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Cygnet Theatre Launches The Dee Silver M.D. Commission


The blueprint of this annual commission is to fund a play that directly engages with the present moment with an illuminating perspective.

Cygnet Theatre Launches The Dee Silver M.D. Commission

Cygnet Theatre announces the inaugural Dee Silver M.D. Commission, which will award $10,000 and an unrestricted time limit on the creation of a new play that responds to our present times with hope and healing. The first commission award goes to playwright Ray Yamanouchi, an up-and-coming east coast playwright who approaches difficult subject matter with a tilt towards the mystic and develops characters with gentleness.

The blueprint of this annual commission is to fund a play that directly engages with the present moment with an illuminating perspective. It strives to provide a space for stories that share the experiences of strength and hope.

The Commission is helmed by Cygnet's Associate Artistic Director, Rob Lutfy, who said "We are grateful to Dee Silver for ensuring that the national theatrical cannon is filled with stories that create bridges of empathy. The commission does not require the playwright to give definite answers or happy endings, but rather to take the messiness of humanity and examine it for the purpose of nurturing our growth and starting conversations around healing."

The Commission is comprised of three key development sessions in partnership with two of the country's most renowned development organizations. The first leg of the artistic journey, which has already been completed, is in partnership with The New Harmony Project. This first session allows the playwright a week of retreat to write with a lit team and group of playwrights. Ray spent seven days in rural Indiana with 225 writers and artists, including playwrights under commission from Steppenwolf and award-winners from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. The mission of The New Harmony Project, which is "to create, nurture and promote new works for the stage, television, and film that sensitively and truthfully explore the positive aspects of life.", is in perfect alignment with The Dee Silver M.D. Commission and was a natural first step in creative exploration.

Lori Wolter Hudson, the Artistic Director of The New Harmony Project lauded the partnership. "We are thrilled to be part of this incredible initiative, as it fully aligns with our mission to create and develop life-affirming stories grappling with the complexity of hope. Having Ray with us at our 2021 Conference, and getting to be part of early stage dramaturgical conversations with a writer who is still dreaming up ideas for a new play is such a gift. We're excited to continue supporting this piece, and look forward to working with Cygnet and The Playwrights' Center on future commissions." Following the writing retreat at New Harmony, Ray will go to Minneapolis for an extensive, week-long workshop - including director, dramaturg and actors - to delve deeper into the play. The vision of the Playwrights' Center "fosters engagement towards an equitable, empathetic, and boundlessly imaginative world" and pairs equally well with The Dee Silver M.D. Commission. The Playwrights' Center is matching the development cost of the week-long residency dollar for dollar.

"Now more than ever organizational partnerships are essential in supporting artists and new stories for the stage." said Hayley Finn, Playwrights' Center's Associate Artistic Director. "I'm thrilled that the Playwrights' Center is not only a partner in co-developing the work but also in helping identify the playwright. Ray is a Core Writer at the Playwrights' Center, a singular artist whose heart-forward work is both personal and resonant, and the perfect choice for the inaugural Commission."
The third and final leg of the commission comes full circle back to San Diego where the playwright will receive a workshop at Cygnet Theatre and a reading in front of an audience. The workshop includes a full cast, director and dramaturg. The ultimate goal is to produce the work as a world premiere at Cygnet Theatre in a near-future season.

The Commission's namesake and funder, Dee Silver M.D., is a long-time supporter of Cygnet Theatre, as well as the larger San Diego theatre community in general. In addition to the commission sponsorship of $27,000 (which includes the $10,000 award to the playwright), his most recent contributions to the performing arts community includes support for Cygnet Theatre's streaming one-man A Christmas Carol, Chasing Fear by Blake McCarty as part of Cygnet's Bill and Judy Garrett Finish Line Commission, and The Old Globe's production of The Grinch (2021).

"My hope is that through this commission and under the guidance of both Cygnet and Rob's powerful creative influence, this play adds an uplifting and propitious perspective of the human condition to the legacy of American Theatre." said Silver. "This moment in time, these partners, and this playwright are ideal elements coming together to create a forward-looking, wholehearted new work."

Of the Commission, playwright Yamanouchi says "Writing plays is how I attempt to make sense of an often upsetting and unjust world. This commission offers me the institutional support and resources to explore these ideas to the fullest extent."

Because The Dee Silver M.D. Commission is open ended and does not put time constraints on a finished piece, the free public readings will be announced at a future date.

The most recent information on the commissions process can be found at

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