NNPN Announces 2019-20 Program Awardees

NNPN Announces 2019-20 Program Awardees

National New Play Network, the country's alliance of professional theaters that collaborate in innovative ways to develop, produce, and extend the life of new plays, announces its 2019-20 grant recipients, including the 2019 Smith Prize for Political Theatre, seven Producer Residencies, and eight Collaboration Fund awards that will support partnerships between multiple Member Theaters, playwrights, and other theater makers in various projects.

From Executive Director Nan Barnett: "The Network is proud to share this incredible roster of new play artists and advocates with whom we are excited to partner as they change the landscape of the American theater. In 2019-2020, our programs interact with communities from coast to coast and we are eager to see the impacts of these projects ripple throughout our sector."

Playwright Brent Askari received the 14th Smith Prize for Political Theater, established in 2006 by Timothy Jay Smith and a group of socially conscious donors to encourage emerging playwrights to tackle the pressing issues of our times.

The Refugees (Working Title) seeks to flip the script on how we perceive the struggle of those in crisis by following the experience of American WASP family who, after a cataclysmic disaster in their homeland, are forced to seek refuge in a foreign nation. Their "normal" behavior - eating cheeseburgers, listening to American music, loving football and baseball - makes them outsiders, and they experience the kind of shock and discrimination those seeking asylum in the US are often met with today.

In 2019-20, five emerging theater-makers will serve as first-year Producers in Residence at NNPN's Core Members: Joseph Biagini at Perseverance Theatre (Juneau & Anchorage, AK), Tara Branham at Prop Thtr (Chicago), Jasmine Brooks at Company One (Boston), Jacqueline Flores at Woolly Mammoth (Washington, D.C.), and Haley Nelson at Kitchen Dog Theater (Dallas).

Additionally, two of the current 2018-19 Residents will continue in a second year: India Burton at Cleveland Public Theatre and Nancy García Loza at 16th Street Theater (Berwyn, IL). The program aims to revolutionize the way theaters support rising leaders in the new play field by embedding the selected Residents in Core Member Theaters for 10 months. While immersed in the day-to-day, production, and seasonal operations of a new play theater, Residents learn about NNPN's successful models for collaboration, deepen their connections to the artists and leaders of the Network, and increase their visibility to the field.

The Collaboration Fund was established in an effort to encourage innovative, pioneering, project-based partnerships among theaters in support of playwrights and new plays. Monies are awarded annually on a competitive basis to projects proposed by National New Play Network Core Members, working together with other Member Theaters and playwrights on the development or production of a new work or works. This year, NNPN will support eight collaborative projects.

Actor's Express in collaboration with City Theatre Company will produce a workshop of the musical F*ck7thGrade by award-winning songwriter Jill Sobule this winter prior to its world premiere at City Theatre next May. City Theatre Company will also utilize funds to create two Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Advocate (EDIA) positions as part of the creative team for the world premiere of Isaac Gomez's PerkUp PerKup. Curious Theatre Company will workshop and present Refuge, a new play being created using a horizontal development process. Milagro will develop Antigone at the Border, which will be created in collaboration with Su Teatro in Denver, Colorado and Marc David Pinate of Borderlands Theatre in Tucson, Arizona.

Orlando Shakes will lead the Florida New Play Development Collaboration in which NNPN member theaters will engage in "staff sharing" or exchange of new play directors between member theaters. San Diego Rep will receive support for their 2019 Latinx New Play Festival, a celebration of engaging and dynamic new plays by Latinx playwrights from across the United States. Southern Rep will create Chemin Du Bayou, an ambitious multidisciplinary theatrical celebration of the history of Bayou Road, New Orleans-the oldest street in the city and the location of Southern Rep's new home. Woolly Mammoth will present What to Send Up When It Goes Down and utilize Collaboration funds to present The Movement Theatre's production in a radically inclusive way, touring the piece to black-owned spaces before it runs in the Woolly building.

Brent Askari is a Persian-American writer and actor whose plays include American Underground (Runner-up winner Bonnie and Terry Burman New Play Award, to be produced at Barrington Stage Company 2019), Hard Cell (PlayPenn Conference 2017, produced at Geva Theatre Center in 2019), White Party (Semi-finalist for O'Neill Conference, Finalist Bay Area Playwrights Festival), Digby's Home (Semi-finalist O'Neill Conference, produced at Mad Horse Theatre); Cocktails and Travails (Winner of Neil Simon Festival's National New Play Contest and produced at The Theater Project); Bending Reeds (Semi-Finalist Bay Area Playwrights Festival, Blank Stage Living Room Series); Dirty Deeds Downeast (Finalist, B Street Theater New Comedies Festival). In addition, Brent has had plays produced at or developed by Ensemble Studio Theatre LA, Vital Theatre, The Boston Theatre Marathon, New American Theatre, The Drilling Company, Swarthmore College, Eastern Connecticut State University, and the College of Southern Nevada. Brent has also been a finalist for the Actor's Theatre of Louisville's Heideman Award and the Reva Shiner Comedy Award. He was part of HBO's New Writers Project and has written screenplays for several companies including Paramount Pictures, Marvel Films, MTV, and Reveille Entertainment. He is an ensemble member of Mad Horse Theatre Company.

The $5,000 Prize is awarded annually as a commission, chosen by the Network, from proposals from NNPN-affiliated early career writers for a play that examines the American body politic. NNPN also compensates a Member Theater up to $2,500 for a developmental workshop of the play, and provides an additional $2,500 to the first NNPN Member to fully produce the resulting work.

Joseph W. Biagini is an artistic producer and director hailing from Northern Virginia. Most recently, he was a part of the Artistic team at Baltimore Center Stage as the Producing and Community Programs Fellow. His work is driven by principles of anti-racism and anti-oppression, producing art with an eye towards civil and social relationships. He holds a love for the outdoors and a B.A. in Theatre and Economics from The College of William & Mary.

Tara Branham is a theatre and opera director, producer, and casting director living in Chicago. Upcoming Credits include Little Women (First Folio Theatre). She is developing FAT Folx - a theatrical performance art piece that centers larger bodied people and how they move through life. Recent Directing Credits: Another Jungle (Cloudgate Theatre); octagon (Jackalope Theatre Company); good friday (Self-Produced with Oracle Productions); Bars and Measures (Prop Thtr). Assistant Directing Credits: Madama Butterfly (Opera San Jose); Fire Shut Up in My Bones & La Traviata (Opera Theatre of St. Louis); The Consul (Long Beach Opera & Chicago Opera Theatre). Formerly the Artistic Producer and Casting Director for Chicago Dramatists, Tara is a consummate developer and editor of new plays. She is the teacher and creator of the Unbridled Sound - a physical/vocal technique for actors, a graduate of Ball State University (cum laude), and a student of Black Box Acting Studio. www.tarabranham.com

Jasmine Brooks is a Boston based producer, director and actor whose work centers around investigating the places where social activism and play intersect. Jasmine is proud to be an NNPN Producer in Residence at Company One Theatre in Boston where she has previously worked as the Assistant to the Artistic Director and the College Coordinator. Jasmine is a member of the 3rd TCG Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Cohort with Company One. Recent directing/ assistant directing credits include VIETGONE (Company One), SORRY ASS BLOCK PARTY (Company One Theatre/Boston Theatre Marathon), FINAL FLIGHT (Boston University), LIFE AFTER LUST (Open Theatre Project/Gay Shorts), and DIVAS (OperaHub). Jasmine holds a BFA in Theatre Arts from Boston University.

Jacqueline Flores is passionate about theater and the ways in which performance can be used as a means for social change. She is committed to advancing the American Theater and making it more accessible for artists and audience members alike. She began her arts journey in D.C. at Americans for the Arts where she was responsible for implementing logistics for events and leveraging the scholarship program to create more opportunities for participation at annual events. Jacqueline recently joined Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company as their Artistic Assistant and is excited to continue working with the company as the Producer-in-Residence. Prior to residing in D.C., Jacqueline spent time in New York City at The Public Theater. Jacqueline is a first-generation American, born to parents who emigrated from Honduras and Mexico. She holds a B.A. in Theater Arts from St. Edward's University and is a proud Texas native.?

Haley Nelson, originally from Northern California, is a freelance dramaturg and writer now based in Dallas, Texas. She has worked with Kitchen Dog Theater since 2016, first as the Lobby Display Dramaturg and New Works Festival Co-Coordinator, and then as Manager of Literary and Community Initiatives, managing the theater's dramaturgy, community engagement programming, and annual New Works Festival. She has dramaturged work at Dallas Theater Center, Circle Theatre, Theatre Too, Spoke Media, and Artstillery, evaluated scripts for Seven Devils and the Playwrights' Center, and worked at several new works festivals including the Kennedy Center MFA Playwrights' Workshop as assistant to Mark Bly. She is the Third Coast Regional Vice President for the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas, and has received grants and awards including a 2017 Bly Creative Capacity Grant, an inaugural Actors Theatre of Louisville Emerging Leaders Grant, and an upcoming 2019 Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs Micro-Residency within the Historic Preservation department. In addition to her dramaturgical work, Haley is a playwright and member of the 2019 Dallas Theater Center Playwrights Workshop, a contributing writer for TheaterJones, and she can occasionally be caught on stage or producing small festivals across the metroplex. More at www.haleynelson.me.

India Nicole Burton is an actress, director, playwright, and producer. She is a native of Akron, OH and graduated from The University of Akron in 2011 with a BA in Theatre Arts with an emphasis on performance. Upon graduating, India founded Ma'Sue Productions, an African American theatre company located in Akron. India has worked with many prominent Akron, Cleveland, New York, Atlanta, and L.A. actors, directors, and playwrights. India has directed for Heads Up Productions (for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf, The Laramie Project), Ma'Sue Productions (Daybreak's Children, A Happening on Imperial, and O Patria Mia), Hathaway Brown Theatre Institute (Little Women) and Cleveland Public Theatre's Station Hope. India has served as assistant director for productions at Karamu House, Dobama Theatre, and Cleveland Public Theatre. As the 2018-2019 NNPN Producer in Residence at Cleveland Public Theatre, India co-directed Fire on the Water with Raymond Bobgan, as well as devised Panther Women: An Army for the Liberation (Working Title), an original play about women in the Black Panther Party. India is a board member of New World Performance Lab.

Nancy García Loza (she/her) is a self-taught pocha playwright and producer rooted in Chicago, Illinois and Jalisco, México. Her audio drama BRAVA: a folktale con música launched Make-Believe Association's inaugural season this year (The New York Times). This summer she teams up with Jess Hutchinson (Director) for a workshop reading of Rasca Cielos with Theater on the Lake. This fall, Tocaya will receive a workshop production with UIUC's Free Armory Theatre. She is currently under commission from Make-Believe Association, 16th Street Theater, Chicago Dramatists, Teatro Leyden (World Premiere 2020) and more. She is a writer with Make-Believe Association, a Chicago Dramatists Tutterow Fellow, an Artistic Associate with 16th Street Theater, and an Artistic Associate with Teatro Vista. Her select plays include BRAVA: a folktale con música (Make-Believe Association, 2019); MACHA: a pocha sister story (recognized in Steppenwolf's The Mix list); Tocaya (developed at Oregon Shakespeare Festival); Rasca Cielos (developed at Theater on the Lake (2019); 16th Street Theater (2018); and Chicago Theatre Marathon (2017)). Her select short works include: el Pico (Something Marvelous, 2018); WAVE: las olas van y vienen (Broken Nose Theatre, 2018); Rust (developed at Fornés Playwriting Workshop); Jets, Sharks, and Beckys (Breath of Fire Latina Theater Ensemble; Collaboraction; Teatro Vista; 2017-18); Eckhart Park Echoes (Collaboraction and Goodman Theatre, 2017-18). She is recognized in Newcity Stage Players 2019, as well as, TCG's American Theatre Magazine Roll Call Series. She is the recipient of 2018 ALTA Awards in the categories of: Outstanding Solo Performance for Eckhart Park Echoes, as well as The Luis Alfaro Leadership Award for her service work with the Alliance of Latinx Theater Artists (2012-2019). She served on the Latinx Theater Commons National Steering Committee (2013-2018) and now serves on the National Advisory Committee. She is currently the NNPN Producer in Residence with 16th Street Theater. Beyond teatro, she serves on the Board of Directors of Mujeres Latinas en Acción. She is a proud first-generation alum of DePaul University, with a double concentration in Latinx & Latin American Studies and Spanish. Her loves include storytelling, corridos y birria. She is thrilled to deepen her work as 16th Street Theater's Producer in Residence for a second year (2018-2020).

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