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John Clinton Eisner Retires As Founding Artistic Director Of The Lark

Eisner founded The Lark in 1994 as an organization dedicated to supporting playwrights.

The Lark, an international play development laboratory dedicated to amplifying the voices of playwrights, announces that founder John Clinton Eisner is retiring after 27 years as Artistic Director, with the intent to hand over leadership to a new generation of theatrical talents.

Founded in 1994, The Lark was established as a playwright-centric, artist-guided laboratory for new play development and a platform for free expression and rigorous experimentation, and a counterpoint to the prevailing commodity-based culture of theater. Eisner announced his intentions to step down in January 2020, and through a search process which included a committee comprised of Lark artists, staff, and board, a new Artistic Director was selected in January 2021, to be announced next month.

"It is a critical moment of inflection both inside and outside The Lark, and we've used the time during the pandemic to hold space for our affiliated artists and align our mission and values with our plans for the future," said Eisner. "The search committee, composed of board members, staff, and artists, completed the process in January 2021 and I am delighted and energized by their choice. What we imagined in soft focus a year ago has become tangible reality through the collaborative action of a group of stakeholders who care deeply about The Lark and its community. This is a consequential moment of passage for the organization and the artists we serve."

"John Clinton Eisner has laid a foundation for play development that has served so many, including me," said The Lark's Executive Director Stacy Waring. "It is a legacy befitting this moment in history and it is an honor to continue the work of liberation and access for playwrights."

During Eisner's tenure, The Lark established new initiatives and programs each meant to support the development of new plays and the playwrights who write them. The inaugural Playwrights' Week in 1995 revealed a field-wide need to support new voices, thus spurring the organization to focus on new play development. The Lark continued to evolve to be entirely playwright-centric, and today prioritizes voices that have been historically under-resourced and marginalized through an acclaimed portfolio of fellowships that support artists at all stages of their careers including the Apothetae and Lark Playwriting Fellowship and Initiative, which supports Disabled playwrights, the Van Lier New Voices Fellowship, which supports playwrights of color aged 30 and under, and the Venturous Fellowship, supporting risk-taking plays.

"John Eisner created and guided the Lark to become a vanguard organization, empowering playwrights when our plays were in danger of being over-developed by theaters and facilitating international exchange when few other organizations supported this work," said Lark Board member and playwright David Henry Hwang. "Now, The Lark is transforming to meet the needs of today, by welcoming exciting new leadership which will help guide post-pandemic theater to greater artistic excellence through equity, diversity and inclusion. We are deeply grateful to John for his service, vision, and hard work, and wish him well on his next creative chapter. He remains an inspiration to us all."

John Clinton Eisner co-founded The Lark in 1994 as a community of theater professionals dedicated to the playwright's vision. As Artistic Director, he has grown The Lark into an award winning "think tank for the theater," with local, national and global reach. He divides his time between working directly with playwrights and creating strategies with artistic leaders in the United States and abroad to advance new plays into the repertoire. He has collaborated with partner theaters, literary agencies, and funders to develop innovative paths to production for new plays. Trained as an actor, he began his transition to directing and producing through his experiences at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's National Playwrights Conference, The National Theatre of the Deaf, the Denver Center Theatre Company, and Williamstown Theatre Festival (where he acted in Tennessee Williams' final play, "Gideon's Point"). He worked in casting for Johnson-Liff Casting Associates, ticket sales at the Roundabout's Criterion Center Box Office, and as Managing Director and Associate Artistic Director at Rhode Island's Colonial Theatre where he co-founded Westerly Shakespeare in the Park. He has directed plays by Calderon, Yeats, Wilder, Shakespeare, John Patrick Shanley, Jeroen van den Berg, Anton Dudley, Aditi Brennan Kapil, Elizabeth Logun, Ian Rowlands and Lloyd Suh, among others, and worked with hundreds of writers on new plays at The Lark, including Kristoffer Diaz, Katori Hall, David Henry Hwang, Rajiv Joseph, Arthur Kopit, Koffi Kwahule, Javier Malpica, Theresa Rebeck, Saviana Stanescu, Sinan Unel, Tracey Scott Wilson and Karen Zacarías. He has led workshops at many universities, served on the boards of The National Theatre Conference and the Shakespeare Theatre Association of America (of which he was a charter member), and acted as advisor for CEC Artslink, the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, Theatre Development Fund, Theatre Communications Group, National New Play Network, TheatreForum Magazine, Transport Group, and the Lucille Lortel Awards Committee. He holds a BA from Amherst College and an MFA from The National Theatre Conservatory.

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