Back in August of 2015, we alerted you, our dear readers, that the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation, in partnership with the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, were accepting applications for their their 2015 Theater Commissioning Awards.
Well, they've chosen the winners, and they reflect a unique cross-section of playwrights that represent — and we're quoting the press release — "the voice of California." If you're a theater company in the Golden State looking for Gerbode/Hewlett cash, either in the short or long term, we'd argue that it's particularly important to get a deeper understanding around what constitutes this "voice." We'll get to that in a second, but first a little background.
As previously noted, Gerbode and Hewlett shift their focus from theater to music each year. That said, the grant amounts are generally comparable across disciplines. This round, six recipients were awarded $50,000 grants to "support the creation and production of new theater works by playwrights who represent the voice of California today." A portion of the $50,000 — $12,500 or more — serves as commissioning fee for each playwright, while the remaining funds are earmarked for the presenting organization's production-related expenses.
The works will be commissioned and premiered by various Bay Area nonprofit theater organizations between December 2016 and June 2018. Here are the winning fiscal sponsors and corresponding playwrights of the 2015 Theatre Commissioning Awards:
Campo Santo / Roger Guenveur Smith: In collaboration with award-winning performance ensemble Campo Santo, writer and theater maker Roger Guenveur Smith will create Casa de Spirits, an interdisciplinary theater performance piece that explores how a community lives through its interactions with liquor stores.
Magic Theatre / Jessica Hagedorn: Novelist and playwright Jessica Hagedorn will craft an original stage adaptation of her 1996 novel The Gangster of Love.
San Jose Stage Company / Luis Valdez: Valdez, founding artistic director of El Teatro Campesino, will write and direct Adios, Mama Carlota — Empress of Mexico, based on actual historical events pivotal to the French occupation of Mexico from 1862 to 1867.
Shotgun Players / Geetha Reddy: Playwright Geetha Reddy, in collaboration with director Jon Tracy of Shotgun Players, will create Two Cities. Set in a bar, Two Cities uses the framework of Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities to tell a series of stories and remembered scenes illustrating the social disparities in the Bay Area today.
Youth Speaks / Paul S. Flores: Poet, performance artist, and playwright Paul S. Flores will create Arresting Life, a theater piece investigating the impact of police violence, incarceration, and deportation on young people and the long-term effect on their adult lives.
Z Space / Kate E. Ryan: Kate E. Ryan, resident playwright at Playwrights Foundation and member of Thirteen Playwrights, Inc., will develop a dark, thought-provoking drama that features members of a Bay Area women's group and chronicles some unusual shifts in their lives.