The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and HowlRound Announce $5.58 Million in Grants through the National Playwright Residency Program

New York, April 5, 2016 — The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and HowlRound announced today that grants totaling $5,588,000 have been awarded to support residencies for playwrights at 18 theaters across the US through the National Playwright Residency Program (NPRP). Resident playwrights will receive three years of full-time salary and benefits as well as artistic development funds to be utilized at their discretion. Host theaters will mount at least one production by the writer. 

A long-time supporter of theater, the Mellon Foundation established the National Playwright Residency Program as a pilot program in 2012 in collaboration with HowlRound, a knowledge commons by and for the theater community, located at Emerson College in Boston. The inaugural program placed playwrights on the staff of 14 theaters in eleven cities around the country.

For the second round, 18 playwright-theater pairs were selected for grants—nine from the 2012 pilot round received renewed support along with grants to nine that are new to the program. As it did during the first round, HowlRound will work with grantees and the Foundation to document the program, convene the participants for shared learning opportunities, administer the artistic development funds, host play development residencies, and make content about the residencies publicly available on its website,

“Over the past three years, the Foundation has observed the impact of the NPRP, not only on the 14 funded playwrights, but on the theaters and communities served through the grants,” noted Program Officer for Arts and Cultural Heritage, Susan Feder.  “Many ambitious new productions and striking community relationships have resulted. It is a tribute to the strength of the partnerships forged between the playwrights and the artistic leadership of the host theaters that nine renewed their residencies. In adding a second cohort, we look forward to deepened partnerships for the artists and the institutions in both groups, and to new opportunities for collaborative learning.”

The purpose of embedding residents into theaters of varying sizes and locales is to provide playwrights the time and space to write without distraction, to offer playwrights regular access to the theaters' extensive resources and to their artistic leaders, and to encourage institutional practices at theaters that are more inclusive of artists' ideas and needs. The expectation is that these arrangements will foster the creation and production of theatrically ambitious plays that lend themselves to more effective engagement with audiences and communities.

“Playwriting has been consistently identified as a profession that is both hopelessly itinerant and nearly impossible to make a living at,” said Polly Carl, co-artistic director of ArtsEmerson and director of HowlRound. “The Mellon Foundation is changing this narrative for playwrights through their unprecedented support in creating the National Playwright Residency Program— providing playwrights a living wage and health insurance, and ultimately creating stronger artistic communities around the country by placing some of our most important theatrical storytellers inside of established institutional theaters. This program has already changed the lives of 23 playwrights and theater companies, and more importantly, it’s expanding how we think about a profession that is so essential to the fabric of our cultural vibrancy.” 

“My first three years as a Mellon Playwright enriched my creative work in every way and made me know I had found an artistic home at the Alliance Theatre,” says playwright Pearl Cleage of her experience in the first cohort. “The stability and continuity provided by multiyear residencies has allowed Mellon playwrights to put down deeper roots in the communities where we are working, to explore new artistic collaborations, and discover mutually satisfying ways to interact with our home theaters.”

“It’s important to be able to provide playwrights with a place they can call home, a place where they can practice their craft and feel that artistically, someone has their back,” observes artistic director Faye Price. “We are so thrilled that Christina Ham now has an artistic home with Pillsbury House Theatre. We are looking forward to having her on staff as an extraordinary artist, as an invested stakeholder in the theater, and as a resource for our various communities.”

Added Taylor Mac of his upcoming residency at HERE Arts Center: “HERE, over 15 years, has helped me make some of my best work. The idea that I could be a salaried resident playwright there and continue our collaboration is a total dream.”

For the second round of the program, the Foundation used an open application process, which resulted in more than 70 highly competitive applicants. The selected playwright/theater pairs were chosen by an outside peer panel. As in the first round, the selected residencies represent a broad range of theaters and geographies, as well as artist career stage, diversity, and aesthetics. Below is the full list of residencies:

Cohort 1 Renewals

Luis Alfaro/Oregon Shakespeare Festival - Ashland, OR

Pearl Cleage/Alliance Theatre - Atlanta, GA

Marcus Gardley/Victory Gardens Theatre - Chicago, IL

Nathan Louis Jackson/Kansas City Repertory Theatre - Kansas City, MO

Aditi Brennan Kapil/Mixed Blood Theatre - Minneapolis, MN

Melinda Lopez/Huntington Theatre Company - Boston, MA

Peter Nachtrieb/Z Space Studio - San Francisco, CA

Kira Obolensky/Ten Thousand Things Theatre - Minneapolis, MN

Will Power/Dallas Theater Center - Dallas, TX

Cohort 2 Grantees

Madeleine George/Two River Theatre Company - Red Bank, NJ

Kirsten Greenidge/Company One - Boston, MA

Lauren Gunderson/Marin Theatre Company - Marin, CA

Christina Ham/Pillsbury House Theatre - Minneapolis, MN

Taylor Mac/HERE Art Center - New York, NY

Rehana Lew Mirza and Mike Lew/Ma-Yi Filipino Theatre Ensemble - New York, NY

Carlos Murillo/Adventure Stage Chicago - Chicago, IL

Vera Starbard/Perseverance Theatre - Douglas, AK

Herbert Siguenza/San Diego Repertory Company - San Diego, CA

*Rehana Lew Mirza and Mike Lew will share single residency position.

Full Productions by Cohort 1 (2013-2016) National Playwright Residents at Host Theaters:

The Changelings, Forget Me Not When Far Away, and Dirt Sticks
    Kira Obolensky at Ten Thousand Things Theater Company, Minneapolis, MN

An Issue of Blood and The Gospel of Lovingkindess
    Marcus Gardley at Victory Gardens Theater, Chicago, IL

Becoming Cuba
    Melinda Lopez at Huntington Theatre Company, Boston, MA

Sticky Traps and When I Come to Die
    Nathan Louis Jackson at The Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Kansas City, MO

Blues for an Alabama Sky and What I Learned in Paris
    Pearl Cleage at Alliance Theatre, Atlanta, GA

House Tour and The Totalitarians
    Peter Sinn Nachtrieb at Z Space, San Francisco, CA

Stagger Lee
    Will Power at Dallas Theater Center, Dallas, TX

Zombie: The American
    Robert O’Hara at Woolly Mammoth Theatre, Washington, DC

Mount Misery and Krispy Kritters in the Scarlett Night
    Andrew Saito at Cutting Ball Theater, San Francisco, CA

Marie Antoinette
    David Adjmi at Soho Rep, New York, NY

Displaced Hindu Gods: A trilogy of plays including Brahmani: A One-Hijra Stand-up Comedy Show, The Chronicles of Kalki, and Shiv
    Aditi Brennan Kapil at Mixed Blood Theatre, Minneapolis, MN 

About HowlRound
HowlRound, located in the Office of the Arts at Emerson College, designs and develops online communication platforms and in-person gatherings that promote access, participation, organizational collaboration, field-wide research, and new teaching practices to illuminate the breadth, diversity, and impact of a commons­based approach to theater practice. Over 40,000 people visit HowlRound per month. For more information, visit 

About the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
Founded in 1969, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation endeavors to strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies by supporting exemplary institutions of higher education and culture as they renew and provide access to an invaluable heritage of ambitious, path-breaking work. Additional information is available at

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