WASHINGTON, D.C.: Arena Stage has named Ayad Akhtar the 2016–17 resident playwright, as part of the American Voices New Play Institute. Akhtar will receive a salary, health benefits, and a budget to be used at his discretion to cover collaborator fees, workshop costs, and research expenses. The residency runs July 2016–June 2017, and during that time, Akhtar also commits to producing a new work for a future season at Arena Stage. His play Disgraced is in previews at the theatre and will run April 28–May 29.
“Ayad is an inspiration,” said artistic director Molly Smith in a statement. “His work is immediate, muscular, bitingly funny, thought-provoking and vital to the American theatre. His masterful use of language creates complex characters wrestling with the major issues of our day—identity, family, love, religion, race, and politics. I expect this residency will challenge us both, and I embrace it!”
Along with residency guidance from director of artistic programming Robert Barry Fleming, Akhtar will also receive support from institute dramaturg Jocelyn Clarke.
Akhtar was the most-produced playwright for the 2015–16 season, and his play Disgraced won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. His other plays include The Who & the What and The Invisible Hand. He is the author of the novel American Dervish, which has been published in more than 20 languages. As a screenwriter, Akhtar was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for best screenplay for The War Within. He has been the recipient of fellowships from MacDowell, Djerassi, the Sundance Institute, Ucross, and Yaddo.
“Molly Smith’s vision of a theatre for and about America, situated at the heart of American political life, is not only deeply inspiring, but also aligns with the preoccupations of my next series of works,” said Akhtar in a statement. “I couldn’t be more thrilled to be joining Arena for the coming year, and spending time with the theatre’s staff and artists.”