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Humanitas Announces New Award for L.A.-Based Playwrights

New prize program with Center Theatre Group will also set aside funds for local world-premiere production.

LOS ANGELES: The Humanitas Prize has been supporting emerging television writers through its New Voices program for three years. Now Humanitas has launched a new program designed to support L.A.-based playwrights, PLAY LA, in collaboration with Center Theatre Group (CTG).

The program will annually award prizes to the best new unproduced play written by an emerging or established writer based in Southern California. The prize will include a $5,000 cash prize, with an additional $5,000 earmarked for a local theatre to offset the play’s world-premiere production. Two runners-up will receive a cash reward of $2,000.

“Over the past few years, Humanitas has expanded from honoring great work to helping foster great work,” said Cathleen Young, Humanitas’s executive director, in a statement. “New Voices was a big step toward identifying and nurturing the next generation of television writers. I have complete confidence that PLAY LA will have a similar impact on emerging and mid-career playwrights.”

Shem Bitterman.
Shem Bitterman.

“As the capital of the global entertainment industry, Southern California boasts what is probably the largest concentration of talented new and established writers in the world,” said Ali LeRoi, Humanitas’ president, in a statement. “PLAY LA aims to recognize the many gifted playwrights among them and to support the production of their work in our hometown while also encouraging a new era of cross-pollination between the Hollywood community and the local theatre scene.”

Entrants will be reviewed by a group of notable L.A. theatre artists and CTG’s literary staff alongside the Humanitas board of directors, trustees and executive director. Shows by the winner and runners-up will be developed with the help of the CTG’s literary staff, led by Pier Carlo Talenti. Winning shows will receive a professional reading in the spring of 2016 during a weekend celebration of new plays.

PLAY LA will also develop up to five new plays written by local early to mid-career writers interested in writing entirely new works. Each playwright will be given a $1,500 stipend over one year, and will have the option of receiving advice from theatre, film and television professionals.

Dramatist Shem Bitterman, the founder of the PlayLab at Los Angeles’ Skylight Theatre, will oversee the development of the shows chosen for PLAY LA. One will be shown as a workshop reading during the year-end PLAY LA weekend celebration of new plays at the Kirk Douglas Theatre.

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