Manhattan Theatre Club Announces Recipients of The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Initiative Commissions

by Jacob Coakley

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has provided a grant to Manhattan Theatre Club to support the development of plays that address themes of math, science, and technology and that depict scientists, mathematicians, and engineers as major characters.

Manhattan Theatre Club Announces Recent Recipients Of The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Initiative Commissions
Jeff Augustin, Courtney Baron & Juliana Nash, Nell Benjamin, Madeline George, Tom Holloway, Nathan Jackson, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Greg Pierce, Alexandra Wood
In Addition Sloan Foundation Providing Production Support For MTC’S Upcoming Broadway Premiere Of Nick Payne’s Constellations

Lynne Meadow (Artistic Director) and Barry Grove (Executive Producer) announce recent recipients of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Initiative commissions for Manhattan Theatre Club. The commissioned writers are Jeff Augustin (Little Children Dream of God), Courtney Baron (A Very Common Procedure) and Juliana Nash (Murder Ballad), Nell Benjamin (The Explorers Club), Madeline George (The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence), Tom Holloway (And No More Shall We Part), Nathan Jackson (Broke-ology), Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (An Octoroon), Greg Pierce (Slowgirl), and Alexandra Wood (The Initiate).

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has provided a grant to Manhattan Theatre Club to support the development of plays that address themes of math, science, and technology and that depict scientists, mathematicians, and engineers as major characters. The aim is to bridge the divide between the “two cultures,” science and the arts.

In addition to providing a grant for commissioning engaging plays with science and technology themes and characters, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has provided production support for MTC’s production of Sloan commissioned writer Nick Payne’s Constellations which will play a strictly limited 13-week engagement and will begin previews Tuesday, December 16, 2014 for a Tuesday, January 13, 2015 opening night at MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre (261 West 47th Street).

Oscar nominee Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback MountainProof) and two-time Olivier Award winner Ruth Wilson (“The Affair,” “Luther”) make their MTC and Broadway debuts in the first American production of Constellations, a new play by Nick Payne (If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet), which premiered at London’s Royal Court Theatre to tremendous acclaim. Michael Longhurst (If There Is…) directs.

This mind-bending, romantic journey begins with a simple encounter between a man and a woman (Gyllenhaal and Wilson). But what happens next defies the boundaries of the world we think we know – delving into the infinite possibilities of their relationship and raising questions about the difference between choice and destiny.

Constellations is produced by Manhattan Theatre Club (Lynne Meadow, Artistic Director; Barry Grove, Executive Producer) and the Royal Court Theatre, by special arrangement with Ambassador Theatre Group and the Dodgers,

“This round of Sloan commissions has gone to an outstanding group of playwrights who are taking on topics that are full of promise. We look forward with great anticipation to what the yield will be,” said MTC’s Director of Artistic Development Jerry Patch. “And we’re especially grateful to the Sloan Foundation for its support of those commissions and our production of Constellations.” 

“We are delighted to join with the Manhattan Theatre Club in commissioning original work from these six gifted playwrights as they explore science and technology themes and characters,” said Doron Weber, Sloan’s Vice President of Programs. “Not only are an increasing number of the best and brightest contemporary playwrights willing to explore this rich, underexplored terrain, but this year we are especially proud to support MTC’s Broadway production of Constellations.”

  

MTC first collaborated with the Sloan Foundation in 2000 with the production of David Auburn’s Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Proof. MTC's partnership with the Sloan Foundation has expanded to include multiple annual commissions for emerging, mid-level, and established writers as well as a production grant to stage Sloan-related works. In addition to Proof, Sloan supported MTC’s production of Charlotte JonesHumble Boy in 2003 as well as the recent productions of Sloan commissioned writer Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s adaptation of An Enemy of the People, Sharr White’s The Other Place, and Nell Benjamin’s The Explorers Club.

Since partnering with the Sloan Foundation, MTC has commissioned the following writers: Stephen Belber, Glen Berger, Lisa D’Amour, April de Angelis, Charles Evered, Melissa James Gibson, Daniel Goldfarb, Rinne Groff, Sam Hunter, Ron Hutchinson, Nick Jones, Lucy Kirkwood, Bryony Lavery, Rebecca Lenkiewicz, Kenneth Lin, Craig Lucas, Michael Mitnick, Peter Morris, Hannah Moscovitch,  Itamar Moses, Rona Munro, Brett Neveu, Nick Payne, Hannie Rayson, Melissa Ross, Heidi Schreck, Mark Schultz, Eric Simonson, Dava Sobel, Simon Stephens, Shelagh Stephenson, Sarah Treem, Catherine Trieschmann, John Walch, Anne Washburn, Jason Wells, Michael West, Bess Wohl, Beau Willimon, and Anna Ziegler.   

BIOGRAPHIES

JEFF AUGUSTIN’s play Little Children Dream of God will have its world premiere at the Roundabout Theatre Company, where he’s a Playwright-in-Residence. His work has been produced or developed at the Humana Festival of New American Plays (Cry Old Kingdom); Eugene O'Neill National Playwright's Conference (Little Children Dream of God); The Ground Floor at Berkeley Repertory Theatre (The Last Tiger in Haiti); American Conservatory Theater (in the crowding darkness); and Western Washington University (Corktown). Jeff is a New York Theatre Workshop 2050 Fellow, a recipient of the Barrie and Bernice Stavis Playwriting Award and two-time recipient of the Lorraine Hansberry Award. He is currently under commission from Roundabout Theatre Company.  Jeff recently received his MFA from UC San Diego (under the tutelage of Naomi Iizuka) and holds a BA from Boston College.

COURTNEY BARON’s play Eat Your Heart Out was part of the 36th Annual Humana Festival of New American Plays. Her play A Very Common Procedure has been produced at MCC (director Michael Greif), the Magic Theatre in San Francisco (director Loretta Greco) and as a part of the 2005 Cherry Lane Mentor project, mentored by David Auburn, (director Peter DuBois). Her plays Consumption and Purge are both commissions from the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. Consumption was produced at the Guthrie Lab. Her play Confidence Man was featured as part of the Theater For One, Christine Jones, Artistic Director. Her play EarlStreetman was a part of the Larson Project at New York Theatre Workshop and at the O’Neill Playwrights Conference; These Three Here, a finalist for the 2003 Heideman Award, as part of then 24-Hour Plays at the Atlantic Theatre, NYC. Courtney holds an MFA from Columbia University.

NELL BENJAMIN co-wrote the score to Legally Blonde, The Musical with composer Laurence O’Keefe, for which they received Tony Award nominations, Drama Desk nominations the Olivier Award for Best Musical and the Helpmann Award for Best Musical.  Her play, The Explorers Club, won the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway play and was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Best Off-Broadway play. Book and Lyrics: Pirates! (or Gilbert and Sullivan plunder’d) (Goodspeed Opera House, the Paper Mill Playhouse, the Huntington Theater and the St Louis MUNY).  Life of the Party (LaGuardia High School).  Cam Jansen (Drama Desk-nominated). Because of Winn Dixie (Arkansas Rep) I Want My Hat Back (TWUSA) How I Became A Pirate (TWUSA) Lyrics: Sarah, Plain and Tall, The Mice, Dave, Gotta Dance, Mean Girls Television: Unhappily Ever After, Animal Planet’s Whoa! Sunday with Mo Rocca, and the new Electric Company

MADELEINE GEORGE's plays include The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence (Pulitzer Prize finalist; Outer Critics Circle John Gassner Award), Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England (Susan Smith Blackburn finalist), Precious Little, and The Zero Hour (Jane Chambers Award, Lambda Literary Award finalist). They've made their way to the stage through workshops at Berkeley Rep, Soho Rep, New York Theatre Workshop, Manhattan Theatre Club, About Face Theater, and the O'Neill Playwrights Conference, and have been performed for the viewing public at Playwrights Horizons, Clubbed Thumb, 13P, Shotgun Players in Berkeley, City Theatre in Pittsburgh, Theater Wit in Chicago, Perseverance Theatre in Alaska, and Two River Theater Company in New Jersey, among other places. George has been a Princess Grace Playwriting Fellow, a MacDowell Fellow, and a two-time writer-in-residence at Hedgebrook.  She's a resident playwright at New Dramatists and a founding member of the Obie-Award-winning playwrights' collective 13P (Thirteen Playwrights, Inc.).

TOM HOLLOWAY is an award-winning Australian playwright. Plays include Beyond The Neck (Performing Lines, Tasmania, 2008 - winner of the Australian Writers Guild award for Writing For The Stage); Don’t Say The Words (Griffin Theatre Company and Tasmania Theatre, 2008); Red Sky Morning (Red Stitch Actors Theatre, 2008 - Green Room Award for Best New Australian Play); And No More Shall We Part (In Australia - Griffin Theatre Company, 2011 Winner of the Australian Writer's Guild for Writing For The Stage and the Louis Esson Victorian Premier's Award For Literature; in the UK, Hampstead Theatre London and Traverse Theatre Edinburgh, 2012) and Love Me Tender (Company B Belvoir St / Griffin Theatre Company and Thin Ice, 2009 & 2010); Gambling (Soho Theatre/ Eleanor Lloyd Productions, London 2010); Fatherland (The Gate Theatre, London 2011 and Munich Yung Og Radikal Festival); Forget Me Not  (Co-commissioned by Liverpool Everyman and Belvoir Street Theatre and produced by Belvoir, 2013). In 2006/2007 Holloway was one of ten writers whose work was selected to be presented as part of the Royal Court Theatre’s International Young Writers Festival. Holloway is currently under commission to the Bell Shakespeare Company and the Melbourne Theatre Company. Holloway’s libretto as part of a new opera, Make No Noise, was performed at the Munich Opera Festival in summer 2011 and he is writing a libretto for a new opera for the Bavarian State Opera, which will be composed by Miroslav Srnka and will premiere in 2016.

NATHAN LOUIS JACKSON is an alumnus of Kansas State University and did his graduate work at The Juilliard School. His plays include Broke-ology (KC Rep, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Lincoln Center Theater), When I Come to Die (Lincoln Center Theater/LCT3), The Mancerhios, and The Last Black Play. He has received commissions from Lincoln Center Theater and The Roundabout Theater Company. Jackson has twice won the Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award, is the recipient of the Mark Twain Comedy Playwriting Award, and was awarded the Kennedy Center’s Gold Medallion. He spent the month of February in Ucross, WY for the Sundance writers retreat. He has written for television as well, with credits for “Southland” (NBC), “Lights Out” (FX), and “Shameless” (Showtime).

BRANDEN JACOBS-JENKINS. Off-Broadway: Appropriate (Obie Award; Outer Critics Circle Nomination; Signature Theatre), Neighbors (The Public Theater) and An Octoroon (Obie Award; Soho Rep). His upcoming projects include War (Yale Repertory Theatre) and Gloria (Vineyard Theatre). He is currently a Residency Five playwright at the Signature Theater and a Lila Acheson Wallace fellow at the Juilliard School. His work has been seen at Actor’s Theater of Louisville, Victory Gardens Theater, Woolly Mammoth Theater, The Vineyard Theater, The Matrix Theater in LA, Mixed Blood Theater in Minneapolis, CompanyOne in Boston, and the HighTide Festival in the UK. He is under commission from Lincoln Center Theater/LCT3. His honors include a Paula Vogel Award, a fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the inaugural Tennessee Williams award.

JULIANA NASH was the rhythm guitarist and singer-songwriter for the band Talking to Animals, which was signed to Columbia and Velvel Records. Her work has been featured in films such as Rob Morrow’s Maze and Eric Schaeffer’s Fall. She is the co-lyricist and composer for Murder Ballad, which was produced at the Manhattan Theatre Club in 20012 and then transferred to the Union Square Theatre. Murder Ballad was nominated for five Lortel Awards including Outstanding Musical, as well as a Drama League Award nomination for Outstanding Production of a Musical and the Outer Critics Circle Award nomination for Best Musical. Nash is a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild and BMI.

GREG PIERCE is a playwright, lyricist, and fiction writer. His play Slowgirl was the inaugural play of the Claire Tow Theater (Lincoln Center Theater/LCT3). It has since been published by Dramatists Play Service and produced by Steppenwolf Theatre and Geffen Playhouse among others. His original musical The Landing, written with John Kander, premiered Off-Broadway at the Vineyard Theatre. Their new musical, Kid Victory, will receive its world premiere at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia in a co-production with the Vineyard Theatre. His stage adaptation of Haruki Murakami's novel The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, co-written with director Stephen Earnhart, premiered at the Edinburgh International Festival and went on to play the Singapore Arts Festival. His work has been developed with Manhattan Theatre Club, Second Stage Theatre, the Rattlestick Theater, Vermont Stage Company, Naked Angels, and the New Group. Greg has received fellowships from the Edward F. Albee Foundation, the Djerassi Institute, and the Corporation of Yaddo. He is under commission from Lincoln Center Theater and Second Stage Theatre. A graduate of Oberlin College, Greg received his MFA in fiction from Warren Wilson College. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild and lives in New York City.

British writer ALEXANDRA WOOD's most recent play, The Initiate, is part of Paines Plough's Roundabout season, and opened at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August. Her other plays include an adaptation of Jung Chang’s Wild Swans (Young Vic/American Repertory Theater); The Empty Quarter (Hampstead); The Centre (Islington Community Theatre); Decade (co-writer/Headlong); Unbroken (Gate); The Lion’s Mouth (Rough Cuts/Royal Court) and The Eleventh Capital (Royal Court). She has written short plays for the Royal Court, Oxford School of Drama, Rose Bruford College, Dry Write, nabokov and curious directive. Work for radio: Twelve Years (BBC Radio 4). Wood is a graduate of the MPhil in Playwriting Studies at Birmingham University and the Royal Court Young Writers’ Programme. In 2007 she won the George Devine Award for Most Promising Playwright.  She was the Big Room Playwright-in-Residence at Paines Plough in 2013.

ABOUT MANHATTAN THEATRE CLUB

Under the leadership of Artistic Director Lynne Meadow and Executive Producer Barry Grove, MTC has become one of the country’s most prominent and prestigious theatre companies. Over the past four and a half decades, MTC productions have earned numerous awards including six Pulitzer Prizes and 19 Tony Awards. MTC has a Broadway home at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre (261 West 47th Street) and two Off-Broadway theatres at New York City Center (131 West 55th Street). Renowned MTC productions include Casa Valentina; Outside Mullingar; The Assembled Parties; Venus in Fur; Master Class; Good People; The Whipping Man; Time Stands Still; The Royal Family; Ruined; Come Back, Little Sheba; Blackbird; Shining City; Rabbit Hole; Doubt; Proof; The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife; Love! Valour! Compassion!; A Small Family Business; Sylvia; Putting It Together; Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune; Crimes of the Heart; and Ain’t Misbehavin.’ For more information on MTC, please visit www.ManhattanTheatreClub.com.

 

ABOUT THE ALFRED P. SLOAN FOUNDATION INITIATIVE

The New-York based Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, founded in 1934, makes grants in science, technology, and economic performance. Sloan’s program in Public Understanding of Science and Technology, directed by Doron Weber, supports books, radio, film, television, theater and new media to reach a wide, non-specialized audience.

Over the past fifteen years, the Foundation has developed a nationwide theater program with participants in many regions anchored by two main New York City partners—Ensemble Studio Theatre and Manhattan Theatre Club. The aim of this program is to encourage leading theater artists to explore scientific or technological themes, to write works featuring scientists, mathematicians, or engineers as major characters, and to stage plays with dramatically engaging high-quality science content. To date the theater program staged more than 60 plays in New York City alone, with dozens more travelling to theaters across the country, helping to establish a new genre of science theater. The Foundation also supports LA Theatre Works’s Relativity science series which broadcasts full-length plays commissioned by partner theaters on National Public Radio.

The program has also supported New York-based Playwrights Horizons to develop and stage new works--commissions have been awarded to Lisa Kron and Christopher Kyle, and production support has gone towards Itamar Moses's play Completeness. Sloan's theater program has also provided funding to QED, which chronicled the life of Richard Feynman and played at Lincoln Center; Radiance, about Marie Curie which premiered as part of the World Science Festival before moving to the Geffen in L.A.; and Copenhagen, about a meeting between Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg that opened at Broadway’s Royale Theater. For more information on Sloan, please visit www.sloan.org