People's Light & Theatre Announces New Play Commissions

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People's Light & Theatre Announces New Play Commissions

People's Light is proud to announce new play commissions for Eisa Davis, Colman Domingo, Kate Fodor, Karen Hartman, Dominique Morisseau, and Kathryn Petersen. These six playwrights are the first participants in our New Play Frontiers residency program. New Play Frontiers is an initiative to conceive, develop, and produce new plays that explore our American identity through stories of deep meaning to specific populations in the five-county region that surround our theatre. It is also a multifaceted investment in playwrights who possess the distinctive ability to interact with local communities, be inspired by their experiences, history, and heritage, and infuse their work with a national perspective and voice.

The six commissions are supported by The Barra Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Initial funding for the residency program was provided by the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage.

Colman Domingo comments, "I am so honored to be a commissioned artist for New Play Frontiers. There is such a rich and vast community surrounding People's Light and Theater Company. I truly believe it is such an expansive mirror into the heart and soul of our country at large."

Located forty-five minutes outside Philadelphia on a seven-acre campus in Malvern, Pennsylvania, People's Light is at an increasingly diverse intersection of rural, suburban, and urban communities in Chester County. The fastest growing county in Pennsylvania, Chester has experienced substantial expansion in its Hispanic, African-American, and Asian populations over the past decade.

Producing Director Zak Berkman asserts, "As People's Light approaches our 40th season, we are keenly aware we are at a transitional and transformational moment in our history. As our region grows and changes, we must invest in new work that reflects these changes, celebrates our region, embraces our history, and engages local constituencies in a personal and dynamic way. This is essential for us to elevate our cultural and civic relevance. Ultimately, it is the goal of New Pay Frontiers to expand and diversify our season of productions as well as the composition of our audiences and the constituents who support our theatre."

Central to New Play Frontiers are partnerships with local cultural, civic, religious, and academic organizations to help identify individuals and events from the past and present that are significant to our neighbors and embody a broader American story. New Play Frontiers playwrights immerse themselves in nearby communities during 20-30 day residencies at People's Light, and then write a new play inspired by their discoveries and experiences in our area. Development of these scripts occurs in tandem with a company-wide effort to foster community investment in each project from conception to production. Community members participate in information-gathering events and have one-on-one contact with the writers. They respond to readings of initial drafts, and take part in social gatherings aimed at cultivating future audiences and supporters for this new work.

The six writers have been paired with a variety of community partners enthusiastic about supporting the development of new plays. They include Charles A. Melton Arts & Education Center in West Chester, Chester County Food Bank in Exton, La Comunidad Hispana in Kennett Square, Historic Yellow Springs in Chester Springs, the Johnson House in Germantown, Chester County Historical Society in West Chester, Project Dawn Court in Philadelphia, and numerous others. Executive Director Kenneth Winston asserts "The Melton Center is enthusiastic about this program and the future opportunities to partner with the artists and staff of People's Light on the creation of new works of interest to diverse communities in our region. This collaboration between our historic site/community center and a performing arts organization has brought and will continue to bring many different forms of cultural strengths to the table. We look forward to sharing in the benefits for our organization and current and future visitors to the Center."

Karen Hartman shares, "I'm formulating a play that will address sex trafficking in the context of the history of slavery and abolitionism in Pennsylvania. Research has led me to the founders and alumni of Dawn's Place, an alternative to the shelter system for survivors of commercial sexual exploitation, and now to the Project Dawn Court, a treatment court for women convicted of prostitution. The work is difficult and scary but also deeply human and hopeful. It absolutely wouldn't happen without this program. What a fantastic opportunity!"

People's Light will present script development workshops of each of the commissioned plays during the 2014-15 Season and plans to produce at least one of the commissioned plays in the next three years. As part of these productions, community members will have expanded access to the playwright and the creative process, attending rehearsals at our partner locations and at People's Light. Playwrights will participate in numerous community gatherings to advance awareness of the production, as well as on-site discussions before and after performances. Berkman continues "It is our goal that at each performance our existing audiences will be joined by audiences of first-time theatergoers and People's Light first-timers who possess their own sense of inclusion and familiarity with us because they can say 'We know the playwright. We were there when it was just an idea. We helped make this happen.'"

Eisa Davis is an actor, playwright, and singer-songwriter. In 2012, she was the Herb Alpert Award winner in Theatre. Also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for her play Bulrusher, published by Samuel French, she wrote and starred in Angela's Mixtape, named a best of 2009 by The New Yorker. Her work has been developed by the Hip Hop Theater Festival, New York Theater Workshop, New York Stage and Film, the New Group, Soho Rep, the Flea, Rattlestick, the Cherry Lane, Portland Center Stage, Hartford Stage, Cleveland Playhouse, Seattle Rep, Yale University, Nuyorican Poets Café, the Schomburg Center for Black Research, and the Culture Project, among others. Eisa's writing has been published in American Theatre, The Source, To Be Real, Everything But The Burden, Step Into A World, Role Call, and Total Chaos. Other plays include Ramp (Ruby Prize winner), The History of Light (Barrymore nomination), Paper Armor, Umkovu, Six Minutes, Warriors Don't Cry, and collaborations with Active Ingredients and Hip Hop Anansi. She was a resident playwright at New Dramatists, where she won the Helen Merrill Award, and the Whitfield Cook Award, among others. She has received fellowships from Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, Cave Canem, and the Van Lier and Mellon Foundations. As an actor, recent theatre work includes the world premiere of Melissa James Gibson's This, and her Obie Award-winning performance in the Broadway rock musical Passing Strange now a film directed by Spike Lee.

Colman Domingo is a Lucille Lortel, Audelco, and GLAAD award winning playwright, his play Wild with Happy (Dramatists Play Service) recently premiered at The Public Theater in New York , Theatreworks in California and Baltimore Centerstage. His solo play A Boy and His Soul received its London premiere at the Tricycle Theater and Australian Premiere at The Brisbane Powerhouse Theater. Mr. Domingo is the author of Up Jumped Springtime, Mission of a Saint, Redemption of a Sinner, A Boy and His Soul and Wild with Happy. He is currently in process of four new pieces including The Brother's (American Conservatory Theater commission), A Tree Grows for Jason in Joyce (Inner Voices) and Dot (Berkeley Rep Underground residency) . His solo work A Boy and His Soul will receive its hometown premiere at Philadelphia Theater Company. He has held fellowships from the Sundance Institute Theater Lab and is a Lincoln Center Director's Lab member. Colman has directed Off Broadway premieres of Exit Cuckoo (Working Theater), No Parole (All for One) , Single Black Female (New Professional Theater), and Up Jumped Springtime (Lincoln Center Director's Lab/HERE). Regionally for Berkeley Rep, Geva Theater, Theater Rhinoceros, The Complex, Inquiline Theater Company and Intersection for the Arts. As an actor Colman has been nominated for the Tony, Drama Desk, Drama League, What's on Stage (London) and Fred Astaire Awards. He has won and OBIE, Lucille Lortel, GLAAD, Audelco, Connecticut Critics Circle and Bay Area Critics Circle.

Kate Fodor is a Guggenheim fellow in playwriting. Her plays include Fifty Ways, RX, 100 Saints You Should Know, and Hannah and Martin. RX was a New York Times Critics' Pick when it was produced Off-Broadway, while 100 Saints You Should Know was named one of the best plays of the year by Time Out New York, Entertainment Weekly, and Theater Yearbook. 100 Saints appears in Smith & Kraus' anthology New Playwrights: The Best Plays of 2008, while Hannah and Martin is included in The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize: Six Important New Plays by Women from the 25th Anniversary Year. Kate is a recipient of the Kennedy Center's Roger L. Stevens Award, the National Theater Conference's Barrie Stavis Award, a Joseph Jefferson Citation, and an After Dark Award. Her plays have been produced by Steppenwolf, Primary Stages, Playwrights Horizons, Epic Theatre Ensemble, San Jose Repertory Theatre, London's Courtyard Theatre and Chicago's TimeLine Theatre, among many others. She has been a resident playwright at New Dramatists since 2008 and is the recipient of the Kennedy Center's Roger L. Stevens Award, a Joseph Jefferson Citation, the National Theatre Conference's Stavis Award, an After Dark Award and a finalist position for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. She has been a McKnight Fellow at The Playwrights Center and has taught playwriting at the University of Pennsylvania.

Karen Hartman is the award-winning author of over twenty plays and musical works. Goldie, Max, and Milk premiered at Florida Stage and the Phoenix Theater, and was nominated for the 2011 Steinberg/ American Critics Award (Best New American Regional Play) and the Carbonell Award (Best New Play in Florida). The Book of Joseph, a semi-documentary theater piece based on the most important collection of letters to survive the Krakow Ghetto, premieres at Chicago Shakespeare Theater in 2015. Ms. Hartman was recently awarded a Promise Grant from the Sustainable Arts Foundation, and a New Play Frontiers Residency at People's Light and Theater Company on the subject of sex trafficking in the context of slavery in Pennsylvania. She is also working on a commission for Yale Repertory Theater on the subject of Ricci vs DiStefano, an affirmative action dispute among New Haven firefighters that reached the Supreme Court in 2009. Ms. Hartman's plays have been performed in New York at the Women's Project, National Asian American Theatre Company, P73, the New York Fringe (Best Drama), and Summer Play Festival, and at regional theaters including Center Stage, Cincinnati Playhouse, Dallas Theater Center, the Magic, ACT in San Francisco (Conservatory), and more. As a librettist, Ms. Hartman and composer Graham Reynolds won the Frederick Loewe Award for Music Theater for their pop opera MotherBone. ALICE: Tales of a Curious Girl (Music by Gina Leishman, adapted from Lewis Carroll's books), was produced by Dallas Theater Center and many other companies, and won the AT&T Onstage Award. They are published by Theater Communications Group, Dramatists Play Service, Playscripts, Backstage Books, and NoPassport Press. Her prose has been published in the New York Times and the Washington Post. Other works include Goliath (Dorothy Silver New Play Prize), Gum, Leah's Train (Weissberger Award Finalist), Going Gone (N.E.A. New Play Grant); Girl Under Grain (Best Drama in NY Fringe); Troy Women; and Donna Wants. A New Dramatists Alumna, she teaches at Yale and NYU.

A writer and actress, Dominique Morisseau is an alumna of the Public Theater Emerging Writer's Group, the Women's Project Playwrights Lab, and Lark Playwrights Workshop. Among her playwriting credits are: Detroit '67 (Public Theater; Classical Theatre of Harlem/NBT; Northlight Theatre), Sunset Baby (Labyrinth Theater Co - NY Times Critics Pick; Gate Theater- London), Follow Me To Nellie's (O'Neill; Premiere Stages). Her produced one-acts include: Third Grade (Fire This Time Festival); Black at Michigan (Cherry Lane); Socks, Roses Are Played Out and Love and Nappiness (Center Stage; ATH); love.lies.liberation (The New Group), Bumrush (Hip Hop Theater Festival) and The Masterpiece (Harlem9/HSA). Dominique is currently developing a 3-play cycle on her hometown of Detroit, entitled "The Detroit Projects". Detroit '67 is the first of the series. The second play, Paradise Blue, was developed with Voice and Vision, the Hansberry Project at ACT, New York Theatre Workshop, McCarter Theatre, Williamtown Theatre Festival, and the Public Theater. Dominique's work has also been published in NY Times bestseller- "Chicken Soup for the African American Soul" and in the Harlem-based literary journal "Signifyin' Harlem". She is a Jane Chambers Playwriting Award honoree, a two-time NAACP Image Award recipient, a runner-up for the Princess Grace Award, a recipient of the Elizabeth George commission from South Coast Rep, a commendation honoree for the Primus Prize by the American Theatre Critics Association, winner of the Barrie and Bernice Stavis Playwriting Award, the Weissberger Award for Playwriting, the U of M - Detroit Center Emerging Leader Award, and a PoNY (Playwrights of New York) Fellow. She is an artist that believes wholeheartedly in the power and strength of community.

Kathryn Petersen is a playwright, actress and teacher residing near Philadelphia. A member of the Dramatist's Guild, she's had two plays published (with Playscripts and Dramatic Publishing) and eleven plays produced, including four Pantos penned in collaboration with composer/lyricist Michael Ogborn: Cinderella (2008, rev. 2013), Treasure Island (2007, rev. 2011), Snow White in Follywood (2009), and The Three Musketeers: The Later Years (2010). Cinderella, when it was first produced in 2008, garnered 13 Barrymore Award nominations including Best New Play and Best Musical (which it won.) Her play, Arthur's Stone, Merlin's Fire (2003) has been produced by schools and theaters around the country. Her Chrysalis Project, in collaboration with scenic designer Tony Straiges, was a finalist in the Independence Foundation New Theatre Works Initiative and she is one of six playwrights chosen to be part of New Play Frontiers at People's Light. Currently, she's at work on a new play, The Executrix. As a professional actress, she is a member of the Actors' Equity Association and has acted in over seventy productions regionally. Ms. Petersen is a company member at People's Light and Theater Company and an Associate Professor of Theater at Arcadia University in Glenside, PA. For more information, check out www.kathrynpetersen.com.

People's Light, a professional, not-for-profit theatre founded in Chester County, Pennsylvania, makes plays drawn from many sources to entertain, inspire, and engage our community. We extend our mission of making and experiencing theatre through arts education programs that excite curiosity about, and deepen understanding of, the world around us. These plays and programs bring people together and provide opportunities for reflection, discovery, and celebration. Founded in 1974, we produce seven to nine plays each season, in two black box theatres with 350 and 170 seats respectively, mixing world premieres, contemporary plays, and fresh approaches to classic texts for our 7-play and Discovery Series.

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