Exclusive: Manhattan Theatre Club's Trifecta

Jaja's African Hair Braiding, Prayer for the French Republic, and Mary Jane are Tony-nominated for Best Play.

By: Jun. 12, 2024
Exclusive: Manhattan Theatre Club's Trifecta
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As the 77th Annual Tony Awards quickly approach, BroadwayWorld has invited the producers of the Best Production nominees to reflect on their experiences in bringing their shows to Broadway in this stellar season.

Today, we hear from Manhattan Theatre Club Artistic Director Lynne Meadow and Executive Director Chris Jennings, who contributed the below essay about their three  Tony-nominated plays, Jaja's African Hair Braiding, Prayer for the French Republic, and Mary Jane.

Not one. Not two. But three.

In this weekend’s Wall Street Journal, Charles Isherwood wrote, “All five best play nominees and all five for best musical were produced or initially produced (or both) at nonprofit theaters—an unusual occurrence. Remarkably, Manhattan Theatre Club presented three of the five candidates for Best Play.”

We are thrilled that our producing, and the work of the gifted artists this season, have been recognized with this history-making honor as well as nine additional nominations, including two for Best Direction of a Play for Whitney White and Anne Kauffman and two for Best Actress in a Leading Role in a Play for Betsy Aidem and Rachel McAdams, as well as one Special Tony Award win for Nikiya Mathis for her brilliant Hair and Wig Design.

These nominations highlight the vital role of our not-for-profit organization, which is committed to nurturing and presenting new and groundbreaking work. Under Lynne’s artistic leadership for the last five decades, our mission has been to uplift new voices and new visions by bringing compelling and diverse stories to the stage that inspire, entertain, and challenge theatregoers.

In the 2023-24 season, we were thrilled to produce new plays by three gifted American Playwrights: Jocelyn Bioh, Joshua Harmon, and Amy Herzog. Each writer and each of their plays—Jocelyn’s brilliant and compassionate window into the hilarity and heart of immigrant women in a Harlem hair braiding shop; Josh’s sweeping, epic tale of five generations of a Jewish family facing antisemitism in Paris; and Amy’s powerful portrait of a heroic single mother and the constellation of women who uplift her—had their own tremendous and unique impact. Each of the three pieces was at a different phase of development when we made the commitment to bring them to Broadway, but it was clear that each deserved the platform of a Broadway stage, and the standing ovations they all received every night have been further validation that audiences have treasured them as much as we do.

Another major part of MTC’s mission is our community outreach: our robust Education program, serving learners and educators across the country and the globe, introduced these plays to the next generation of artists and audiences. Our partnerships with community organizations this season has connected care workers to Mary Jane, synagogue groups to Prayer, and Black business owners to Jaja’s. Our “30 Under 35” initiative makes our work accessible to younger audiences through subsidized ticket prices. In all of these ways and many more, we strive to make Manhattan Theatre “Club” the least exclusive club in town.

We are thrilled that Chris’ very first season at MTC is also the first in our 20 years at the Samuel J. Friedman (formerly Biltmore) Theatre that MTC’s entire Broadway season has been honored with Best Play nominations.  

At the heart of our new partnership is a continued and unwavering commitment to artistic excellence and an unyielding belief in the transformative power of the theatre. The recognitions we have received this season are a reflection of the collective passion we share with the countless artists, staff, Board, foundations and donors, and commercial partners who collaborated with us and with one another to uplift all three of these beautiful and important plays.

We’re incredibly grateful for the wealth of talent that exists in our theatrical community and the level of commitment every person involved in our season has shown to its excellence. We love both discovering new talent and welcoming seasoned artists to our halls, and their contributions to MTC are enormous.  

Bravo to Jocelyn, Josh, Amy, all of their collaborators, and all of our colleagues who have told their stories and given audiences their own magical nights in the theatre. We’re honored to be a part of this community.