Philadelphia Theatre Company Announces Winner Of The Second Annual Terrence McNally New Play Award
Philadelphia Theatre Company has announced A. ZELL WILLIAMS as the recipient of the Terrence McNally New Play Award for the research and development of his play The Urban Retreat about a teacher whose writing career has taken a detour at the request of a former student-turned-Hip-Hop superstar. The Terrence McNally New Play Award is a $10,000 cash prize given annually to recognize a new play that celebrates the transformative power of art. The Award will also include a year of development support at PTC, including readings as well as administrative support and networking to help manage the future of the play beyond its time at PTC.
The Terrence McNally New Play Award is underwritten in part by The Peter Arger and Donald Wilf New Play Fund. PTC@Play is made possible with generous two-year grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Wyncote Foundation.
The Award was announced by last year's McNally Award winner, Bill Cain, on February 18 at the opening night of PTC@Play, a two-week festival of new works running through March 3. PTC@PLAY, now in its third year, features staged readings of six new plays by both established and emerging playwrights, including Lee Blessing, Carlyle Brown, Bill Cain, Bruce Graham, Lucas Hnath, and Julie Marie Myatt, also including a new play with music in development chronicling African American vaudeville legend Bert Williams, featuring Philadelphia actors Brian Anthony Wilson and Tony Award winner Forrest McClendon, and an evening of short plays, FuturePhilly@Play, by seven Philadelphia playwrights.
"I am happy that the Philadelphia Theatre Company is granting the Terrence McNally Award to A. Zell Williams, whose bold and provocative new play The Urban Retreat deals with an art form still very much underrepresented on American stages. I eagerly await the play's development," said Terrence McNally.
"The Urban Retreat shows us how art - in this case, writing - creates an indelible impact on individual lives," said PTC's Producing Artistic Director Sara Garonzik. "Zell's mature voice belies his years, and his skilled use of storytelling and vibrant, truthful characters presage an important career. We are delighted to be embarking on this year-long relationship with him."
A. Zell Williams' work explores themes of race, religion, class, and violence in contemporary America. He has received the David Calicchio/Marin Theatre Company Emerging American Playwright Prize, the National New Play Network's Smith Prize for Best Political Play, the Rita & Burton Goldberg Award from New York University, and Reverie Productions' Next Generation Playwright's Award. He was a finalist for the Yale Drama Series for Emerging Playwrights at Yale University, the Aurora Theatre's Global Age Project Award in Berkeley, Kitchen Dog Theatre's New Works Festival in Dallas, and the Van Lier Fellowship at the Lark Play Development Center, as well as a semifinalist for the Princess Grace Award, the Ashland New Play Festival, Centre Stage Theatre's New Works Festival, and Victory Gardens Theatre's Ignition Festival in Chicago. He was one of two inaugural African American Fellows with Steppenwolf Theatre Company, and is currently the National New Play Network Playwright-in-Residence at Philadelphia's InterAct Theatre Company.
PTC has enjoyed a long and fruitful collaboration with Terrence McNally, having produced the world premieres of Master Class, Golden Age, Some Men and Unusual Acts of Devotion and the Philadelphia regional premieres of Love!Valour!Compassion!, Lips Together, Teeth Apart and Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune.
PTC@Play is an outgrowth of PTC's annual STAGES program, established in 1986, which also includes commissions, workshops and the Terrence McNally New Play Award. Through STAGES, PTC has developed 90 plays, half of which have gone on to production or publication. Readings that have made it on to the PTC mainstage include the world premieres of Jeffrey Hatcher's A Picasso, Bruce Graham's According to Goldman, and most recently, Stars of David, a world premiere musical based on source material of the same name by Abigail Pogrebin. Two of PTC's commissions have been After Ashley by Gina Gionfriddo which premiered at the Humana Festival and Bruce Norris' The Pain and the Itch which premiered at Steppenwolf. On the mainstage PTC has produced 38 world premiere plays and musicals. Recent premieres include Red Hot Patriot by Margaret Engel and Allison Engel, Terrence McNally's Golden Age, Bill Irwin's The Happiness Lecture, and the recent musical Stars of David.
Founded in 1974, Philadelphia Theatre Company is a leading regional theatre company whose mission is to produce, develop and present entertaining and imaginative Contemporary Theatre focused on the American experience that both ignites the intellect and touches the soul. By developing new work through commissions, readings and workshops, PTC generates projects that have a national impact and reach broad regional audiences. Under the leadership of PTC's Producing Artistic Director Sara Garonzik since 1982 and Managing Director Shira Beckerman, who joined PTC in August, 2011, PTC supports the work of a growing body of diverse dramatists and takes pride in being a home to many nationally recognized artists who have participated in more than 140 world and Philadelphia premieres. PTC has received 46 Barrymore Awards and 155 nominations. In October 2007, PTC opened the Suzanne Roberts Theatre, their home on Philadelphia's Avenue of the Arts, which has helped contribute to the revitalization of Center City Philadelphia's thriving arts district.
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