La Jolla Playhouse Receives Grants in Support of Ayad Akhtar's THE WHO & THE WHAT

La Jolla Playhouse Receives Grants in Support of Ayad Akhtar's THE WHO & THE WHAT

La Jolla Playhouse is the recipient of three prestigious and highly-competitive grants to support its world-premiere production of The Who & The What, by 2013 Pulitzer Prize winner Ayad Akhtar, directed by Kimberly Senior, running February 11 - March 9 in the Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre. The grants include the Edgerton Foundation New American Plays Award, as well awards from The Laurents/Hatcher Foundation and The Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation Theatre Visions Fund.

The Edgerton Foundation New American Plays Award encourages the development of original works of American theatre by supporting crucial additional rehearsal time with the actors together with the entire creative team. The Playhouse has received two past Edgerton Foundation Awards for the world premieres of Milk Like Sugar and Restoration, both of which went on to receive future productions off-Broadway. The Laurents/Hatcher Foundation recognizes new voices in the theatre landscape with development and production grants that support commissions, readings, workshops and first productions. The Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation chooses just one new play each year out of a nationwide pool of applicants to receive its Theatre Visions Fund Award. The selection panel includes such theatre luminaries as Theodore S. Chapin, Olympia Dukakis, Scott Ellis, John Guare and Tom Hulce. This marks the first time the foundation has awarded a grant to a San Diego theatre.

"It is a true testament to this smart and moving new piece that not one, but three major foundations have awarded grants to help support Ayad's provocative new play. The Playhouse has been deeply committed to The Who & The What since its very first reading in our 2013 DNA New Work Series, and these generous grants have helped provide the resources to develop the latest work by one of the most exciting new voices in the American theatre," said Playhouse Artistic Director Christopher Ashley.

Named one of the "Theatre Faces to Watch in 2014" by the L.A. Times, Ayad Akhtar (Playwright) won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for his play, Disgraced. The production ran at Lincoln Center Theatre in 2012 and at London's Bush Theater in 2013 and won Chicago's Jeff Equity Award for Best New Play in 2012. Also a novelist and screenwriter, Akhtar is the author of American Dervish, published in 25 languages worldwide and named a 2012 Best Book of the Year by Kirkus Reviews, Toronto's Globe and Mail, Shelf-Awareness and O (Oprah) Magazine. As a screenwriter, he was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay for The War Within. He has received commissions from Lincoln Center and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. He is a graduate of Brown and Columbia Universities, with degrees in Theater and Film Directing.

The Who & The What, Zarina enters on the brilliant and outspoken Zarina, who routinely clashes with her conservative Muslim father and sister. Her one outlet - her recently-completed book about women and Islam - threatens to tear her family apart for good. With humor and ferocity, Ayad Akhtar's The Who & The What examines the giant chasm between our traditions and our contemporary lives. Tickets for The Who & The What are available by calling the Patron Services Office at (858) 550-1010 or online at LaJollaPlayhouse.org.

The Who & The What has received major critical acclaim during the Playhouse run. The UT San Diego named the play a Critic's Choice and enthused, "The 'what' of this ambitious play could just about fill a book by itself; the 'who' at its heart is one lively, vibrant and questioning voice." La Jolla Light called the show "thought-provoking and entertaining. It flows easily and is packed with faith issues, understanding, and much humor," while San Diego CityBeat heralded, "May all new works nurtured in La Jolla Playhouse's DNA Series come to such satisfying fruition."

Over the last seven years, the Edgerton Foundation has supported an extended rehearsal process for 216 world premiere productions across the U.S. Through this support, many plays have scheduled numerous subsequent productions, with 12 making it to Broadway. Seven plays have been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, with Next to Normal winning in 2010 and Water by the Spoonful in 2012. Piloted in 2006 with the Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles, the Edgerton Foundation New American Play Awards give plays in development extended rehearsal period for the entire creative team, including the playwrights. The program launched nationally in 2007 and has awarded $ 5.7 million in grants to non-profit theatres to date. The Edgerton Foundation was awarded the 2011 TCG National Funder Award.

The Laurents/Hatcher Foundation was established in 2010 by playwright, director and screenwriter Arthur Laurents (1917-2011) and his long-term partner Tom Hatcher. The Foundation's Theatre Development Grant program supports the development or production of new plays or musicals. During his career on Broadway and in Hollywood, Laurents' scripts for plays included West Side Story, Gypsy and The Time of the Cuckoo. Among Laurents' many notable screenplays are Hitchcock's Rope, The Way We Were and The Turning Point. In addition to annual awards to support play development, the Laurents-Hatcher Foundation presents a major annual award for an un-produced, full-length play of social relevance by an emerging American playwright.

The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation was established in 1983 by New Brunswick philanthropist Irving Laurie. The 2013/2014 program of cultural support currently includes the Museum of Jewish Heritage exhibition Against the Odds: American Jews and the Rescue of Europe's Refugees; the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum exhibition Some Were Neighbors: Collaboration and Complicity in the Holocaust; The Newark Museum exhibition American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell; Lincoln Center Theater's production of Act One, Primary Stage's production of Bronx Bombers, New York City Center's famed Encores! Series; the Kennedy Center production of Side Show; NJPAC's Cabaret series, the Manhattan Theatre Club production of The Commons of Pensacola ; the Roundabout Theatre Company revival of Cabaret and the public television series American Masters. This season the Foundation is also very pleased to renew its association with playwright Robert Schenkkan through its support of his new historical drama, All the Way, which examines the first year of Lyndon Johnson's presidency. The Foundation was selected as the Outstanding Foundation of 2004 by the New Jersey Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and was the recipient of the Ovation award given by the New Jersey Theatre Alliance in 2006. It is proud to report that over the last twenty years the Foundation has provided approximately $64,000,000 in grants to philanthropic endeavors, addressing the Foundation's interest in the arts, education, health care and social services

The nationally-acclaimed, Tony Award-winning La Jolla Playhouse is known for its tradition of creating the most exciting and adventurous new work in the theatre. Founded in 1947 by Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire and Mel Ferrer, the Playhouse is considered one of the most well-respected not-for-profit theatres in the country. Numerous Playhouse productions have moved to Broadway, including the currently running hit Jersey Boys, as well as Memphis, Big River, The Who's Tommy, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, A Walk in the Woods, Billy Crystal's 700 Sundays, the Pulitzer Prize-winning I Am My Own Wife, Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Farnsworth Invention, 33 Variations, Bonnie & Clyde, Chaplin, Peter and the Starcatcher and Hands on a Hardbody. Located on the UC San Diego campus, La Jolla Playhouse is made up of three primary performance spaces: the Mandell Weiss Theatre, the Mandell Weiss Forum Theatre and the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Center for La Jolla Playhouse, a state-of-the-art theatre complex which features the Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre. La Jolla Playhouse is led by Artistic Director Christopher Ashley and Managing Director Michael S. Rosenberg.

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