PHILADELPHIA: Philadelphia Theatre Company (PTC) has announced that director and choreographer Jeffrey L. Page will join the company’s artistic team as a resident artist, beginning in September. PTC producing artistic director Paige Price also announced the revival of the Terrence McNally New Play Award, which was launched in 2012, but has not been awarded since 2015.
“I believe in art as a form of protest,” said Page in a statement. “Art is a self-portrait of the community, helping us all to conceptualize a world that is bright, bold, and new. As theatre entertains our sense, it also goes about its secret work of deconstructing oppressive ideas by allowing us all to both confront these ideas and shape real change. In my position with the Philadelphia Theatre Company, I plan to work very closely with Paige to facilitate crucial and inventive civic discourse that intersects creative ingenuity, and to also help ensure that those voices most affected by systemic racism and a corrupt criminal justice system can be elevated.”
In addition to opportunities to direct and choreograph, Page’s role as part of the PTC artistic team will include participating in season planning and helping to curate the annual season preview event See & Be Scene.
“I am so excited to have a new creative partner to help shape the future of PTC,” said Price in a statement. “Jeffrey brings a multitude of talents to PTC—as a performer, teacher, and researcher. As an artist of color, Jeffrey will bring a perspective that is absent from our current artistic staff. When the world stopped and Jeffrey’s gigs went away, and we refocused once more on our mission to guide us through this time, a new sense of urgency created the perfect opportunity to offer Jeffrey an artistic home.”
An additional aspect of Page’s duties will be overseeing the revived McNally New Play Award. Prior to McNally’s death earlier this year, PTC had been in talks with McNally and his husband Tom Kirdahy to revive the award, with next season marking the 25th anniversary of the premiere of the eventual Tony Award-winning play Master Class at PTC. The award was originally conceived to recognized a new play that celebrated the themes in McNally’s work. The award, which has been won by Bill Cain, A. Zell Williams, Martin Zimmerman, and James Ijames, included a $10,000 cash prize and a year of development at PTC (which included readings, administrative and dramaturgical support, and access to professional connections to help manage the future of the play).
The first year of the award’s return will only be open to playwrights born, bred, or currently residing in Philadelphia. Kirdahy has expressed a desire to continue participating in the selection process.
“We always hoped that after this season at Philadelphia Theatre Company, we’d refocus on new play development,” said Price in a statement. “In light of the pandemic, we feel that we should ‘seed the ground’ now by developing new work, and also find ways to directly support artists with commissions, online gigs, and this award. We also know that our audiences love thought-provoking plays. By bringing them along on the winning writer’s journey, they can learn more about the work and the process than they ever have before, to tide them over until they are able to come see a live production again.”
Jeffrey Page is an opera and theatre director of both classical and contemporary works. As director and choreographer, he spearheaded the Tokyo production of the musical Memphis, which received four Yomiuri Award nominations, including Best Musical. The first African American to be named the Marcus Institute Fellow for Opera Directing at the Juilliard School, he has also been nominated for an Emmy Award. Page won an MTV Video Music Award for his work with Beyoncé, whose creative team has included him for more than 12 years. His work was featured on Beyoncé’s “The Formation World Tour,” in her historic Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival performance, and in two of her HBO specials. Page was the associate creative director for Mariah Carey’s “Sweet, Sweet Fantasy” European Tour, and has been a featured choreographer on Fox Television’s “So You Think You Can Dance.” Page was in the original, award-winning Broadway cast of Fela! And he worked alongside Tony Award-winning composer Jeanine Tesori to choreograph the hit Broadway musical Violet starring Sutton Foster. At the Barrington Theatre Company, Page received glowing reviews as the choreographer for Company, winning a 2016 Berkshire Theater Award for Joe Iconis’ Broadway Bounty Hunter. In 2016, he established Movin’ Legacy as an Indianapolis-based nonprofit organization dedicated to the ethnology and documentation of contemporary and traditional dance from Africa and the African diaspora. He holds a Master’s of Fine Arts degree, with a concentration in Theatre Directing from Columbia University in New York City, and has been awarded the Chuck Davis Emerging Choreographer Fellowship from the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Currently, as choreographer, he is working with Diane Paulus and the American Repertory Theatre at Harvard University to mount the upcoming Broadway production of 1776.