Playwright Nilo Cruz Wins 2014 Greenfield Prize in Drama
The Hermitage Artist Retreat and the Philadelphia-based Greenfield Foundation have presented Nilo Cruz with the 2014 Greenfield Prize in drama at a celebration dinner in Sarasota, FL. The prize, represented by an original Malcolm Robertson stainless steel sculpture, includes a $30,000 commission for a new play, a Hermitage Artist Retreat residency to be used during the play's two-year development period, a presentation of the piece with a professional arts organization (Asolo Repertory Theatre will stage a reading in 2016) and assistance to have the play presented in other venues upon its completion. Cruz is the third playwright to receive the award, along with Craig Lucas (2009) and John Guare (2011). Lucas's play Ode to Joy, currently running at NYC's Cherry Lane Theatre, is his Greenfield Prize commissioned play.
In his eloquent acceptance speech, thanking the Foundation and the Hermitage, Cruz told the crowd of over 200 arts patrons why the prize was so special to him. "This is inspiring recognition," Cruz remarked, "because this Prize is not for work that has already been done, but for trust in work that lies ahead."
Earlier in the evening, Bruce Rodgers, executive director of the Hermitage Artist Retreat, which administers the Greenfield Prize, spoke of how the Prize has helped to change the lives of artists. "The money is only part of it," he shared. "Maybe even more meaningful, is the time and support that comes along with the Prize. The partnership between the Foundation and our artist retreat allows us to be part of the process, in that we provide uninterrupted time in an inspiring location in which to work. These artists become part of our Hermitage family and we make it our business to help them in any way that they need to accomplish their goal. We are not aware of any other award that includes this type of support."
Another highlight of the evening's program was the keynote address by Academy Award-winning actress Olympia Dukakis. Rodgers shared that Ms. Dukakis was asked to speak at the Greenfield Prize award dinner because she was considered a true woman of the theater. Not only as an actress but also as a teacher, a theater producer and founder, and an advocate of new work. During his time as resident playwright at Princeton's McCarter Theatre in the late 1980s, Rodgers noted it was the play Bozeman and Lena that he saw at Dukakis' Whole Theater Company, which left an indelible impression on him.
As Ms. Dukakis shared her experiences and observations about American theater with the audience, she said she felt the original quality in American playwriting was disappearing. "Those who write stories must be supported," Dukakis said thanking the Hermitage Artist Retreat and the Greenfield Prize for encouraging artists to "take a risk, to do something more ambitious than they've done before, breaking their own rules while maintaining ties to the past."
The Greenfield Prize dinner is the final event in a three-day schedule of performances and creative conversations involving art. This year included the world premiere of the 2012 Greenfield Prize commission, given in music, to award-winning pianist/composer Vijay Iyer. His commission, entitled Bruits, was presented during the La Musica International Chamber Music Festival by the Imani Winds and Pianist Cory Smythe. Free, non-ticketed, public events included open rehearsals, composer talks about music, Nilo Cruz discussing his process and a panel with Dukakis, Cruz, Asolo Rep Producing Artistic Director Michael Donald Edwards, U of Miami Latin Studies Professor Lillian Manzor, Playwright Carlyle Brown and Music-Theatre Group Producing Director Diane Wondisford addressing minority voices in the theater.
"The Greenfield Prize weekend is now bookended with a premiere and a new challenge to an important American artist," Rodgers explained. "In between we ask our experts to explore the art of our time and invite the public to be part of that discussion. Stay tuned for next year's weekend when we unveil Trenton Doyle Hancock's 2013 visual arts commission at The Ringling Museum and award the 2015 Greenfield Prize in music."
About the Greenfield Prize: The Greenfield Prize at the Hermitage Artist Retreat is a groundbreaking partnership between the Philadelphia-based Greenfield Foundation and the Hermitage Artist Retreat. Pursuing the mission "to bring into the world works of art that will have a significant impact on the broader or artistic culture," the prize seeks to identify individuals whose past work and future prospects position them to achieve this lofty and ambitious goal. The prize is awarded annually and includes a $30,000 commission for a new piece of work to be created within a two-year time frame. A residency at the Hermitage Artist Retreat on Manasota Key in Englewood, FL, ensures time and space in which to do the work. The Greenfield Prize rotates each year among three artistic areas: visual art, music, and drama. For more information visit the website www.greenfieldprize.org.
About the Hermitage Artist Retreat: The Hermitage is a not-for-profit artist retreat located at 6660 Manasota Key Road in Englewood, FL. It invites accomplished painters, sculptors, writers, playwrights, poets, composers and other artists from all over the world for residencies on its beachfront historic campus. Artists are asked to contribute two services to the community during their stay. So far, Hermitage artists have touched over 12,000 Gulf Coast community children and adults with unique and inspiring programs. In addition, the Hermitage awards and administers the prestigious Greenfield Prize, an annual $30,000 commission for a new work of art, rotating among three disciplines: visual art, music and drama. The Hermitage also partners with the Aspen Music Festival and School to award the annual Hermitage Prize to a composition student during the Festival. For more information about The Hermitage Artist Retreat, call 941-475-2098 or visit the website at www.HermitageArtistRetreat.org.
About the Greenfield Foundation: The Greenfield Foundation is based in Philadelphia, PA, but funds charitable initiatives across the country. Its president and most of its trustees are members of the family of Louise and Bob Greenfield of Sarasota, Florida. Its net income, which exceeds $500,000 a year, is devoted to improving quality of life through contributions to not-for-profit institutions in the arts, education, health care and other services. The foundation originates and participates in innovative projects, which have a ripple effect beyond the immediate impact of the expenditures.
Pictured: Bruce Rodgers with Nilo Cruz