Mona Mansour Receives 2014 Middle East America Distinguished Playwright Award
Silk Road Rising, Golden Thread Productions, and Lark Play Development Center are proud to announce that Mona Mansour, author of Urge for Going, The Hour of Feeling and The Way West, has been chosen to receive the 2014 Middle East America Distinguished Playwright Award. Honorable mentions went to playwrights Bianca Bagatourian, Ismail Khalidi, Daria Polatin, Mishael Shulman and Zohar Tirosh-Polk.
The award is part of Middle East America: A National New Plays Initiative, a first-of-its-kind tri-coastal collaboration designed to encourage and support the development of Middle Eastern American playwrights and plays of the highest artistic caliber and to enrich the canon of American dramatic literature. The program aims to challenge both the lack of representation and the one-dimensional stereotypical representation of persons of Middle Eastern descent on America's stages.
The prize, which is granted every three years to an American writer of a Middle Eastern background by a consortium composed of Chicago's Silk Road Rising, San Francisco's Golden Thread Productions, and New York's Lark Play Development Center, comes with a $10,000 fellowship to write a new play of the author's choice, artistic development support for three years and possible productions at both Silk Road Rising and Golden Thread. During the play's development and production arc, representatives of each partner organization, along with Mansour, will travel to each city-Chicago, New York, and San Francisco-to observe the play's creative process and to engage in public conversations and panel events about Middle Eastern American voices. Lisa Rothe, Director of Offsite Programs and Partnerships at the Lark, says "With these three exceptional institutions supporting the development of the play, I can't wait to see what Mona creates as the new Middle East America (MEA) fellow."
The winner was chosen from a competitive application process by a selection committee composed of Silk Road Rising's Artistic Director Jamil Khoury, Golden Thread's Artistic Director Torange Yeghiazarian and Lark's Director of Offsite Programs & Partnerships Lisa Rothe. The reading committee was composed of a wide range of theater artists and leaders including Suzy Fay (Associate Program Director, Lark Play Development Center), Tracy Cameron Francis (freelance director, Artistic director of Hybrid Theatre Works), Kristin Horton (Professor, NYU Gallatin; director), Lavina Jadhwani (Artistic Associate, Silk Road Rising), Hana Kadoyama (stage manager/dramaturg), Lucinda Kidder (Founder and Co-Director of Silverthorne Theater Company), Evren Odcikin (Literary Artistic Associate, Golden Thread Productions) and Corey Pond (Production Manager, Silk Road Rising).
Mansour's play The Way West opens in April at Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Urge for Going, produced by Golden Thread, was nominated for Best Play by Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle. Her work has also been produced in the Humana Festival at Actors Theatre of Louisville and the Public Theater. She is the recipient of a 2012 Whiting Writer's Award. Mansour says of receiving the MEA fellowship "I am thrilled to receive this year's Middle East America award. In the years since I first applied for this award, I have come to see how important the Lark, Golden Thread, and Silk Road Rising are to the Middle Eastern theater community, and I am grateful that I will have the chance to do work that involves all three entities."
Of Mansour's work, Jamil Khoury, Founding Artistic Director, Silk Road Rising says: "Mona exemplifies the spirit of the award both in her extraordinary talent as a playwright and her commitment to deepening and expanding representation of Arab Americans. As her body of work so beautifully demonstrates, hers is a unique and refreshing voice in the American theatre. Beholden neither to the orthodoxies of identity politics nor the fallacies of 'post-racialism,' Mona writes to discover and subvert, to uncover and disrupt. 'Authenticity' and 'hybridity' and 'citizenship' will be defined on her terms, and in her words, always with an eye towards reinvention and change."
Torange Yeghiazarian, Golden Thread Artistic Director, commented "I'm delighted to welcome Mona to the Middle East America family. The program's continued success and growing recognition is a testament to the talent and thoughtfulness of the playwrights it now represents." The 2011 Middle East America award went to Yussef El Guindi to develop and write his play The Mummy and the Revolution, a political farce about love and revolution, which has received a studio retreat at Lark and a public reading at Silk Road Rising and Golden Thread Productions. The inaugural 2008 award went to Adriana Sevahn Nichols for her play Night Over Erzinga, about three generations of an Armenian immigrant family in America. Night Over Erzinga will be produced by Hamazkayin, an Armenian Cultural Organization, as a tri-lingual production - English, Western Armenian and Turkish. It was produced at Golden Thread in 2011 and Silk Road Rising in 2012.
About MONA MANSOUR: Mona Mansour's play The Way West will get its world premiere in spring of 2014 at Steppenwolf, directed by Amy Morton. The play recently received the 2013 Sky Cooper New American Play Prize from Marin Theatre Company, where it will get its West Coast premiere in spring 2015. The play received a BareBones workshop at the Lark Play Development Center (directed by Linsay Firman), where Mona was a Fellow in 2012. The Hour of Feeling (directed by Mark Wing-Davey) received its world premiere in the 2012 Humana Festival in Louisville. Following that, it was part of the High Tide Festival in the U.K. as part of the Rifle Hall plays. Urge for Going (directed by Hal Brooks) received a LAB production in the 2011 season at the Public Theater, and just had its West Coast premiere at San Francisco's Golden Thread (directed by Evren Odcikin). The Vagrant, the third play in the trilogy, was workshopped at the 2013 Sundance Theater Institute with Mark Wing-Davey directing. Mona was a member of the Public Theater's Emerging Writers Group, a Core Writer at Minneapolis' Playwrights' Center, and has just been selected for membership in New Dramatists. Other plays include Across the Water, Girl Scouts of America and Broadcast Yourself (part of Headlong Theater's Decade). With Tala Manassah she has written The House, for Noor Theatre, After, and The Letter, which premiered in November 2012 at Golden Thread's ReOrient Festival. Mona and Tala were in residence at Berkeley Rep's Ground Floor, where they worked on a musical play called The Wife. They recently were given an Ensemble Studio Theatre/Sloan commission to write a play about 1970s Iraq, and their short play Dressing is part of Facing Our Truths: Short Plays about Trayvon, Race and Privilege, a collection of plays commissioned by the New Black Festival that will be presented at various theaters around the U.S., including the Goodman, Center Theater Group, and Baltimore Center Stage. Television credits: Dead Like Me and Queens Supreme. 2012 Whiting Award. monamansour.com
About GOLDEN THREAD PRODUCTIONS: Founded in 1996, Golden Thread Productions is dedicated to exploring Middle Eastern cultures and identities as expressed around the globe. We challenge the national conversation on the Middle East by developing and producing theatrical work that are aesthetically varied and politically and viscerally engaging, while supporting countless Middle Eastern artists in all phases of their careers. Signature programs include the tri-annual ReOrient Festival and Forum, Fairytale Players Youth Program, and New Threads Play Development Program.
About LARK PLAY DEVELOPMENT CENTER: The Lark Play Development Center, now in its 20th year, is a laboratory for new voices and new ideas, providing playwrights with resources to develop their work, nurturing artists at all stages in their careers, and inviting them to express themselves freely in a supportive and rigorous environment. The Lark reaches across international and cultural boundaries to seek out and embrace unheard voices and diverse perspectives, celebrating differences in language and worldviews. By placing authors at the center of the creative process, and giving them the tools they need to succeed financially and professionally, Lark's goal is to empower them to tell their stories and reflect the world back to us in unique and important ways. Lark's focus is on maintaining a laboratory where talent is rewarded, diversity abounds, and everyone's idea is worthy of consideration.
In April 2012, the Lark opened a new 10,000 square foot custom-designed, play-creation studio in New York City's theater district. As part of its growth over the last few years, the Lark has created a portfolio of major playwriting fellowships that provide economic flexibility to writers at different stages of their careers including the PONY Fellowship. Last year, Lark served 1103 artists, including 193 playwrights; partnered with over three dozen theaters and universities; welcomed 3,886 audience members to 51 public presentations and had 63 Lark-developed plays move on to 95 productions around the world. Lark has supported numerous projects serving a diversity of communities, such as a touring residency program for Roma youth in Eastern Europe, an annual U.S.-Mexico Playwright Exchange and, in partnership with Signature Theatre, a Contemporary Chinese Playwriting Series. Recent plays substantially developed at the Lark include David Henry Hwang's Chinglish, Mona Mansour's The Way West, Katori Hall's The Mountaintop and Rajiv Joseph's Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo. The Lark is led by its co-founder and Artistic Director John Clinton Eisner and Managing Director Michael Robertson. For more information about the Lark Play Development Center, visit: www.larktheatre.org.
About SILK ROAD RISING: Silk Road Rising (formerly Silk Road Theatre Project) creates live theatre and online videos that tell stories through primarily Asian American and Middle Eastern American lenses. In representing communities that intersect and overlap, the company strives to advance a polycultural worldview; illuminating the intersections of cultures without denying the specificities of cultures.
Silk Road Rising is a creative response to the attacks of September 11, 2001. The consequences of that catastrophic day are sure to reverberate for years to come, posing unique and urgent challenges for artists of all backgrounds, and inspiring us to educate, promote dialogue, and heal rifts through the transformative power of theatre.
Company co-founders and life partners, Malik Gillani and Jamil Khoury, felt galvanized to respond to the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiments that swept the US in the aftermath of the attacks, and to challenge arguments surmising a "clash of civilizations." Their hope was to counter negative representation of Middle Eastern and Muslim peoples with representation that was authentic, multi-faceted, and grounded in human experience. Their idea quickly expanded beyond the Middle East to encompass that vast geographical area known historically as the Silk Road; a territory stretching from Japan to Italy. Silk Road Rising is led by Founding Artistic Director, Jamil Khoury and Founding Executive Director, Malik Gillani. For more information: www.silkroadrising.org.