Williamstown Theatre Festival Names Play Award-Winners

by Jacob Coakley
 The Williamstown named four commissioned playwrights and a playwright-in-residence.
The Williamstown named four commissioned playwrights and a playwright-in-residence.

Hannah and the Dread Gazebo by Jiehae Park won the 2016 L. Arnold Weissberger New Play Award from the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Jiehae will also receive The Jay Harris Commission to write a new play, a prize worth $10,000. Additionally, the Festival announced the three recipients of the 2016 New Play Commissioning Program and their 2016 Playwright-in-Residence.

WILLIAMSTOWN THEATRE FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES 2016 L. ARNOLD WEISSBERGER NEW PLAY AWARD WINNER, 2016 NEW PLAY COMMISSIONING PROGRAM RECIPIENTS, AND 2016 PLAYWRIGHT-IN-RESIDENCE
ARTISTS INCLUDE MELISSA JAMES GIBSON, MATTHEW LOPEZ, JIEHAE PARK, HARRISON DAVID RIVERS, AND LUCY THURBER

New York, NY (March 9, 2016) – Williamstown Theatre Festival (Mandy Greenfield, Artistic Director) is pleased to announce that Hannah and the Dread Gazebo by Jiehae Park is the 2016 L. Arnold Weissberger New Play Award recipient. Jiehae will also receive The Jay Harris Commission to write a new play, a prize worth $10,000. Greenfield has also announced that the 2016 New Play Commissioning Program recipients are Melissa James Gibson (in a co-commission with Second Stage Theatre), Matthew Lopez, and Lucy Thurber. Additionally, Harrison David Rivers will serve as the Festival’s 2016 Playwright-in-Residence.

Williamstown Theatre Festival administers the L. Arnold Weissberger New Play Award on behalf of the Anna L. Weissberger Foundation. Championed for the Festival in 1998 by late Trustee Jay Harris, the award honors noted theatrical attorney and avid theatre supporter L. Arnold Weissberger, and it is designed to recognize excellence in playwriting. The recipient of the award receives $10,000 for the winning play, a reading at Williamstown Theatre Festival, and optional publication by Samuel French. The 2016 finalist judges were Becky Ann Baker, Daniel Goldfarb, Donald Margulies, Cynthia Nixon, and Liesl Tommy.

Williamstown Theatre Festival is currently accepting submissions for the 2017 L. Arnold Weissberger New Play Award. Nominations are solicited by invitation only.

The New Play Commissioning Program, launched last year, commissions and develops three to five projects annually from playwrights, composers, and collaborative devisers from across the career spectrum. Each commission also includes a writing residency at Williamstown Theatre Festival. The 2016 New Play Commissions are graciously supported by Andrew Martin-Weber.

The Williamstown Theatre Festival Playwright-in-Residence is both an artist and a member of the artistic staff, who works and lives at the Festival for the duration of the summer. They contribute not only by writing plays that will be seen in the Festival’s reading series and potentially on the Festival stages, but also by creating program dramaturgy for playbills and moderating post-show talkbacks.

As previously announced, the 2016 summer season, running from June 28 – August 21, 2016, begins on the Main Stage with a production of Tennessee Williams’ Tony Award-winning play The Rose Tattoo (June 28 – July 17), directed by Obie Award winner Trip Cullman and featuring Academy Award winner Marisa Tomei; continues with the world premiere of Boo Killebrew’s comedy Romance Novels For Dummies (July 20– July 31), directed by Tony Award nominee Moritz von Stuelpnagel; and closes with Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner Wendy Wasserstein’s An American Daughter (August 3 – August 21), directed by Evan Cabnet.

The Nikos Stage season kicks-off June 29 with the world premiere of Martyna Majok’s play Cost of Living (June 29 – July 10), directed by Obie Award winner Jo Bonney; and also includes the world premiere sci-fi comedy thriller The Chinese Room (July 13 – July 23) by Michael West, directed by Obie Award winner James Macdonald; the world premiere musical Poster Boy (July 28 – August 7), with music and lyrics by Tony Award-nominated Craig Carnelia and book by Joe Tracz, movement by Danny Mefford, and direction by Olivier Award nominee Stafford Arima; and closes out the summer with the American premiere of And No More Shall We Part (August 10 – August 21), by Tom Holloway, directed by Obie Award winner Anne Kauffman, and featuring Tony and Emmy Award nominee Alfred Molina and Golden Globe and Emmy Award nominee Jane Kaczmarek.

* * *

ABOUT THE ARTISTS               MELISSA JAMES GIBSON’s recent plays include Placebo; What Rhymes with America; This; [sic]; Suitcase or, those that resemble flies from a distance; Brooklyn Bridge (with a song by Barbara Brousal) and Current Nobody. Her work has been produced and/or developed at Playwrights Horizons, Center Theatre Group, Soho Rep, La Jolla Playhouse, The Children’s Theatre Company, Steppenwolf, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Seattle Rep, Manhattan Theatre Club and the Sundance Institute Theatre Lab among others, regionally and internationally. Current commissions: Atlantic Theater Company and Second Stage Theatre. Honors: OBIE Award; Guggenheim Fellowship; Steinberg Playwright Award; Kesselring Prize; Whiting Writers Award; Lucille Lortel Foundation Playwrights’ Fellowship; LILLY Award; Jerome Fellow; MacDowell Colony Fellow; NEA/TCG Theatre Residency Program for Playwrights; Susan Smith Blackburn Prize finalist. MFA: Yale School of Drama; graduate of New Dramatists. Teaching: Lecturer in the Program in Theater at Princeton University, spring semesters 2011 and 2012. Film: All Is Bright, starring Paul Giamatti, Paul Rudd and Sally Hawkins, directed by Phil Morrison (2013 Tribeca Film Festival premiere). TV: seasons 1 and 2 of “The Americans;” currently, co-showrunner, “House of Cards.” THIS and Other Plays is published by TCG.

MATTHEW LOPEZ is the author of The Whipping Man, one of the most widely-produced American plays of the last decade. Manhattan Theatre Club presented the play in New York: a production that won a Lortel Award, Drama Desk Award, and the John Gassner Playwriting Award from the Outer Critics Circle. Matthew’s play The Legend of Georgia McBride recently completed an extended Off-Broadway run at MCC Theatre, following a world premiere at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, where Matthew is presently serving as their inaugural Playwriting Fellow. Other plays include Somewhere (Old Globe, world premiere), Reverberation (Hartford Stage Company, world premiere), The Sentinels (London’s Headlong Theatre Company) and Zoey’s Perfect Wedding. In addition to Williamstown Theatre Festival, Matthew holds commissions from Roundabout Theatre Company, Manhattan Theatre Club, South Coast Rep, and Harford Stage Company, where he recently served as their AETNA New Voices Fellow. Matthew was a writer on the HBO series “The Newsroom” and has recently adapted Javier Marias’ Your Face Tomorrow trilogy for the screen.

JIEHAE PARK’s peerless recently received its world premiere at Yale Rep and was part of the 2015 Cherry Lane Mentor Project; she is one of the writers of Wondrous Strange (2016 ATL/Humana Festival). Her work has been developed through the Soho Rep W/D Lab, Playwrights Horizons, Berkeley Rep's Ground Floor, the Emerging Writers Group at the Public, NYTW, Dramatists Guild Fellowship, Ojai Playwrights Conference, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, Playwrights Realm, and the amazing Ma-Yi Writers Lab. Her plays have won the Leah Ryan Prize and Princess Grace Award (Hannah and the Dread Gazebo), and were included in two years of the Kilroys List. Commissions: Playwrights Horizons, McCarter Theatre. Residencies: MacDowell, Yaddo, Hedgebrook, and McCarter/Sallie B. Goodman. She will be a 2016-17 Hodder fellow at Princeton. As a performer: La Jolla Playhouse, Studio Theatre, Tiny Little Band, REDCAT, and the upcoming Sleep with Ripe Time/The Play Co. BA, Amherst; MFA, UCSD.

HARRISON DAVID RIVERS is the winner of a GLAAD Media Award, a McKnight Fellowship for Playwrights, a Many Voices Jerome Fellowship (Playwrights’ Center), a Van Lier Fellowship (New Dramatists), an Emerging Artist of Color Fellowship (New York Theatre Workshop) and the New York Stage & Film’s Founders Award. He was a finalist for the 2016 Kleban Prize. His plays/musicals include When Last We Flew (Sundance, FringeNYC, Diversionary, About Face, TheatreLAB), And She Would stand Like This (P73, Drama League, PRELUDE, 20% Theatre Company), Look Upon Our Lowliness (The Movement Theatre Company), Sweet (Public Theater, New York Theatre Workshop, The Black & Latino Playwrights’ Conference, Great Plains Theatre Conference), The Bandaged Place (Global Age Project, Classical Theatre of Harlem, Harlem Stage), And All The Dead Lie Down (The Playwrights’ Center, Pillsbury House, New York Stage & Film), Where Storms Are Born (Labyrinth), The Last Queen of Canaan (Northern Stage, Theatre Latte Da, National Alliance for Musical Theatre) and Five Points. Rivers is a Usual Suspect at New York Theatre Workshop and an alumnus of the Emerging Writers’ Group at the Public Theater. He received his BA from Kenyon College, and earned an MFA in playwriting from Columbia University.

LUCY THURBER is the author of eleven plays: Where We’re Born, Ashville, Scarcity, Killers and Other Family, Stay, Bottom of The World, Monstrosity, Dillingham City, The Locus, Perry Street and The Insurgents. The Insurgents has been produced at Labyrinth Theater Company and Contemporary American Theater Festival. Her five play cycle The Hill Town Plays was produced Off-Broadway by Rattlestick Playwright’s Theater in-conjunction with The Cherry Lane Theater, The Axis Theater, and The New Ohio Theatre. Produced at The Atlantic Theater Company: Bottom of The World and Scarcity. Rattlestick Playwrights Theater has produced three of her plays, Where We’re Born, Killers and Other Family, and Stay. Lucy wrote the text for QUIXOTE, conceived and directed by Lear deBessonet, a site-specific performance with the Psalters made for and with The Broad Street Community, also with Lear deBessonet and produced by 13P, Monstrosity. Scarcity was published in the December 2007 issue of American Theatre Magazine. She is published by Dramatists Play Service. Thurber is an alumni of New Dramatists, a member of 13P, Labyrinth Theater Company, and Rising Phoenix Rep. She has been commissioned by Playwrights Horizons, The Contemporary American Theatre Festival, House on The Moon, WET, and Yale Rep. She is the recipient of Manhattan Theatre Club Playwriting Fellowship, the 1st Gary Bonasorte Memorial Prize for Playwriting, and a proud recipient of a Lily Award and a 2014 Obie Award for The Hill Town Plays.