National New Play Network Announces 2017-18 Awards

by Michael Eddy
The National New Play Network announces its 2017-18 awards
The National New Play Network announces its 2017-18 awards

National New Play Network, the country's alliance of nonprofit theaters that champions the development, production, and continued life of new plays, announces its 2017-18 grant recipients, including the 2017 Smith Prize for Political Theatre, seven Producer Residencies, and five Collaboration Fund awards that will support partnerships between multiple Member Theaters, playwrights, and other theater makers in various projects.

"We are pleased that these Residencies, Commissions, and awards in support of Collaborations between NNPN’s Member Theaters and these artists and theater-makers will impact 15 communities this year," says Executive Director Nan Barnett. "But, of course, the new play field and its audiences will reap the benefits of these programs around the world for years to come."

Smith Prize
NNPN Affiliated Artist Jacqueline Goldfinger received the 12th 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.

Her project, Babel, takes on issues of privacy and genetic testing, and how such testing could be used to discriminate in terms of things like jobs, education, and social status. In this version of a near future society, prospective parents learn within the first month of conception what traits their child will have and what behaviors it is likely to exhibit. Based on these test results, they are either issued a PRE-certification which legally guarantees the baby will be a "good" person or not. Without the certification, the child will be limited in what it is allowed to do. Two couples, both early in their pregnancies, collide over whether or not to open the PRE-certification test results, and what to do once they know the results. 

Core Member Florida Studio Theatre, which nominated the Philadelphia-based playwright for this prize, was first introduced to Goldfinger and her work at the 2015 National Showcase of New Plays, where her new play The Arsonists was presented. The Arsonists is currently receiving an NNPN Rolling World Premiere at Associate Members Azuka Theatre (Philadelphia), Know Theatre of Cincinnati, Capital Stage (Sacramento), and Core Member Perseverance Theatre (Juneau/Anchorage).

Producers in Residence
In 2017-18, four emerging theater-makers will serve as Producers in Residence at NNPN’s Core Members: Leah Anderson at Mixed Blood Theatre (Minneapolis), Jessica Parks at New Jersey Repertory Company (Long Branch), Kirstin Clippard at Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, and Irena Saric at Riverside Theatre (Iowa City).

Additionally, two of the current 2016-17 Residents will continue in a second year: Maria Patrice Amon at San Diego REP and Helen Jaksch at Southern Rep (New Orleans). 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 3 to 10 months. While immersed in the day-to-day, per 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.

Finally, Ryan-Patrick McLaughlin will continue his Residency at NNPN headquarters for a second year, serving additionally as tech support for New Play Exchange®.

Collaboration Fund
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 five collaborative projects.

Cleveland Public Theatre will use Collaboration Funds to support the development of Nikkole Salter’s 2017 NNPN Annual Commission. Salter’s new project is centered on Cleveland’s consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice, designed to address the excessive use of force of Cleveland’s police. NNPN Funds will support her continued research in Cleveland, participation in Entry Point in early 2018, and a customized reading in the spring.

Curious Theatre Company (Denver) Over the course of their 20th Anniversary season, unfolding during three visits, Curious Theatre Company will collaborate with Lindsay Joelle as she researches, develops, and workshops the second and third installments in her series The Truck Trilogy. This collaboration builds on the success of Serial Storytelling, an innovative Curious Theatre Company programmatic initiative that immerses audiences in a series of plays that span multiple seasons, fostering a deeper connection to the characters, story, and playwright.

InterAct Theatre Company (Philadelphia) will lead Cross-Pollination, a new initiative creating a local playwright trade between NNPN Core Members InterAct Theatre Company, Kitchen Dog Theater (Dallas) and Cleveland Public Theatre. Each participating theater will host a workshop for a playwright mentored by one of the other partner theaters. The project will focus on playwrights who have not yet had a professional production of a full-length play or have not yet had a play professionally produced outside of their home city.

Milagro (Portland) will be launching its inaugural new works play festival, INGENIO in September 2017. INGENIO will feature the works of four emerging Latino playwrights - Guillermo Reyes, Monica Palacios, Marisela Treviño Orta, and Monica Sanchez - selected through a national open call held after the award was granted. The plays will be presented in concert readings followed by a feedback session. A key feature of INGENIO will be the participation of an established Latino theater artist who will serve as host and mentor to the playwrights; for the inaugural festival, we have invited former Milagro Interim Artistic Director and long-time collaborator Daniel Jáquez to take on the role.

Salt Lake Acting Company is using NNPN support for a second year to bring in five NNPN Affiliated artist to participate in its fourth SLAC Playwrights' Lab. The SLAC Lab’s use of ‘resource artists’ – professionals from various artistic mediums (storytelling, musical composition, dance, visual art, etc.) who are available to the playwrights as they explore and experiment – makes it a unique and impactful new play development program.

About the National New Play Network
National New Play Network (NNPN) is the country’s alliance of non-profit professional theaters dedicated to the development, production, and continued life of new plays. Since its founding in 1998, NNPN has supported more than 240 productions nationwide through its innovative National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere program, which provides playwright and production support for new works at its Member theaters. Additional programs - its annual National Conference, National Showcase of New Plays, and MFA Playwrights Workshop; the NNPN Annual and Smith Prize commissions; its residencies for playwrights, producers and directors; and the organization’s member accessed Collaboration, Festival, and Travel banks and online information sessions - have helped cement the Network’s position as a vital force in the new play landscape. NNPN also strives to pioneer, implement, and disseminate ideas and programs that revolutionize the way theaters collaborate to support new plays and playwrights. Its most recent project, the New Play Exchange®, is changing the way playwrights share their work and others discover it by providing immediate access to information on more than 13,500 new plays by living writers. NNPN’s 30 Core and 80 Associate Members - along with the more than 250 affiliated artists who are its alumni, the thousands of artists and artisans employed annually by its member theaters, and the hundreds of thousands of audience members who see its supported works each year - are creating the new American theater. 

Further information about the National New Play Network (NNPN): nnpn.org | newplayexchange.org