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Audible Will Award $5 Million in Commissions to Emerging Playwrights


Audible Will Award $5 Million in Commissions to Emerging Playwrights

Audible Inc., the world's largest producer and provider of downloadable audiobooks and other spoken-word entertainment, today announced the first class of theater commissions selected to receive support from its fund dedicated to the commission and development of innovative English-language works from playwrights around the globe. Announced earlier this year, the $5 million fund will enable the creation of one- and two-person audio plays driven by language and voice, in keeping with Audible's core commitment to elevating listening experiences through powerful performances of brilliantly composed words.

At a time when both playwrights and theater companies increasingly rely upon funding for the arts and ticket prices to live theater soar, Audible seeks to provide a creative home for artists and ideas, supporting established and new playwrights by commissioning works that can be heard by millions of Audible listeners. Audible has selected these grant recipients in collaboration with an advisory board of distinguished talent in the theater world, including Sir Tom Stoppard, Annette Bening, David Henry Hwang, Oskar Eustis, Lynn Nottage, Trip Cullman, Mimi O'Donnell, and Leigh Silverman.

"We are delighted to welcome our first class of talented playwrights to the Audible aesthetic, and look forward to bringing their words in performance to theatergoers along with our millions of listeners," said Audible founder and CEO Don Katz.

In addition to financial support, Audible will provide the selected playwrights creative and logistical resources including the use of Audible's workspace, alongside hundreds of employees committed to creating exceptional listening experiences every day. With access to experts in a variety of creative fields, playwrights will enjoy a nurturing environment that inspires and encourages artistic expression with Audible listeners in mind.

"What an incredibly impressive first class of exciting and diverse playwrights to receive commissions from Audible playwright fund!" said Theater Artistic Director Kate Navin. "We look forward to developing and supporting the creation of these works and to bringing them to life both in audio and on stage. Offering these productions on Audible will bring these plays to millions of people as incomparable listening experiences."

The first class of commissions will go to:

· Aaron Mark, a Texas-born, New York-based artist whose distinctive narrative style drew immediate attention for this early career playwright. Aaron's ongoing series of solo shows, including EMPANADA LOCA, has earned him a reputation as a new leading light of the single-performer genre.

· ADITI BRENNAN KAPIL is a multi-disciplinary artist, of Bulgarian and Indian descent, who was raised in Sweden. Her plays include Love Person (Stavis Playwriting Award in 2009), Displaced Hindu Gods Trilogy (Brahman/i, a one-hijra stand-up comedy show, The Chronicles of Kalki, and Shiv) premiered at Mixed Blood Theater and across the US and London, Orange (premiered at at Mixed Blood Theatre and SCR), and Imogen Says Nothing (premiered at Yale Repertory Theatre). She is the Playwright-in-Residence at Mixed Blood Theatre, an Artistic Associate at Park Square Theatre, a Core Writer at the Playwrights' Center, and a Resident Playwright at New Dramatists.

· Antoinette Nwandu is a New York-based playwright whose honors include the Paula Vogel Playwriting Award, the Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award, and the Negro Ensemble Company's Douglas Turner Ward Prize. In June 2017, the World Premiere of her play PASS OVER, which received a Jeff Award for outstanding New Play, was produced by Steppenwolf Theatre. In Feb 2018, the World Premiere of her play BREACH: a manifesto on race in america though the eyes of a black girl recovering from self-hate will be produced by Victory Gardens

· Bridgette A. Wimberly, an award-winning poet, playwright, and librettist, has been produced Off-Broadway and across the U.S. including Opera Philadelphia, Apollo Theatre, Madison Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Hackney Empire/English Royal Opera/London (Charlie Parker's YARDBIRD, starring Lawrence Brownlee) and Atlanta's ALLIANCE THEATRE, Cherry Lane Theatre, St. Louis Black Repertory Theatre, and The Women's Project (Saint Lucy's Eyes, starring Ruby Dee).

· Chisa Hutchinson, is an acclaimed playwright raised and currently residing in Newark, New Jersey. She holds a B.A. in Dramatic Arts from Vassar College and an M.F.A. in Playwriting from NYU. Her work has been presented at such venues as the National Black Theater and Second Stage Theater. She is a current member of New Dramatists and former staff writer for the Blue Man Group.

· David Rossmer is a writer, actor and musician. He co-wrote book, music and lyrics (with Steve Rosen) for the critically acclaimed comedy The Other Josh Cohen, which premiered Off-Broadway and was nominated for 6 Drama Desk Awards, the Lucille Lortel Award and the Off-Broadway Alliance Award. Rossmer co-created the edgy, hit variety show Don't Quit Your Night Job, which began at The Public Theater in NYC and moved to a successful run Off-Broadway... where he wrote special material for the likes of Sting, Sutton Foster, James Corden, ?Huey Lewis, David Hyde Pierce and ?Andrea Martin to name a few. Rossmer also co-wrote Rated P, which began Off-Broadway, was developed for television by Kelly Ripa's Milojo Productions and bought by ABC Studios.

· GARY MCNAIR, a playwright, director and performer based in Glasgow, Scotland. His 2017 sold-out, Fringe First award winner LETTERS TO MORRISSEY is the third in a trilogy of often darkly comic works drawing on the joys and struggles of growing up in working class Scotland.

· James Anthony Tyler, is an award-winning playwright who holds a MFA in Film from Howard University, an MFA in Dramatic Writing from New York University, and has recently earned an artist's diploma in playwriting from The Juilliard School. His honors include the Paul Robeson Award, and a John Golden Award for Excellence in Playwriting from NYU. His play DOLPHINS AND SHARKS received its world premiere in 2016 with the LABrynth Theatre Company off Broadway, and his play SOME OLD BLACK MAN will run this spring off Broadway at 59E59 Theatre.

· JAMES FRITZ, a playwright from London, who's first full-length play, FOUR MINUTES TWELVE SECONDS which premiered at Hampstead Theatre downstairs in 2014, was nominated for an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre. His other plays include ROSS & RACHEL ("a virtuosic piece of writing" Time Out) which opened to critical acclaim at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2015, PARLIAMENT SQUARE, which won a Bruntwood Prize in 2015, premiered at the Royal Exchange Theatre in 2017 before transferring to the Bush Theatre, and THE FALL which he wrote for the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain's 60th anniversary season in 2016. In 2017 his radio play COMMENT IS FREE won both the Imison and the Tinniswood Awards at the BBC Audio Drama Awards, which is the first time that a single writer has won both awards the same year.

· Lauren Gunderson is the most produced playwright in America in 2017 and the author of plays such as The Book of Will, Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, and I and You. Ms. Gunderson's work has been commissioned, developed and produced at companies including South Coast Repertory, Marin Theatre Company, The Kennedy Center, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Denver Center, San Francisco Playhouse, Berkeley Rep, TheatreWorks and more.

· LEAH NANAKO WINKLER, a Japanese American playwright from Kamakura, Japan and Lexington Kentucky. Her play KENTUCKY premiered at Ensemble Studio Theatre. Her play GOD SAID THIS will be in the 2018 Humana Festival of New Plays. She is the inaugural recipient of the Mark O'Donnell Prize.

· MADHURI SHEKAR, a current playwriting student at Juilliard. Madhuri is the 2013/14 winner of the Kendeda Graduate Playwriting contest held by the ALLIANCE THEATRE for her play IN LOVE AND WARCRAFT, for which they did the world premiere production. Most recently her play QUEEN was produced at Victory Gardens in Chicago.

· Nassim Soleimanpour, a multidisciplinary theatre maker from Tehran, currently based in Berlin, Germany. His plays have been translated into more than 25 languages, and performed across the globe.

· PAOLA LÁZARO is a playwright and actor born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She holds a B.F.A. in Dramatic Writing from SUNY Purchase College and an M.F.A. in Playwriting from Columbia University. Her play TELL HECTOR I MISS HIM premiered at the Atlantic Theater Company in fall of 2017, and THERE'S ALWAYS THE HUDSON was recently workshopped at Sundance. Paola is part of the 2015 Emerging Writers Group at The Public Theater.

· Regina Taylor, a playwright whose credits include OO-BLA-DEE (Recipient of the American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award), DROWNING CROW (Manhattan Theatre Club), THE TRINITY RIVER PLAYS (Dallas Theater Center and The Goodman Theatre; Recipient of the 2010 Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award), MAGNOLIA, THE DREAMS OF SARAH BREEDLOVE, A NIGHT IN TUNISIA, ESCAPE FROM PARADISE, WATERMELON RINDS, AND INSIDE THE BELLY OF THE BEAST. Taylor's critically acclaimed CROWNS continues to be one of the most-performed musicals in the country, and is the winner of four Washington, D.C. Helen Hayes awards.

Beyond support for playwrights, the fund will sustain live and in-studio production of the newly created plays, and recordings of these productions will be made available for Audible listeners in 2018. Audible's inaugural productions are Latin History for Morons, written by and starring John Leguizamo on Broadway and David Cale's Harry Clarke, starring Billy Crudup at the Vineyard Theatre off-Broadway.

Among the acclaimed performers who have narrated works of literature for Audible are Nick Offerman, Sean Penn, Zachary Quinto, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Lily Collins, Emma Thompson, James Franco, and Jesse Eisenberg. In 2013, Audible Studios won its first Grammy Award, for its production of Janis Ian's memoir, Society's Child, and also won the Audie Award for Audiobook of the Year, for Colin Firth's performance of Graham Greene's The End of the Affair.

Audible invented and commercialized the first digital audio player in 1997, and has since been at the forefront of the explosively growing audiobook download segment. In 2017, listeners around the world downloaded over two billion hours of Audible content.

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