Williamstown Theatre Festival Announces Recipients of Commissioning Programs

John J. Caswell, Jr. is the L. Arnold Weissberger Award recipient for his play Wet Brain.

By: Apr. 28, 2021

Williamstown Theatre Festival Announces Recipients of Commissioning Programs

Williamstown Theatre Festival has announced the recipient of the 2021 L. Arnold Weissberger New Play Award and the 2022 Jay Harris Commission, as well as recipients of 2021 WTF Commissions through WTF's Andrew Martin-Weber New Play and Musical Commissioning Program.

John J. Caswell, Jr. is the L. Arnold Weissberger Award recipient for his play Wet Brain. Caswell receives the $10,000 award as well as the $10,000 Jay Harris Commission to write a new play.

Williamstown Theatre Festival has commissioned the following generative artists through WTF's Andrew Martin-Weber New Play and Musical Commissioning Program: Lee Edward Colston II, Erika Dickerson-Despenza, Rick Elice, The Forest of Arden, Madeleine George, Carey Perloff, and James Anthony Tyler. Bess Wohl is also a recipient in a co-commission with Manhattan Theatre Club.

Williamstown Theatre Festival administers the L. Arnold Weissberger New Play Award on behalf of the Anna L. Weissberger Foundation. Championed for the Festival in 1998 by late Trustee Jay Harris, the award honors noted theatrical attorney and avid theater supporter L. Arnold Weissberger, and it is designed to recognize excellence in playwriting. The 2021 finalist judges were André Holland, Sylvia Khoury, Kristolyn Lloyd, Omar Sangare, Susan Stroman, and James Anthony Tyler. The finalists for the award were At The Very Bottom Of A Body Of Water by Benjamin Benne, Noise In The Line by Matthew Capodicasa, Shadow/Land by Erika Dickerson-Despenza, and On Sugarland by Aleshea Harris.

Established in 2015, Williamstown Theatre Festival's Andrew Martin-Weber New Play and Musical Commissioning Program annually commissions and develops three to six projects from playwrights, composers, and other generative artists from across the career spectrum. Each commission also includes at least one writing residency at the Festival. Commission recipients include Aziza Barnes, Big Dance Theater, Jocelyn Bioh, Fernanda Coppel, Nathan Alan Davis, Halley Feiffer, Meghan Kennedy, Sylvia Khoury, Michael John LaChiusa, Justin Levine, Matthew Lopez, Marsha Norman, Jiehae Park, Max Posner, Heather Raffo, Sharyn Rothstein, Zoe Sarnak, Benjamin Scheuer, and Lucy Thurber. The Andrew Martin-Weber New Play and Musical Commissioning Program is made possible by generous support from James & Virginia Giddens, Perry & Marty Granoff, The Ted & Mary Jo Shen Charitable Gift Fund, and Andrew Martin-Weber.

As previously announced, the 2021 WTF season will be a return to live performances this summer - outdoors, socially distanced, and with safety prioritized.

The season will begin with the world premiere of Outside on Main: Nine Solo Plays by Black Playwrights (Wednesday, July 6 - Sunday, July 25). Guest curated by 2021 Tony Award nominee Robert O'Hara (Slave Play, WTF's A Raisin in the Sun), this series of three shows centers and celebrates Black artists and their voices through theatrical storytelling.

Each performance consists of three of the nine 30-minute world premieres, created by Black writers Ngozi Anyanwu, France-Luce Benson, J. Nicole Brooks, Guadalís Del Carmen, Terry Guest, Ike Holter, Zora Howard, NSangou Njikam, and Charly Evon Simpson; written for actors of color; and brought to life by directors Wardell Julius Clark, Candis C. Jones, and Awoye Timpo on the Front Lawn of the '62 Center for Theatre and Dance.

The season will continue with the world premiere musical Row (Tuesday, July 13 - Sunday, August 8), with book by Daniel Goldstein, music and lyrics by Dawn Landes, directed by Tyne Rafaeli, and inspired by A Pearl in the Storm by Tori Murden McClure. Row will feature Grace McLean.

Row is supported by a grant from the Laurents/Hatcher Foundation and will be performed at the world-renowned Clark Art Institute, which is minutes away from the Williams College campus. The Clark's serene reflecting pool becomes the stage for this uplifting world premiere musical that interrogates the resilience, fear, and ambition inside one individual as she aims to be the first woman to row solo across the Atlantic. Row exposes audiences to the elements endured by an extraordinary woman undeterred by the odds.

The season concludes with the world premiere of Alien/Nation (Tuesday, July 20 - Sunday, August 8), an immersive theatrical experience from two-time Tony Award-nominated director Michael Arden and the company of The Forest of Arden that takes audiences on a journey throughout Williamstown, revealing unexpected surprises around them and within them.

Audiences will choose to experience this completely unique site-specific performance by foot or by car and plunge themselves into the center of stories inspired by real events that took place in Western Massachusetts in 1969.

Devised in collaboration with writers Jen Silverman and Eric Berryman and featuring members of WTF's COMMUNITY WORKS program, Alien/Nation engages all of the senses for a theatre experience unlike any other.

Complete casting and creative team information will be announced at a later date. Tickets will go on sale to the public in mid-June. For updates, please visit www.wtfestival.org.

Williamstown Theatre Festival is part of a Berkshire-based consortium of cultural organizations that have developed a unified "COVID-19 Code of Courtesy" that addresses public safety for all visitors to the region. These guidelines have been reviewed and endorsed by the Berkshire Public Health Alliance.