapil says of the development opportunity, 'It's an amazing gift to have the space and means to develop this piece with both artistic integrity and institutional support, and to have national attention for this deeply personal story as it evolves into a piece of theater. This play brings together a wide array of ideas that are finally surfacing in this complex world combining American, Bulgarian, Indian, and Liberian characters, circus lore, and fairy tale.'

Administered by Arena Stage, NEA's new initiative is intended to help the nation's nonprofit theaters bring more new plays to full production. "Every year the NEA supports about 135 new theatrical premieres, but the NEA New Play Development Program, in partnership with Arena Stage, is something special. It creates a small but superb national network to develop new works from across the country," said NEA Chairman Dana Gioia. According to Lark Producing Director John Clinton Eisner, 'Through this collaboration, we hope to create a safe and effective space for theater decision-makers to come together in different configurations and form multilateral partnerships that advance playwrights and their plays into a reinvigorated repertoire.'

As the first step in this process, the Lark will host a roundtable reading and partner planning meeting on December 11 in New York, where Kapil, Engelman, Peter Karapetkov (Founder/Co-Director, The 4th World Theater Lab/Rhodopi Theater Collective), Jack Reuler (Artistic Director, Mixed Blood Theatere), and Seth Rozin (Producing Artistic Director, InterAct Theatre Company) will convene for a roundtable reading of the current draft of the play, followed by a discussion about the developmental arc and goals for the next steps in this process. Kapil was first brought to the Lark's attention when she submitted her play LOVE PERSON to its Open Access Program and was selected to the 2006 Playwrights Week festival. LOVE PERSON then went on to multiple productions through the National New Play Network at Marin Theater, Mixed Blood, Phoenix Theatre, and was nominated for the Susan Blacksmith Award and Pulitzer Prize.

The four theaters also selected for the Distinguished New Play Development program are California Shakespeare Theater (Berkeley, CA), The Children's Theatre Company (Minneapolis, MN), The Foundry Theatre (New York, NY), and Rude Mechanicals (Austin, TX). Meanwhile as part of this same initiative, the NEA also selected Center Theater Group (Los Angeles, CA) for NEA Outstanding New American Play to receive support in producing Rajiv Joseph's BENGAL TIGER AT THE BAGHDAD ZOO, which was developed at the Lark and presented as a Lark BareBones in May 2007. The McCarter Theatre (Princeton, NJ) also received the Outstanding New American Play selection.

A laboratory for new voices and new ideas, the LARK PLAY DEVELOPMENT CENTER provides playwrights with indispensable resources to develop their work. The Lark brings together actors, directors, playwrights and the community to allow writers to learn about their own work by seeing and hearing it, and by receiving feedback from a dedicated and supportive community. The company reaches into untapped local populations and across international boundaries to seek out and embrace unheard voices and diverse perspectives, celebrating differences in language and worldviews. The Lark also plays a leading role in advancing unknown writers and their works to audiences through carefully stewarded partnerships with a host of theaters, universities, community-based organizations, and NGOs, locally, nationally and globally. The Lark is led by Producing Director, John Clinton Eisner, Managing Director, Michael Robertson, and Artistic Program Director, Megan Monaghan. For more information, www.larktheatre.org.
Aditi Brennan Kapil is an actress, writer, and director, of Bulgarian and Indian descent, raised in Sweden, and currently residing in Minneapolis, MN. She is a graduate of Macalester College with a BA in English and Dramatic Arts. Her latest play, LOVE PERSON, A four part love story in Sanskrit, ASL and English, was developed during a Many Voices residency at the Playwrights Center, work-shopped at the Lark Center for New Play Development in NY, and selected for reading at the National New Play Network conference. LOVE PERSON is being produced in a rolling world premiere at Mixed Blood Theatre (MN), Marin Theater (CA), and Phoenix Theatre (IN), in the 2007/08 season. In 2008/09 it will be produced by Live Girls in Seattle, and Victory Gardens in Chicago. 'Love Person' has been nominated for the Blackburn Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, and the Steinberg Award. AGNES UNER THE BIG TOP, A FAIRY TALE is slated for production at Mixed Blood Theatre in 2010. Aditi's playwriting credits include a number of plays for youth, including THE DEAF DUCKLING, a bilingual (ASL & English) educational touring show about growing up Deaf, created in collaboration with Deaf performer Nic Zapko for Mixed Blood Theater, and THE ADVENTURES OF THE HANUMAN, KING OF THE MONKEYS, a Bollywood style musical inspired by tales from the Ramayana for SteppingStone Theater for Youth Development (March 2006). She has also collaborated on several productions with In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater, notably GOTAMA, a play about the early life of the Buddha, and BENEATH THE SURFACE, a water circus. She is currently developing CHITRANGADA: THE GIRL PRINCE for SteppingStone Theatre for Youth, a play in iambic verse loosely based on an episode in the Mahabharata. MESSY UTOPIA which she directed, and co-wrote with Seema Sueko, Velina Hasu-Houston, Janet Allard, and Naomi Iizuka, received an Ivey Award, and #6 in the City Pages Best of the Twin Cities 2007.

Photo : Michael Robertson and Geoff Cohen

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