Playwrights Realm Announces Plans For 2020-21

The Playwrights Realm has taken the initiative to reimagine and expand its missions of centering inclusion.

By: Sep. 15, 2020

The Playwrights Realm has announced their 2020-2021 season, during which they will operate full-time as a playwrights service organization. Amidst the pandemic and the wave of protests that have in turn sparked crucial calls for true diversity and accountability in the theater world, The Playwrights Realm has taken the initiative to reimagine and expand its missions of centering inclusion and providing its playwrights, who are majority BIPOC, the time and resources to develop new work. Despite the popularity and acclaim of its productions, rather than going the route of creating socially distant digital production content, The Realm has decided to focus on helping playwrights maintain their practices with creative and financial support. As such, funds that were earmarked for production this season will instead be used for playwright services, which will be structured around the needs expressed by The Realm's playwrights.

The Playwrights Realm this season will introduce a variety of new initiatives-including the online mentorship program Virtual Realm and an International Theatmakers Award for immigrant artists; as well as classes and monetary support for Realm Playwrights in need. These expand upon the support the organization already offers through its beloved core development programs, their Writing Fellowship, Scratchpad Series, and Page One Residency. Today, the organization also reveals the playwrights developing work through these various programs with them in the year ahead. (See below for names and detailed descriptions of all programs).

Associate Artistic Director Alexis Williams says, "It's a particularly tough time in the theatre right now, and while we're sad we won't have any new productions this season, we're so excited to welcome this larger, and thrilling, group of playwrights into the Realm Family. We can't wait to further engage with them on their artistic and professional goals over the course of the season!"

Founding Artistic Director Katherine Kovner says, "The Realm is centered around helping early-career playwrights, not only through productions, but in every way we can imagine, and I have never experienced a moment when playwrights needed that help so much. The Playwrights Realm name is not symbolic-this is a space where playwrights come first, so in this time of crisis we are going to devote ourselves to listening to them and helping them meet their needs more than ever!"

Moving into 2020-2021, inspired by the We See You White American Theatre movement and acknowledging the harm The Realm has caused, it is conducting a full internal review of best practices and next steps in its ongoing commitment to being an anti-oppressive, anti-racist organization, with a public accountability document planned later this season.

With this online mentorship program, four Virtual Mentees, selected from the open submissions pool, will be led by Associate Artistic Director Alexis Williams, receiving virtual resources designed to accelerate their careers-including personalized mentorship, professional development, and industry connections. Mentees are Diane Exavier, Marvin González De León, Grace McLeod, and Haygen-Brice Walker.

Visit The Playwrights Realm website for more information on the Virtual Mentees.

Recognizing the necessity of diversity in its staff and on its stages as well as the economic implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on immigrant artists in the United States, The Realm is partnering with law firm Dyer Harris LLP to present this critical new award. Three immigrant theater artists chosen by a panel of experts will be provided with no-cost O-1B artist visa applications (which can cost thousands of dollars). Dyer Harris LLP's April Harris and Kevin Dyer will also lead a series of informational panels throughout the season on the US artist visa and green card application process, which will be free and open to the public.

April Harris and Kevin Dyer of Dyer Harris LLP say, "As lawyers, as New Yorkers and as American citizens, we feel a debt of gratitude to the people who make New York theater the extraordinary world it is, and are particularly grateful to those who are working to expand the diversity of theater in the United States. The inclusion of international voices in this diversity is critical. As lawyers with years of experience in the field of O-1 Petitions, we feel a personal imperative-particularly in light of the unconscionable barrier that visa and green card processes pose to artists and the international dialogue -- to contribute to these efforts as best we can."

After the success of The Realm's TeachingTuesdays initiative, the organization is expanding its points of contact with the global theatrical community beyond its traditional programs by offering free online community classes, workshops, and panels led by The Realm's playwrights, staff, and industry professionals. Curated by Associate Artistic Director Alexis Williams and General Manager Céline Delcayre, these will address everything from honing play submissions skills to self-producing, budgeting, and artistic career planning.

The Playwrights Realm General Manager, and program co-Curator, Céline Delcayre says, "We're working to widen the scope of artists we're serving and thinking about how we can extend our resources to support not only more playwrights, but also designers, actors, directors, and other theater professionals/ entrepreneurs. We're looking forward to providing free classes, workshops, and more to the community at large."

Under the new banner of "Realm Playwrights," the Realm is providing former Writing Fellows, Scratchpad and Alumni writers with discretionary disaster relief funding based on needs, in keeping with The Realm's Radical Parent-Inclusion Project (including elder or family care), as well as related to housing instability, food insecurity, funeral expense, or other special circumstances. In addition to monetary support, Realm Playwrights will be offered artistic support in the development of their work, including roundtable readings of new drafts and events with industry professionals.

In March, as theaters around New York were closing due to COVID-19, The Realm canceled the New York premiere performances of playwright Noah Diaz's Richard & Jane & Dick & Sally. (The Realm helped launch Noah Diaz's professional career in partnership with Sol Project and Baltimore Center Stage, where Richard & Jane & Dick & Sally ran from Feb 6 to March 1 in a Realm co-production.) The Realm paid the creative team of the production in full and the

actors through opening night. Noah Diaz will now receive his full Page One benefits-including health insurance, internal readings, travel, and professional development funds-during the 2020-21 season.

Having received 400 applications, The Realm has selected four new Writing Fellows-Francisca Da Silveira, Phillip Christian Smith, May Treuhaft-Ali, and Omar Vélez Meléndez-who will be in residence during the season and will be featured in the Realm's 2021 INK'D Festival of New Plays, which will take form next year according to the needs and critical safety measures of the moment.

Visit The Playwrights Realm website for more info on the Writing Fellows and their projects.

New members of the Scratchpad Series, Preston Choi and Eliana Pipes, have been chosen from over 600 candidates from 42 states (and Washington, D.C.) to receive a week-long developmental workshop of their work. Due to the pandemic, two of The Realm's 2019-20 Scratchpad Playwrights-Marisa Carr and Daria Miyeko Marinelli -were unable to develop their work across that season, and will join Choi and Pipes in 2020-2021 instead. (See below for bios and descriptions of the works these artists are developing with The Realm.)

Daria Miyeko Marinelli, part of the 2019-20 Scratchpad Playwright cohort continuing in 2021, says, "The Playwrights Realm has asked artists what they want, and beyond asking, they have listened, even when the answer is the simple, brutal truth of 'financial support.' Home is, unsurprisingly, a place where the door's open and the lights are always on, and the soul is nourished. Without a doubt, this has been a moment of intense feeling for all of us. One thing I didn't expect, especially as an LA-based playwright, is to feel fully and utterly home, in a gorgeous warm institution called The Playwrights Realm."

Visit The Playwrights Realm website for more info on the Scratchpad Playwrights and their projects.