NEW HAVEN, CONN.: Long Wharf Theatre has announced the inaugural class of its new commissioning program. The first group of artists will be Jasmin Agosto, Chris Gabo, Ricardo Pérez González, and the artistic collective UNIVERSES (Steven Sapp and Mildred Ruiz-Sapp). The commissions come with the aid of developmental resources, including workshops and readings, depending on the individual needs of the artist.
“These artists represent our future at Long Wharf Theatre,” said artistic director Jacob G. Padrón in a statement. “Their singular voices will contribute to the kaleidoscopic body of work we hope to create for our community at Long Wharf and for the new American theatre. They each bring joy, rigor, and a generosity of spirit to the creative process.”
These commissions are possible with the support of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Lord/Kubler Fund for New Work, allowing Long Wharf to establish the Artistic Opportunity Fund. This fund allows Long Wharf to commission and develop new plays that represent the diversity of human experience, building a new American theatre repertoire that includes the voices of more artists of color.
With the commission, local New Haven artist Jasmine Agosto will continue her work with Sageseeker Productions and their performance series, La Sala Femme, a quarterly performance installation featuring collaborations between musicians, poets, choreographers, visual artists, and food venders from the local community.
“It is a critical time right now for historically white-led and white-serving institutions to break down their own oppressive structures and one way is to put funds and trust directly in the hands of Black and POC artists, particularly from the communities in which they reside, to tell their own stories,” said Agosto in a statement.
Chris Gabo’s commission will be used to work on his new play, Let Night Fall.
“So many playwrights quit not because they’re not good, but because they can’t afford to be alive,” Gabo said in a statement thanking Padrón for seeing and understanding the work he’s doing. “I wrote a play about my friends, not sure if it’s a love letter or an indictment, maybe it’s both.”
Ricardo Pérez González will use the commission to work on the second play of his Belonging trilogy. The first of the trilogy, On the Grounds of Belonging, had its world premiere at Long Wharf in 2019.
“To have Long Wharf commission me to write the second in this harrowing love story reflects not just a commitment to me as an artist, but also to the audience that invested so deeply in the first of the Belonging trilogy,” said González in a statement. “I’ve been given a rare opportunity to foster a relationship between the New Haven community and this story of queer love, and I couldn’t be more grateful or excited for what’s to come.”
UNIVERSES, in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the ensemble, will use the commission to develop a new musical, Maria. A response to cultural appropriation in West Side Story, the new musical focuses on what happens to Maria after the original musical concludes.
“Our jump-off point begins where the imagined Puerto Rican lives that inspired West Side Story left off,” said UNIVERSES co-founded Steven Sapp in a statement. “Interweaving true Puerto Rican narratives, we discover the journey of a starry-eyed Puerto Rican girl through her life’s journey, witnessing what she has experienced and the world she has inspired along the way.”