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Sydney Chatman and Winsome Pinnock Announced as Recipients of Inaugural Golden & Ruth Harris Commission

Sydney Chatman and Winsome Pinnock will each receive a $50,000 commission for a new theatrical work.

Sydney Chatman and Winsome Pinnock Announced as Recipients of Inaugural Golden & Ruth Harris Commission

Jeremy O. Harris and New York Theatre Workshop have announced Sydney Chatman and Winsome Pinnock as the two inaugural Golden & Ruth Harris Commission recipients.

A collaboration between Harris and New York Theatre Workshop, the commission is designed to allow recipients to dream expansively and extensively about a theatrical creation while working to relieve them in part from the need to seek other income over the course of the commissioning year. Sydney Chatman and Winsome Pinnock will each receive a $50,000 commission for a new theatrical work.

In this inaugural year, the commissions were awarded to two generative artists who identify as Black womxn, both at different points in their artistic lives, and neither of whom has yet to have an Off-Broadway New York production. Its mission was to provide unprecedented remuneration to working artists at both the early and mature stage of artistic development.

Chatman uses theater as a medium to conjure freedom, hope, joy, and justice. Led by ancestral guidance and intergenerational wisdoms, she directs, educates, produces, and writes work that seeks to heal her community. In 2008, she co-founded the Tofu Chitlin' Circuit (The TCC), a company that engages the audience through teaching and exploration. The TCC supported underserved Chicago communities through innovative programming called The A La Carte and the Tuxedo Junction. In furthering her desire to amplify and offer space for new voices within the theater, she founded Fly Black Girl Education & Theatre, a healing and theatrical conservatory for and about Black women and girls. Chatman is an African-American Arts Alliance Award and 3Arts Make a Wave winner. Her theater credits include New York fellowships with Stage Directors and Choreographers Workshop Foundation (SDC), the Lincoln Center Director's Lab, as well as the Goodman Theatre Maggio Directing Fellowship.

"I am grateful to be an inaugural recipient of the Golden & Ruth Harris Commission," said Sydney Chatman. "Thank you to all who believed in my audacious idea of writing, The Messiah in Mink: The Rise and Fall of Prophet Jones. Theatre has the opportunity to use its platform to confront and end systemic racism through the stories we perform by exploring the ritualistic lives of people of color and sharing them on stage. I am hopeful that by highlighting the humanity in my play and plays like it, we will continue to break down the walls of injustice and build a more equitable and inclusive world."

Pinnock is a U.K. based playwright whose stage plays include Rockets and Blue Lights, Glutathione, The Principles of Cartography, Tituba, Cleaning Up, Taken, IDP, The Stowaway, One Under, Beg Borrow or Steal, Water, Mules, Can You Keep a Secret?, A Rock in Water, Leave Taking, A Heroes Welcome, The Wind of Change, and Picture Palace. She was the recipient of the Alfred Fagon Award, George Devine Award, Pearson Plays on Stage Scheme Best Play of the Year Award and the Unity Trust Theatre Award, and she received a special commendation from the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. She was Senior Visiting Fellow at Cambridge University and writer in residence at Holloway Prison, Clean Break Theatre Company, Royal Court Theatre, Kuumba Arts Community Centre, Tricycle Theatre and The Royal National Theatre Studio. In 2020, her short play Una Calling was debuted online by The Globe Theatre as part of the Shakespeare and Race Festival. Winsome was admitted as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2020.

"I am thrilled to be the first recipient of this prestigious commission," said Winsome Pinnock. "While the past year has been a difficult one for all theatre makers, we have a lot of catching up to do and plenty to write about. I can't wait to get started on the commission and will endeavour to honour the faith placed in me by Jeremy O. Harris and NYTW."

"As an artist it felt important to be able to provide two extraordinary and rigorous artists with the type of financial security that was unavailable to me until my work went to Broadway and I began receiving work in television," said Jeremy O. Harris. "Winsome and Sydney are two such artists. This commission named after my grandparents was meant for artists whose commitment to rigor and experimentation was only matched by their commitment to community. Winsome Pinnock's career has been shaped by continuous exploration of the form in the U.K., while Sydney Chatman has focused on community building and education in Chicago.

Using what I've learned from producing commercial theatre and finances afforded me in my HBO deal, it feels incredibly affirming to be able to provide these two artists with a type of financial stability often denied to theatre artists devoted purely to the theatre. Perhaps this commission, provided in this time, will help shift norms in our industry towards sustainable and well compensated careers for theatre artists, especially women of color, the backbone of our canon. In this spirit, it felt even more prudent that each of our finalists whose works also spanned continents and content with a prize that might also afford those works to come to fruition as well. NYTW was where I became a New York theatre artist, it feels apt to be partnering with them introducing these phenomenal women to the community."

"I am overwhelmed and delighted by the opportunity to work with Jeremy to commission Sydney Chatman and Winsome Pinnock- two tremendous artists with singular visions whose works speak with eloquence, urgency, and specificity to the complexities and contradictions of our world," said NYTW Artistic Director James C. Nicola. "To collaborate with Sydney, who is still relatively early in her life as an artist, and Winsome, an artist with a significant body of work but has yet to be heard in New York, is a great pleasure.

I am grateful to the nominees who introduced us to 23 talented artists and our esteemed panel who, with great care and consideration, recommended our six finalists. NYTW has long sought to be a space for conversations that transcend borders and the opportunity to be in conversation with Black womxn from across the English-speaking world is a beautiful and necessary step toward this aspiration."

In addition, four finalists will receive a cash prize of $12,500 each in support of their continued artistic endeavors. They are Rhodessa Jones, Jasmine Lee-Jones, Djanet Sears, and Pamela Sneed.

A wide array of nominators recommended nominees from every area and medium of the field, who then submitted proposals to an independent panel of artists. After review, the panel selected six finalists before Harris and New York Theatre Workshop selected the two recipients.

The panelists who selected the six finalists are writer, director and photographer Janicza Bravo; scholar, writer and journalist Roxane Gay; director Katie Mitchell; director and playwright Robert O'Hara; poet and playwright Claudia Rankine; director Machel Ross; journalist Doreen St. Félix and writer Brandon Taylor.

Harris and New York Theatre Workshop most recently collaborated on the Off-Broadway World Premiere of Harris's play, Slave Play. Slave Play is currently nominated for 12 Tony Awards, including Best Play.

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