Playwright Shayok Misha Chowdhury Receives 2022 Mark O'Donnell Prize

The Mark O’Donnell Prize is bestowed upon “America’s most anomalous, singular and curious emerging writers, composers, directors and designers.”

By: Dec. 21, 2022
Playwright Shayok Misha Chowdhury Receives 2022 Mark O'Donnell Prize
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The Entertainment Community Fund and Playwrights Horizons announced that New York City playwright Shayok Misha Chowdhury is the 2022 recipient of The Mark O'Donnell Prize, an annual prize presented to an emerging theater artist in recognition of her or his talent and promise.

Inspired by the singular mind of Mark O'Donnell, The Mark O'Donnell Prize is bestowed upon "America's most anomalous, singular and curious emerging writers, composers, directors and designers." The award includes a cash prize of $15,000; use of The Mark O'Donnell Theater at the Entertainment Community Fund Arts Center, located at The Schermerhorn in Downtown Brooklyn, for one week to develop a reading of a new work; as well as counseling from the Entertainment Community Fund on two of the major challenges faced by emerging artists: how to apply for affordable housing and obtaining health insurance. The Mark O'Donnell Prize is funded by the Entertainment Community Fund, a human services organization serving everyone in entertainment and the performing arts, and is made possible by a gift from Stephen O'Donnell in memory of his brother Mark.

The Schermerhorn, an award-winning 216-unit supportive housing development for low-income New Yorkers, continues to serve as home to The Mark O'Donnell Theater. The Theater serves as a resource for Brooklyn-based artists and arts groups to aid in the development and sharing of their work, as well as a venue for integrating the residents of The Schermerhorn with the surrounding community through the arts. The building is operated by the Entertainment Community Fund in collaboration with Breaking Ground, a non-profit developer that provides permanent affordable housing for individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless.

After a career of critical acclaim, Mark O'Donnell achieved commercial success when he co-wrote the book of the musical Hairspray, based on the John Waters film, with Thomas Meehan. The production earned the pair the 2003 Tony Award® and a celebrated seven-year run on Broadway, followed by the 2007 musical film adaptation. The writers went on to adapt the Tony-nominated musical Cry Baby for Broadway in 2008, based on a Waters film of the same name.

Mark O'Donnell's Playwrights Horizons credits were That's It, Folks!; Fables for Friends and The Nice and the Nasty. His other plays include Strangers on Earth, Vertigo Park and the musical Tots in Tinseltown. He collaborated with Bill Irwin on an adaptation of Moliere's Scapin and co-authored a translation of Georges Feydeau's A Flea in Her Ear. He also adapted Feydeau's Private Fittings for the La Jolla Playhouse and a symphonic version of Pyramus and Thisbe for the Kennedy Center.

Mr. O'Donnell published two collections of comic stories Elementary Education and Vertigo Park and Other TALL Tales as well as two novels, Getting Over Homer and Let Nothing You Dismay. His humor, cartoons and poetry have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Atlantic and Esquire. He has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and the George S. Kaufman Award.

The Mark O'Donnell Theater at the Entertainment Community Fund Arts Center is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and by Council Member Stephen Levin.

Shayok Misha Chowdhury

is a many-tentacled writer, director and performer based in Brooklyn, New York. A Jonathan Larson Grant and Princess Grace awardee, Misha was an inaugural Project Number One Artist at Soho Rep, where his play Public Obscenities will premiere in February 2023, co-commissioned by NAATCO. As a Resident Artist at HERE Arts Center, he is currently developing Rheology, a concert-memoir-physics-symposium, for which he was awarded an inaugural Sundance Asian American Fellowship. Recent collaborations: SPEECH (Philly Fringe) with Lightning Rod Special; Brother, Brother (New York Theatre Workshop) with Aleshea Harris; MukhAgni (Under the Radar @ The Public) with Kameron Neal; Your Healing Is Killing Me (PlayMakers Rep) with Virginia Grise; How the White Girl Got Her Spots and Other 90s Trivia (Joe's Pub) with Laura Grill Jaye, the other half of musical-making duo Grill and Chowder. Misha was a soloist and collaborator on the Grammy-winning album Calling All Dawns. He is also the creator of VICHITRA, a series of sound-driven, cinematic experiments, including Englandbashi (Ann Arbor Film Festival), The Other Other (Ars Nova), An Anthology of Queer Dreams (Audio Unbound Award finalist) and In Order to Become (The Bushwick Starr), which he is developing into a live Carnatic opera. A NYSCA/NYFA, Fulbright and Kundiman fellow, Misha's poetry has been published in The Cincinnati Review, TriQuarterly, Hayden's Ferry Review, Asian American Literary Review and elsewhere. Misha is also an alumnus of New York Theatre Workshop's 2050 Fellowship, The Public Theater's Devised Theater Working Group, Ars Nova's Makers Lab, New York Stage and Film Nexus, the Sundance Art of Practice Fellowship, BRIClab and Soho Rep's Writer/Director Lab. MFA: Columbia.


The Entertainment Community Fund, formerly The Actors Fund, is a national human services organization that addresses the unique needs of people who work in performing arts and entertainment with services focused on health and wellness, career and life, and housing. Since 1882, the Fund has sought to ensure stability, encourage resiliency and be a safety net for those who shape our country's cultural vibrancy. Learn more at


Playwrights Horizons is a writer's theater dedicated to the development of contemporary American Playwrights and to the production of innovative new work. In a city rich with cultural offerings, Playwrights Horizons' 51-year-old mission is unique among theaters of its size; the organization has distinguished itself by a steadfast commitment to centering and advancing the voice of the playwright. It's mission that is always timely, and one that's necessary in the ongoing evolution of theater in this country.

Playwrights Horizons believes that playwrights are the great storytellers of our time, offering essential contributions to civic discourse and illuminating life's greatest paradoxes. And they believe in the singularity of a writer's voice, valuing the broad, eclectic spectrum and diversity of American writers. At Playwrights Horizons, writers are supported in every stage of their growth through commissions (engaging in several of today's most imaginative playwrights each year), New Works Lab, POP Master Class series, Soundstage audio program, the Lighthouse Project, and Almanac, the organization's digital magazine.

Playwrights Horizons presents a season of productions annually on their two stages, each of which is a world, American, or New York premiere. Much like Playwrights Horizons' work, their audience is a risk-taking and adventurous; and the organization is committed to strengthening their engagement and feeding their curiosity through all of its programming, onsite and online.


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