Williamstown Theatre Festival announces awards to playwrights


WILLIAMSTOWN >> Williamstown Theatre Festival has announced that Jiehae Park's "Hannah and the Dread Gazebo" is the recipient of the 2016 L. Armold Weissberger New Play Award. The playwright also will receive the Jay Harris Commission to write a new play,

Park's "Peerless" recently received its world premiere at Yale Rep and was part of the 2015 Cherry Lane Mentor Project. It will be produced this summer at Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield. She is one of the writers of "Wondrous Strange" at the 2016 Actors Theatre of Louisville Humana Festival. Park has had commissions from Playwrights Horizons and McCarter Theatre, and residencies at MacDowell, Yaddo, Hedgebrook, and McCarter/Sallie B. Goodman. She will be a 2016-17 Hodder Fellow at Princeton.

In addition to $10,000, the award — which WTF administers on behalf of the Anna L. Weissberger Foundation — includes a reading at the Festival and optional publication by Samuel French.

WTF artistic director Mandy Greenfield also has 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. In addition, Harrison David Rivers will serve as the Festival's 2016 Playwright-in-Residence.

The New Play Commissioning Program 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 the Festival.

WTF's 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.

Gibson has current commissions at Atlantic Theater Company and Second Stage Theatre. Her long list of honors includes an OBIE Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Lopez is perhaps best known for his widely performed "The Whipping Man," which premiered at Manhattan Theatre Club and has been seen in the Berkshires at Barrington Stage Company in its 2010 season. In addition to WTF, Lopez 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.

Thurber's five-play cycle, the 2014 OBIE Award-winning "The Hill Town Plays," was produced by Rattlestick Playwright's Theater in conjunction with Cherry Lane Theater, Axis Theater and New Ohio Theatre. She has been commissioned by Playwrights Horizons, Contemporary American Theatre Festival, and Yale Rep, among others.

Rivers has won a GLAAD Media Award, a McKnight Fellowship for Playwrights, a Many Voices Jerome Fellowship (Playwrights' Center), an Emerging Artist of Color Fellowship (New York Theatre Workshop) and the New York Stage & Film's Founders Award. His plays/musicals have been produced at Sundance, FringeNYC, TheatreLAB, Drama League, Public Theater, New York Theatre Workshop, The Black & Latino Playwrights' Conference, Classical Theatre of Harlem, New York Stage & Film, Labyrinth, and Northern Stage.


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