McKnight Foundation and Playwrights’ Center Invest in the Future of the American Theater
MINNEAPOLIS (May 18, 2020) — The McKnight Foundation and Playwrights’ Center are continuing to invest in the future of theater by supporting some of today’s most promising playwrights through the McKnight National Residency and Commission and McKnight Fellowships in Playwriting. The awards are all the more pertinent as many theater-makers face unprecedented challenges during this moment of crisis.
The 2020-2021 McKnight National Residency and Commission has been awarded to Gracie Gardner and the 2020-2021 McKnight Fellowship in Playwriting recipients are Marvin González De León and Savannah Reich.
“I am delighted to continue our longtime partnership with the McKnight Foundation as we work together to support a more just and creative theater ecosystem where artists can thrive,” said the Playwrights’ Center’s producing artistic director Jeremy B. Cohen. “Being able to further uplift the careers of Marvin and Savannah, two amazing Minnesota-based playwrights is thrilling, and we are so looking forward to welcoming Gracie Gardner to the Twin Cities community.”
“I'm beyond grateful for this fellowship. Theater artists often exist in a world without the traditional signposts of career success, and to feel like my work is being seen and validated by my community means so much to me,” explained McKnight Fellowship in Playwriting recipient Savannah Reich. “I plan to use this year for growth and exploration, to break the cycle of hustling to write a lot in small windows of time,” she continued, “To have the opportunity to do that is a huge gift.”
“I’ve been privileged to be a part of theater communities across the U.S. So, getting the McKnight Fellowship is personally meaningful, because it feels like I have another home here in the Twin Cities and the Playwrights’ Center,” said McKnight Fellowship in Playwriting recipient Marvin González De León.
Each year, the Playwrights’ Center serves as an artistic home for over 40 playwriting fellows and Core Writers, in addition to supporting 2,200+ member playwrights across the globe and partnering with producing theaters to move work from page to stage. The fellowship programs have anchored the Center’s support of playwrights and theatermakers for over 45 years. The McKnight National Residency and Commission funds a play commission to create and develop new work. The McKnight Fellowship in Playwriting awards two Minnesota-based playwrights funding for play development and other professional expenses.
The 2020-2021 McKnight National Residency and Commission Recipient:
The McKnight National Residency and Commission funds the creation and development of new works and comes with a $15,000 commission and $12,250 in workshop funds including travel and housing.
"I'm so grateful that the Playwrights’ Center believes in this story, the idea for my new play The Blind, and this fellowship will give me the support and resources to continue my work," said recipient Gracie Gardner.
Gardner won the incredibly competitive Relentless Award for her play Pussy Sludge which was called, “unique and fearless” by David Bar Katz of the American Playwriting Foundation. Her other works include I’m Revolting (Atlantic Theater Company Claire Tow Fellowship), Athena (New York Times Critics’ Pick), Hate Baby (James Stevenson Prize), The Student From New Jersey (Manhattan Theatre Club Sloan Foundation Commission), and Panopticon (Clubbed Thumb). Her work has been developed by New Dramatists, Ars Nova Play Group, SPACE on Ryder Farm, Ensemble Studio Theater’s Youngblood, The Old Vic, The New Group, Two River Theater, and Williamstown Theater Festival. She has been published by Samuel French, S. Fischer, and Cincinnati Review.
Past McKnight National Residency and Commission recipients include Heather Raffo, Kia Corthron, Erik Ehn, Kate Fodor, Karen Hartman, Daniel Alexander Jones, Sibyl Kempson, Craig Lucas, Taylor Mac, Ruth Margraff, Dan O’Brien, Betty Shamieh, Kathleen Tolan, Mfoniso Udofia, Francine Volpe, and Mac Wellman.
2020-2021 McKnight Fellowship in Playwriting Recipients:
Marvin González De León and Savannah Reich
The McKnight Fellowship in Playwriting awards two Minnesota-based playwrights a $25,000 stipend, $2,500 to support play development and other professional expenses and $1,400 in travel funds.
Marvin González De León is a Chicano playwright and educator whose work has been produced and developed at Teatro Bravo, Arizona State University, Teatro del Pueblo, Page 73, and the Playwrights’ Center. He is a Playwrights’ Center Core Writer and was a 2018-19 Many Voices Fellow at the Playwrights’ Center. He is a member of the 2020 Interstate 73 Writers Group at Page 73 Productions. González De León received an MFA in Dramatic Writing in 2017 from Arizona State University, where he is a part-time instructor in the School of Film, Dance & Theatre.
Savannah Reich is a playwright and screenwriter based in Minneapolis. Her screenplay Beebe and Barton was the winner of the Sloan Student Grand Jury Prize in 2015. Her plays have been commissioned by Walking Shadow Theater Company, SuperGroup, and the University of Minnesota and produced at Available Light Theater (Columbus), Baltimore Annex Theater (Baltimore), FaultLine Theater (San Francisco), RhinoFest (Chicago), Theater Vertigo (Portland), The Exponential Festival (NY), and many more. She was a Core Apprentice at the Playwrights’ Center for 2016-2017. She holds an MFA from Carnegie Mellon University, where she studied with Rob Handel.
Past recipients include Carlyle Brown, Ping Chong, Migdalia Cruz, Lisa D’Amour, Steven Dietz, Barbara Field, Jeffrey Hatcher, Christina Ham, W. David Hancock, Carson Kreitzer, Melanie Marnich, Marion McClinton, Kira Obolensky, Harrison David Rivers, Stacey Rose, Paula Vogel, Mac Wellman, and August Wilson.
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Gracie Gardner is an American playwright and video game writer. Her play Pussy Sludge was selected for the 2019 Theatertreffen Stückemarkt in Berlin and previously received the Relentless Award (2017); it was developed by Less Than Rent at HERE Arts Center, and The Old Vic in London. Her play Athena (New York Times Critics’ Pick) was presented by The Hearth at JACK and will have its regional premiere at Theatre Horizon in Philadelphia in 2020. Gracie is the recipient of a Claire Tow Fellowship, a James E. Michael Award, the James Stevenson Prize, and she is a Samuel French OOB Festival winner. She’s a proud member of New Dramatists, Ars Nova Play Group, Youngblood, and she has received commissions from Clubbed Thumb, Manhattan Theatre Club, Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, and the Atlantic Theater Company.
Marvin González De León is a Chicano playwright and educator whose work has been produced and developed at Teatro Bravo, Arizona State University, Teatro del Pueblo, Page 73, and the Playwrights’ Center. He is a 2020-21 McKnight Fellow in Playwriting, a Core Writer, and was a 2018-19 Many Voices Fellow at the Playwrights’ Center. He is a member of the 2020 Interstate 73 Writers Group at Page 73 Productions in New York City. A section of his play Haboob appears in Scenes for Latinx Actors: Voices for the New American Theater, and his short plays, Prostheses Bound and Sink.Row.Nice!, are published through Samuel French. González De León received an MFA in Dramatic Writing in 2017 from Arizona State University, where he is a part-time instructor in the School of Film, Dance & Theatre.
Savannah Reich is a playwright and screenwriter based in Minneapolis. Her screenplay Beebe and Barton was the winner of the Sloan Student Grand Jury Prize in 2015. Her plays have been commissioned by Walking Shadow Theater Company, SuperGroup, and the University of Minnesota and produced at Available Light Theater (Columbus), Baltimore Annex Theater (Baltimore), FaultLine Theater (San Francisco), RhinoFest (Chicago), Theater Vertigo (Portland), The Exponential Festival (NY), and many more. She also produces her own work with her company, Eternal Cult, and tours it to theaters, warehouses, art galleries, bars, and basements across the country. Her plays have been twice recommended for the Kilroys’ List, and she was a Core Apprentice at the Playwrights’ Center for 2016-2017. She holds an MFA from Carnegie Mellon University, where she studied with Rob Handel.
ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHTS’ CENTER
The Playwrights’ Center champions playwrights and new plays to build upon a living theater that demands new and innovative works.
The Center serves playwrights by sustaining careers, developing new work, and connecting playwrights to theaters. Each year at the Center, fellows and Core Writers receive more than $315,000 in direct support, 70+ new plays are workshopped, playwrights connect with 100 producing theaters through partnership programs, and 2,200 member playwrights from around the world find resources to achieve their artistic vision.
Since its founding in 1971, the Playwrights’ Center has become one of the nation’s most generous and well-respected theater organizations, helping launch the careers of numerous nationally recognized artists such as August Wilson, Lee Blessing, Jordan Harrison, Carlyle Brown, Craig Lucas, Jeffrey Hatcher, Melanie Marnich, and Kira Obolensky. Work developed through Center programs has been seen nationwide on such stages as Yale Rep, Woolly Mammoth, the Guthrie, Goodman, and many others.
Programs and services
The Core Writer program gives 25-30 of the most exciting playwrights from across the country the time and tools to develop new work for the stage. All Core Writers receive play development workshops at the Center, in collaboration with prominent directors, actors, dramaturgs, and designers. Selected work by Core Writers makes up the Center’s formal season of public readings: the PlayLabs festival and the Ruth Easton New Play Series. Core Writers are also promoted by the Center and provided opportunities through an extensive network of colleges and universities, cultural institutions, and producing theaters.
Fellowships, made possible by the McKnight and Jerome foundations, provide more than $315,000 each year for residencies, commissions, and development funds. Beyond the financial stipend, the value of fellowships is more than doubled with the year-long support the Playwrights’ Center adds through workshops with professional collaborators and through the connections the Center makes between playwrights and producers of new work. This holistic and customized combination of financial support, access to talent, and professional connections is career-changing for most playwrights. Fellowship programs: Jerome Fellows, Many Voices Fellows and Mentees, McKnight Fellows in Playwriting, McKnight National Residency and Commission, McKnight Theater Artist Fellows, Core Apprentices.
Membership is open to all and provides over 2,000 playwrights worldwide with tools, resources, and support. Benefits include a database of playwriting opportunities, online and in-person seminars and classes, access to readings with professional actors, dramaturgical services, and more. In addition, the Playwrights’ Center’s New Plays on Campus program serves dozens of colleges and universities nationwide, providing script-matching services, arranging playwright residencies, and offering immersive apprenticeships to student playwrights.
Local and national partnerships elevate the role of living playwrights. Through the Regulars partnership program, the Playwrights’ Center partners with over 100 theaters around the country to bring their artistic staff to the Center in order to spend time with playwrights and to co-develop new plays with a keen eye towards production. In fact, 70% of these plays have gone on to full production within two years (rather than the average seven-year timeframe for most plays to see production). Recent and upcoming productions resulting from Playwrights’ Center co-development workshops include The Great Leap by Lauren Yee at Denver Center Theatre, Dancing on the Edge by Adam Kraar at Theatre Novi Most, The Gentleman Caller by Philip Dawkins at Raven Theater, Duat by Daniel Alexander Jones at Soho Rep, Early Morning Song by Rachel Jendrzejewski at Red Eye Theater, Fickle: A Fancy French Farce by Meg Miroshnik at Olney Theatre Center, and The Happiest Place on Earth by Philip Dawkins at Greenhouse Theater Center/Sideshow Theatre Company.
ABOUT THE MCKNIGHT FOUNDATION
The McKnight Foundation, a family foundation based in Minnesota, advances a more just, creative, and abundant future where people and planet thrive. The McKnight Foundation envisions a world that recognizes the dignity of every human being, a world where we celebrate the creativity of the arts and sciences and come together to protect our one and only Earth.
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