Melisa Annis and Corbin Went Receive Parity Productions' First Parity Commission
Parity Productions, New York's theatre company that ensures the hiring of at least 50% women and transgender artists (directors, designers, and playwrights) on each of their productions, has announced that playwrights Melisa Annis (left) and Corbin Went (right) are the first winners of its annual Parity Commission. An honorable mention is also given to playwright Jordan Puckett. The commissions were awarded at the Annual Parity Gala on October 25th at The Cutting Room in New York.
"We are beyond excited to have gotten so many submissions in our first year of doing the commission - close to 350", says Parity Productions Founder and Artistic Director Ludovica Villar-Hauser. "I think the industry will agree that we have selected two extraordinary playwrights - Corbin Went and Melisa Annis - as this year's winners. We can't wait to begin the process of developing their work with them."
"Melisa and Corbin are quite different in the way that they tell stories, but each playwright is supremely talented and the works they have chosen to further develop with us are extraordinarily engaging, thought-provoking, and moving," says Parity's Producing Artistic Director Jennifer Kranz.
Parity Productions awards two commissions annually to women and transgender playwrights who have demonstrated a singular talent for storytelling. The selected playwrights receive $2,500 each. Winners of The Annual Parity Commission for Women and Transgender Playwrights receive one "closed " reading (invitation only) and at least one public reading and/or developmental production of the commissioned work, with an option for a production.
Says Annis, "Thankfully, organizations like Parity Productions are broadening the landscape of development so that we can all be exposed to more diverse, relevant, and interesting voices in theatre. I've long been a fan of the advocacy work they have been doing and I am so honored and excited to be a recipient of Parity's first Commission for Women and Transgender Playwrights."
About the honor, Went says, "It is emblematic of Parity's enthusiastic work championing women and trans artists that they would create this commission, which is more than a financial award. It is an opportunity to create opportunity."
The Annual Parity Productions Gala included presenters such as award-winning playwrights MJ Kaufman and Cusi Cram, and performers such as Tony-nominee Emily Skeggs and Romy Nordlinger, along with remote good wishes from transgender actress Laverne Cox and celebrated playwright Theresa Rebeck.
Rebeck, who has been a mentor to Annis, says, "It is a wonderful thing when a dazzling talent announces itself and better yet when it is seen and acknowledged. Better still when that talent is nurtured and encouraged with real support. Many congratulations to Melisa Annis and to Parity Productions! I am already chomping at the bit to see the fruits of this mighty collaboration."
Cusi Cram, a former playwriting instructor of Annis' and a presenter at the gala says, "Melisa doesn't write one kind of play. She won't put herself in a box. She has infinite interests and she is not afraid to write about them. Her curiosity takes her to dangerous places. She is brave."
Playwright MJ Kaufman presented the award to Went, whose writing has been compared to Annie Baker. "In addition to me and Corbin there are thousands of other trans writers out there, writing with no validation from theaters and institutions, only their own internal drive that our work matters. You'll be hearing from us more and more because we're refusing to stay silent. We're forging our lives and worlds into the cultural landscape like never before and I couldn't be more excited to encounter a writer of such scope, imagination, focus, and ambition as this one," says Kaufman.
In addition to excerpts from submitted plays by the winning Commission playwrights, a brief selection from the company's upcoming production of She Calls Me Firefly by Teresa Lotz was presented, as well as actress and writer Romy Nordlinger performing an excerpt from her Off-Broadway hit and Parity Productions' co-production with Yonder Window Theatre Company, Places (59 E. 59 and Edinburgh Fringe).
The host committee for the Parity Gala included Broadway Producer Pat Addiss, philanthropist Henry Buhl, photographer Ashley Garrett, performer Mary Francina, performer/producer Sean Hudock, financial advisor Julie Sargent, and producer Joann Sickinger. Musical performances by The Snowy Mountain Sisters, Eli Denby Wood, and Nandi Kayyy were also part of the evening's festivities.