The $300,000 initiative aims to support the creation and production of new works by innovative California playwrights who reflect diverse cultural perspectives and communities. To that end, each $50,000 commission will be divided into two parts: $12,500 or more to the winning playwright, with the remaining funds allocated to a theatrical organization for the creation and world premiere of the resulting work in a public Bay Area performance before June 2015.
This year's Playwright Commissioning Award winners and their partners are CircuitNewtork/Kristina Wong of Los Angeles, who will create a solo work with puppets framed in a TED-esque backdrop of PowerPoint presentations; Encore Theatre/Lauren Yee of San Francisco, who will explore the realities of a woman going blind using the conventions of a radio play; Golden Thread/Torange Yeghiazarian of Oakland, who will create a memory play with music inspired by the Duke Ellington Orchestra's 1963 tour of Iran, during which Ellington became sick and his composer, the openly gay Billy Strayhorn, took his place; Intersection for the Arts (Campo Santo)/Chinaka Hodge, also of Oakland, who will develop a theatrical work that examines the tragic shooting death of Oscar Grant; Oakland's La Pena Cultural Center/Ariel Luckey, who will create an interdisciplinary play with music and video drawn from his immigrant family's story; and Los Angeles' Magic Theatre/Luis Alfaro, who will present the first in a three-play cycle that follows a working-class Chicano family in California.
"We are thrilled to support such a wonderful array of aesthetics and theatrical organizations, including vibrant voices emerging from the hip hop theater and spoken word artists now defining a new Bay Area aesthetic," said Thomas C. Layton, president of the Gerbode Foundation. "We see the six grants as enabling these artists to take the crucial next step in their promising careers as playwrights."