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NYU Tisch Partners With New Dramatists To Develop And Premiere New Theatre Works

NYU Tisch School of the Arts has partnered with New Dramatists, one of the country's leading playwright centers and a nationally recognized new play laboratory, to develop new theatre works that will premiere in the Graduate Acting program's annual season of plays.

Each year, Graduate Acting will commission a current or alumni playwright member of the New Dramatists to workshop and write a new play specifically for NYU students. The inaugural recipient is Mashuq Mushtaq Deen, whose full-length plays include Flood, The Betterment Society, The Shaking Earth, Draw the Circle, and Tank & Horse.

The unique partnership gives NYU students the opportunity to be at the center of the play development process and work with some of the best playwrights in the country, while New Dramatists playwrights are provided a commission and development opportunity that guarantees a finished production.

The partnership between NYU Tisch and New Dramatists is the formalization of a longstanding relationship which has developed throughout the school's history of commissioning new plays. Each year, Grad Acting's New Play Project commissions two world premiere new works written specifically for NYU students by established writers. Many previously-commissioned playwrights-such as Sarah Ruhl, Lucas Hnath, Christina Anderson, and Mona Mansour-are current New Dramatists residents and alumni.

Mark Wing-Davey, chair of the Graduate Acting Program at NYU Tisch, said the structure of the partnership will expand training and professional opportunities for students, exposing them to fresh material from up-and-coming writers who may not have otherwise been on the program's radar.

"Our program is committed to training passionate actors-like alumni Mahershala Ali and Sterling K. Brown-whose artistic ambition allows them to connect the complexities and subtleties of the human condition to vast and diverse audiences," said Wing-Davey. "Our partnership with New Dramatists will further this mission by exposing our students to playwrights, such as Mashuq Mushtaq Deen, who are subverting narrative convention, illuminating underrepresented stories, and shaping the future of American theatre."

To develop the overarching theme for the fall 2019 production-which will explore "The Number Zero"-Deen held an 11-day workshop with NYU students which included talks from mathematicians and metaphysicians, abacus classes, meditation classes, and class trips to the markets in Chinatown and Union Square. This method is based on the Joint Stock Theatre Company process spearheaded by playwrights such as Caryl Churchill which involves a period of improvisation and research with actors to inform the playwriting process.

The workshop incorporates the students' experiences as a springboard for the playwright's own process, which Deen says will encompass everything from mathematics to existentialism.

"I wanted to put a lot of things in the colander, stir them up, and see what fell out and what stayed behind. An important part of those ingredients are the people in the room and the experiences we each bring to this subject; the students are an integral part of that," said Deen.

New Dramatists will work with the playwrights to further develop the plays as part of their programming, offering additional resources, support, and advocacy. Previous commissions of Grad Acting's New Play Project-including Rajiv Joseph's Describe the Night and Sarah Ruhl's Scenes from Court Life-have gone on to notable productions after their premiere at NYU.

"It's been a joy conceiving this program with NYU Tisch. Our partnership builds on the success of an earlier New Dramatists commissioning/development/production program that paired playwrights with producing organizations to explore new development/production models and ensure new works were given the opportunity to realize their full potential. We're eager to further grow this model with the immensely talented students at Tisch," said Emily Morse, artistic director of New Dramatists.

Mashuq Mushtaq Deen's new work will be directed by Johanna McKeon (known for associate directing King Kong, War Paint, and Hedwig and the Angry Inch) in NYU Tisch Graduate Acting's 2019-2020 season.

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