NEW YORK CITY: The Bret Adams and Paul Reisch Foundation has named the three recipients of the 2019 Idea Awards for Theatre. The three awards include the Ollie Award, given to an ambitious play; the Vivace Musical Theatre Award recognizes a “big-idea musical”; and the Tooth of Time Award aims to encourage established artists to continue their creativity. An awards ceremony will be presented on Sept. 23 at New Dramatists in New York City.
This year’s Ollie New Play Award, with a $30,000 prize, will be given to playwright Dave Harris.
The 2019 Vivace Musical Theatre Award will be awarded to the composer/lyricist team, Kit Yan and Melissa Li, with a $30,000 prize.
“The Bret Adams and Paul Reisch Foundation has created the ‘Idea Awards for Theatre’ to encourage expansive, idea-driven artworks with inherently theatrical ways of illuminating big ideas and concepts,” said Bruce Ostler, vice president and board member of the Bret Adams and Paul Reisch Foundation, in a statement. “We are giving these awards to dare these writers to theatricalize something wild and brave.”
Howe’s full-length plays include The Nest, Birth and After Birth, Museum, The Art of Dining, Painting Churches, Coastal Disturbances, Approaching Zanzibar, One Shoe Off, Pride’s Crossing, Rembrandt’s Gift, Chasing Manet, and Singing Beach. These works premiered at the Public Theater, Second Stage, the Old Globe, Lincoln Center, the Actors Theater of Louisville, the Atlantic Theater Company, Primary Stages, and others. Among her many awards are an Obie for Distinguished playwriting, a Tony nomination for Best Play, an Outer Critics Circle Award, a Rockefeller grant, two N.EA fellowships, a Guggenheim, an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature, the Sidney Kingsley Award, the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award, a Lucille Lortel Award, the William Inge Award for Distinguished Achievement in the American Theatre, a Lilly Award for Lifetime Achievement, a PEN Master American Playwright award, an Alfred Sloan Science Foundation award, two honorary degrees, and induction into the 2017 Theater Hall of Fame. She is a two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama and taught playwrighting for close to 40 years; first in the Department of Dramatic Writing at NYU, then as visiting professor at Hunter College since 1990, going on to launch the Rita and Burton Goldberg MFA in Playwriting in 2010, as playwright-residence.
Kennedy continues to influence the world through her art. She was the recipient of the 2003 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards, an Obie Award for Lifetime Achievement Award, the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters in Literature Award, and was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame in 2018. She was also granted a Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Writing, awarded the Pierre Lecomte du Novy Award, and ended her academic career teaching at Harvard. Kennedy was playwright-in-residence at the Signature Theatre in New York City during their 1996-97 season. Her plays include Funnyhouse of a Negro, A Movie Star Has to Star in Black and White, He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box, A Rat’s Mass, Mom How Did You Meet the Beatles, adaptations of Electra and Orestes, and Cities in Bezique, commissioned by Joe Papp for the second season of the Public Theater.
Harris is a poet and playwright from West Philadelphia. He is the Tow Playwright in Residence at Roundabout Theatre Company, a Cave Canem Poetry Fellow, and a Venturous Fellow at the Lark. His plays have been produced or developed at Actors Theatre of Louisville, Roundabout Underground, Manhattan Theatre Club, Victory Gardens, the Kennedy Center, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, SPACE on Ryder Farm, the Ground Floor at Berkeley Rep, and Ojai Playwrights Conference amongst others. His play Everybody Black won the Kennedy Center’s Lorraine Hansberry Award and Mark Twain Award, and his play White History was a semi-finalist for the Relentless Award. His first full-length collection of poetry, Patricide, was published in May 2019 from Button Poetry. Dave received his B.A. from Yale and is a third year MFA playwright at UC San Diego.
Yan is a New York-based artist, born in Enping, China, and raised in the Kingdom of Hawaii. They are a Dramatists Guild Foundation Fellow, 2019 Lincoln Center Writer in residence, 2019 MacDowell Fellow, 2019-2020 Musical Theater Factory Makers Fellow, 2019-20 Playwright’s Center Many Voices Fellow, and a 2019 NAMT selection for Interstate. Yan’s forthcoming works, with collaborator Melissa Li, include a production of Interstate at Mixed Blood Theater, as well as commissions from 5th Avenue Theatre and Keen Company. Interstate won 5 awards at the 2018 New York Musical Festival including Best Lyrics. Yan’s show Queer Heartache has won five awards at the Chicago and SF Fringe Festivals. Their work has been produced by the American Repertory Theater, the Smithsonian, Musical Theater Factory, the New York Musical Festival, Diversionary Theater, and Dixon Place. They have been a resident with the Civilians, Mitten Lab, 5th Avenue Theatre, and the Village Theater. In 2018, Yan founded Translab, an incubator for transgender and non-binary voices in the American theatre, alongwith MJ Kaufman with support from WP Theater and the Public Theater.
Li is a composer, lyricist, performer, and writer based in New York and Baltimore. She is a recipient of the Jonathan Larson Award, a Dramatists Guild Foundation Fellow, a Macdowell Colony Fellow, a Lincoln Center Theater Writer-in-Residence, a Musical Theater Factory MAKER, and a former Queer|Art|Mentorship Fellow. Musicals include Interstate (2019 NAMT Festival Selection, 2018 New York Musical Festival Winner for “Outstanding Lyrics”), Surviving the Nian (the Theater Offensive, IRNE Award Winner for “Best New Play” 2007), and 99% Stone (the Theater Offensive). Her works have received support from the 5th Avenue Theatre, the Village Theater, Musical Theatre Factory, National Performance Network, New England Foundation for the Arts, Mixed Blood Theatre, Dixon Place, and others.